Roy’s Redwoods - Nicasio Valley Road

Follow Marin Events

• HomeUpBootjack TrailsPine Mountain in FairfaxGGNRAHamilton  WetlandsHeadlandsLake Bon TempeLake Lagunias LoopMt. Tamalpais LoopMountain Theatre HikeMuddy Hollow  to Limantour BeachMuir Woods without the crowdsPine Mountain in FairfaxRedwoods in NovatoRoy’s Redwoods - Nicasio Valley RoadRush Creek BahiaRush Creek Fire RoadShady Loop on Mount TamalpaisTomales Bay, shade and Shell BeachSunset BeachSamuel P. Taylor’s cool loop through RedwoodsPanoramic, Canopy View, Muir Woods •
•  •

Roy’s Redwoods - Nicasio Valley Road

George Lucas recognized what a magical place Roy’s Redwoods is and chose it for filming scenes his 1984 “Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure.” It’s easy to imagine Ewoks as you hike 1.3 miles through a preserve with a grove of old growth redwoods, some almost as tall as the ones in Muir Woods. Like many dead ends that get bypassed in favor of loop trails, the David Hansen Trail is not heavily used.

Roy’s Redwoods is named for two brothers from Vermont, James and Thomas Roy. Adolph Mailliard gave them 420 acres in 1877 to settle a $20,000 loan. They built a house where the golf course is now. Marin County Open Space bought 306 acres in 1978 for $420,000.

From the gate on Nicasio Valley Road take the main path, through a meadow that has now gotten quite overgrown. It will take you along the side of the Council Tree, a circle of redwoods that is a special spot for many who love the area, especially young children. The tree got its name in the 1960s when a commune lived in what is now Roy’s Redwoods Open Space. I like to pause in the redwood circle and take time to look up.

The path makes a sharp turn and crosses a dry creek. A sign saying “Public Trail” assures you that you are indeed on the official trail. In .4 miles turn right on Redwood Loop Trail. The woods on your right are Douglas firs, coast live oaks, bays, and madrones, while on your left is a grassy hillside with coyote brush. A large buckeye has swollen leaf buds at the tips of the branches. Buckeye is the first deciduous tree in Marin to leaf out, long before the official first day of spring in March.

Look for wood ferns and California polypody as you cross a dry creek, and then look on your right for wavy-leaf soaproot coming up. This plant is a favorite snack for deer, which usually eat the tender tips of the leaves rather than eating them down to the base. Miner’s lettuce is also coming up. The Miwoks welcomed this early spring plant, and ate it long before the arrival of the 49ers who gave it its current name.

In about .1 miles turn right on the David Hansen trail. On older maps it is called the Nature Trail. David Hansen was the open space planner who negotiated the purchase of Roy’s Redwoods.

In the damp woods, bay trees are wrapped in mossy green shawls, and maidenhair and sword ferns join the wood ferns and California polypody. Some logs are decorated with the orange fungus called witch’s butter, which feels like jello.

At the fork it doesn’t matter which way you go around the loop. The day I hiked was misty and I remembered the story of Winnie the Pooh getting lost at the top of the forest in the fog, and finding his way home because he could hear his pots of honey calling him. The path is clear, and you won’t get lost, but it did seem appropriate to be in the fog since it is so important to redwood ecosystem. Redwoods get more than half their summer moisture from fog, and can absorb it through their leaves.


After completing the loop return to Roy’s Redwoods Loop Trail. Since I am not fond of the part of the Loop Trail that parallels Sir Francis Drake, I prefer to go back. This time pass the place where you joined the Loop Trail and continue straight, crossing a wooden bridge. This brings you to the Dickson Ridge Fire Road, where you turn left. The gate and Nicasio Valley Road are ahead. Turn left on the trail where a signpost says Roy’s Redwoods Loop Trail, and head downhill to the meadow to complete the hike.

From Sir Francis Drake Boulevard heading west, turn right on Nicasio Valley Road and go .4 miles. Park on the shoulder on the right.

Wendy Dreskin has led the College of Marin nature/hiking class Meandering in Marin since 1998, and teaches other nature classes for adults and children. To contact her, go to