Top Bay Area Hikes: St. Hilary Church
In the search for more Bay Area hikes? Try the St. Hilary Church hike at the Old Saint Hilary’s Open Space Preserve in Tiburon. It is a 122 acre Marin County Park which overlooks the Bay. The spectacular panoramic views from the peaks of the hill, include all three bridges; The Golden Gate, the Richmond, and the Bay Bridge. It is just over one mile, easy to access, and easy enough for the whole family to walk, which makes it a top Bay Area hike.
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Know before you go
To access the Heathcliff Fire Road trail head, enter Old Saint Hilary’s Open Space Nature Preserve into your GPS. From Hwy 101 in Mill Valley, take the exit for Tiburon Blvd (Hwy 131) east 3.5 miles. Turn left onto Lyford Dr, right onto Vistazo West St, and follow to the end (dead end). The directions will take you through the gorgeous Tiburon neighborhood to Vistazo St., West Belvedere. Find parking on the street very close to the trail. You will be parking in front of homes, so be mindful and respectful of the lucky people who live in the neighborhood. The Heathcliff Fire Road trail, or the northern part of the preserve, is accessed from Vistazo St. From the Heathcliff Fire Road trail, as a hiker, you can descend to the southern part of the preserve, the Vistazo Fire Road trail, which will lead you to the church parking area.
Prepare for wind! While the hiking is not rigorous, your visit may take you a couple of hours. So, as is always the advice for a Bay Area hike, bring layers! No need for hiking boots, sneakers will do. The trail is wide in most parts and not very rocky. Always bring water, and if you get lost up there, don’t panic! Your cell phone should work and the area is contained enough to find your way back to the car. Be prepared, there is not a public restroom on the Preserve.
The nature preserve is not only known for the perfect panoramic views of the entire Bay, but also for its rare wildflowers, the most famous being the Tiburon Jewelflower. It is an endangered flower in the mustard seed family and blooms May through June.
I found the church’s history fascinating! Read up about the transition of the land from the Miwok tribes to the Mexican land grant, then purchased by an immigrant from Ireland, who later married the daughter of the Mexican commander of the Presidio! Their daughter married a Canadian, who later allowed the archdiocese of San Francisco to build a church on the property. All this before 1888! In the 1960’s the people of Belvedere and Tiburon formed a trust to protect the church and its surroundings. It is now a well taken care of spot for everyone to enjoy. Another reason it is a top Bay Area hike!
We always add a little bonus to this hike by stopping at our favorite juicer, Sun Life Organics in the Larkspur Landing, Marin Country, shopping area. If you have never had a Sun Life Mint Chocolate Chip smoothie, can you even say you have lived?
Let us know if you make it to Saint Hilary’s. Enjoy one of the top Bay Area Hikes!
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