Olema Valley--a rolling landscape of grassland and forest--stretches ten miles from Tomales Bay to Bolinas Lagoon. Part of the Golden Gate National Parks, this area has been shaped by geologic forces and changing patters of human use. Until recently, the dynamic story of the valley remained largely undiscovered. Now, steps are underway to preserve both the history and fragile beauty of this northern corner of the park.
Thanks to a new study by National Park Service historian Dewey Livingston, the area's fascinating ranching past is coming to light. The study details life in the Olema Valley from the time of the Mexican rancheros to the area's national park beginnings, and recommends ways to preserve the fascinating remnants of this time period.
To protect Olema Valley's natural heritage, volunteers in the Site Stewardship Program, a cooperative program of the National Parks Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Association, are focusing attention on threats to the area's native habitats. Using a unique approach to habitat restoration, park experts train volunteer stewards in state-of-the-art restoration techniques.
The Olema Valley district of GGNRA is administered by Point Reyes National Seashore. The Point Reyes Bear Valley Visitor Center is the closest information station for Olema Valley and Bolinas Ridge. For more information, check out the Point Reyes National Seashore website.
Tips and Highlights
- The Bolinas/Fairfax road is often closed in winter due to landslides and in summer due to fire hazards.
- Olema Valley has limited public facilities so please carry water and other necessities when hiking.
- To experience the region's ranching past, drive down Highway 1 between Wilkins Ranch and the town of Olema.
The San Andreas Fault
A rift zone containing many faults and lines of geologic activity, the San Andreas Fault slices straight through Olema Valley. The west side and Point Reyes sit on the Pacific plate and the east side and rest of the continent on the North American plate. A good place to learn more about the quake zone is the educational trail from Point Reyes National Seashore's Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Growing along the creeks in Olema Valley is an ancient plant species called "scouring rush," also known as horsetail. Pioneers discovered silica in the plant and used it to scour pans. The plant is also a good cure for rash caused by stinging.