Madrone and Manzanita at Indian Tree Preserve on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail at Novato climbs south from the Vineyard Road trailhead through Indian Tree Preserve until it ends abruptly at a hillside trail junction. The forested segment is most notable for its many stands of madrone trees and manzanita bushes. Traveling north from Vineyard Road, the Ridge Trail passes through the Verissimo Hills and Little Mountain preserves to Novato’s O’Hair Park, with views of Stafford Lake, the Indian Valley Golf Club and the back yards of homes adjacent to the trail.

We are hiking the 400-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail. Sign up to follow our progress here.

TRAIL MAP (date hiked)

Our Journal: Indian Tree Open Space Preserve

Our hike at Indian Tree Preserve was pretty sweet. Here’s what made it so nice.

  • Length: A 6.2-mile round trip is a good length of a day hike.
  • Grade: The trail climbed 1,200 feet steadily but not precipitously over 3.1 miles, just enough for a comfortable cardio experience.
  • Shade: Sun-dappled shade kept things cool while letting the light through.
  • Wind: A breeze helped wick away the trail sweat.
  • Surface: Hiking a footpath is always nicer than hiking a fire road.
  • Temperature: You can’t beat 62 degrees.
  • Something unique: We’ve never seen so many stands of red-barked madrone trees and manzanita bushes on one trail, including many young plants. Beautiful.
  • A View: We spotted Stafford Lake from time to time to the northwest and found a nice view of San Pablo Bay to the east near the top of the trail.
  • Company: There’s nothing like an outing with a good hiking buddy.

Our Journal: Stafford Lake to O’Hair Park

We hiked this stretch of Ridge Trail immediately north of Big Tree Preserve on a different day, and it was a much different hike – humid, open, becalmed, rutted and rife with the sights and sounds of suburbia. The scent of dog urine hung above the trail at times as moisture from the morning rain evaporated.

That said, it’s a great neighborhood trail to enjoy if you live in Novato. We saw lots of folks out walking their dogs on our afternoon hike, and the dogs were having a blast bounding up the hills. In fact, O’Hair Park is home to Dog Bone Meadow, the city’s only fenced-in off-leash dog park. And any trail can have a bad weather day.

San Pablo Bay is visible through a rare opening in the forest at Indian Tree Preserve. Dan Page/CoastsideSlacking
Views of the Indian Valley Golf Club and Stafford Lake from Verissimo Preserve in Novato. Dan Page/CoastsideSlacking

Miles we hiked


(with returns and connectors)

Elevation gain






Our Progress Hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail – 252 out of 400 miles


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