Way up in the north of Marin is the little town of Novato. I moved here last year and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there are actually quite a few preserves in Novato to run in. Mt. Burdell, Indian Valley and Rush Creek are all good, but my absolute favorite place to hit the trails is Indian Tree.
Indian Tree is on the western edge of Novato and does not get much traffic. You’ll see someone walking with their dog here and there, or sometimes a gaggle of senior citizens out for a weekend group hike, but runners seem to be rare. Oaks, bays and madrones shade most of the trails and this is a great place to run year round. In the wet of spring you’ll be playing hopscotch over California newts and herding lizards in the summer. The trails are mellow and most of the poison oak is out of leg’s reach, but some sections can get overgrown with grasses and thistle (take note of the critters who may want to catch a ride home with you).
My go-to loop is a 6.8 mile figure eight that passes through scattered redwood groves before reaching pockets of old-growths at the very top (which are great in the fog). Take a look around and you’ll notice some funky trees, like redwoods with cropped tops and 90 degree trunks or elms with spiraled branches. And on the way up you will pass through the best trail around, Ship’s Mast.
Ship’s Mast is a special trail that is entirely too short. It’s net downhill and I always find it nice to pick up the pace a little after climbing for most of the run so far. The scenery alternates between oaks and redwoods as you float through loamy sections of singletrack. Look left and you’ll peak views across Sonoma County to Mount St. Helena.
6.8 mile Indian Tree loop
13.9 mile Indian Tree + Little Mountain + Ohair Park loop
There is a water fountain at mile 7.6, but you can also get water half way when you pass by where you parked.