A Relaxing Day at Lake Lagunitas

An easy two mile outing around beautiful Lake Lagunitas. Excellent picnicking and wildlife viewing. Bikes and dogs on leash welcome. Optional one mile side trip to Pilots Knob (no bikes).

When it comes to outdoor activities we tend to prefer warm sunny weather. With the continued fog appearing to thicken, and no sign of a heat spell coming, we retreated inland to do one of our favorite family outings around Lake Lagunitas.

With relaxing picnic spots under the trees by the lake shore, shady redwood groves tucked in the canyon, and turtles sunning themselves near the shore, Lake Lagunitas is picture perfect. This outing is a much different experience than the wet we sent you on last spring. Our family enjoys hiking or biking around the lake, stopping to look at critters by the shore, and hanging out under the shade of the big Oaks and Madrones on the east side.

The loop around the lake is a mostly flat dirt road, but you do need to climb up the dam to get to lake level, which is 75' in elevation change. It is a good thing the climb comes first, because this helps prevent complaining from the kids towards the end of the loop.

Once on the dam we prefer going counter clockwise, or across the dam first, for several reasons. First, we sometimes want to make the hike longer by going up to Pilots Knob, which we . Second, we like to end near our favorite big oak by the lakeshore on the east side. Third, the east side seems to have better wildlife viewing and Mt. Tam is visible from this vantage point as well. 

The lake is rich with wildlife. There always seem to be turtles sunning on the logs by the dam. Cormorants, a shore bird, also seek shelter and warmth on the logs by the lake. Sometimes Osprey can be seen hunting for fish over the water. On the southeast side the shoreline is more gradual and large stands of reeds form a marshy area where Red Wing Black Birds and ducks find shelter and nesting sites. Dragonflys like the Blue Green Darners and bright red Skimmers are always hunting on the fly near the shore where the small insects congregate.

On the shady side, creeks feed the lake through dense redwood forest and riparian woodland. Here various amphibians can be found. California Newts can been seen in the water near the shore, but are more commonly walking around in the springtime. Small tree frogs are keeping moist near the creeks edge and slender salamanders seek shelter under logs.

To make your hike longer, go right on Lakeview Fire Road just past the third bridge (going counter clockwise). Head up the road through the open grassland. Just before a steep hairpin turn to the right, takes off to the left. Once on the trail be sure to take the side spur to the left, which leads to the peak. On your way back go left when you come to a fire road and you will head back to the lakeshore on the east side, where you can continue your hike around the lake. 

If you want to spend a full day at the lake bring something to BBQ and hang out in the shady picnic area near the base of the old redwood spillway. Kids enjoy watching the water go down the spillway into a pool where fish are easy to spot. Tables, BBQs, drinking water and bathrooms are available. Dogs on leash are allowed. Bikes are welcome around the lake, but not on the Pilots Knob trail. 

See the book "Hiking Marin: 141 Great Hikes in Marin County" for more details. Click here to go the Marin Trails website, where you can find more information about the book.


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