California Parks #4 – Mount Tam

This week we explored the serpentine soils of Mt. Tam located north of the bay in Marin County. We hiked up to the serpentine area from one of the higher parking lots and learned a bunch of new plants. IMG_9091

The serpentine soil had a shiny blue-green color due to the extra heavy metals that were inside of it. It limits what plants can grow and causes these patches of shrubs amongst the douglas firs.

The native manzanita
The native manzanita

This beautiful manzanita is native to only this area of serpentine soil and found nowhere else! It pretty much dominated most of the serpentine areas.

View of the Golden Gate (sort of)
View of the Golden Gate (sort of)

Near the parking lot was this awesome view of the hills behind the Golden Gate Bridge that is kind of hidden in this picture. Highway 1 is to the right, the city is straight forward, and the bay is to the left of this area. So pretty!

Manoa and Makiki Hills

The best part about living in Manoa is the beautiful greenness of the area and the nice easy hikes that run up and down the ridges that line the valley. The first picture really isn’t a hike but it’s a nice walk!

Spalding House - Contemporary Art Museum
Spalding House – Contemporary Art Museum

A little ways up Tantalus is Spalding House which is the former Contemporary Art Museum. Family Sunday is the first Sunday of the month and there’s free admission. The gardens behind the museum are beautiful and worth checking out, but remember to use the complementary bug spray located at the front desk. I didn’t and ended up looking like I had chicken pox on my ankles for the next week or so. 

Bridge at Manoa Falls
Bridge at Manoa Falls

One of my favorite trail runs to do is Manoa Falls because it’s practically the only trail besides Diamond Head that is really well maintained. I’m always pleasantly surprised at the new gravel that seems to inch its way up the trail and cover more area every time I come home. The only drawback from this being a well maintained trail is that it’s constantly crowded with tourists who are carted up here with their walking sticks by the van-load. For best running and maximum hiking enjoyment, get here by 8 AM and park on Manoa Road (before it narrows, don’t be one of those people) to avoid the $5 parking fee.

Near the top of Pu'u Pia
Near the top of Pu’u Pia

This last hike is also in Manoa hidden within the residential area. It’s beautifully secluded and only a mile or so long. Pretty much the perfect hike for an afternoon. Look it up on Yelp because there’s probably better directions there than ones I can give. 

View from the top of Pu'u Pia
View from the top of Pu’u Pia