Pioneer Tree Trail, Samuel P Taylor State Park - Taylor Campground, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California

Pioneer Tree Trail - 2.25 miles

Samuel P Taylor State Park - Taylor Campground

Redwood groves along the Pioneer Tree Trail

Redwood groves along the Pioneer Tree Trail

Round-Trip Length: 2.25 miles
Start-End Elevation: 170' - 170' (374' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +204' net elevation gain (+265' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Pioneer Tree Trail - 2.25 Miles Round-Trip

The Pioneer Tree Trail is located in Samuel P Taylor State Park on the south side of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. This short loop follows a redwood-lined tributary of Lagunitas Creek into a mixed Douglas fir, oak, laurel and madrone forest.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The trail is highlighted by a stop at the eponymous Pioneer Tree, one of the last old growth redwoods in this second generation forest. Visitors will enjoy mild grades, abundant redwoods and creek access on the Pioneer Tree Trail. The following description travels counter-clockwise:

The Pioneer Tree Trailhead is located within the Redwood Grove picnic area of Taylor Camp, just over the bridge past the entrance station. The trail rises gently beside a luxuriant tributary of Lagunitas Creek through tall redwood columns.

It crosses the creek and hairpins up and away where a tree fell and obstructed the trail in the winter of 2012 (.4 miles : 321'). The trail bends back north on a steeper grade with useful perspective on the forest floor and riparian corridor below.

It moves through drier areas shared by increasing numbers of Douglas fir, oak and laurel. Many fir rival the redwoods' size in this area. Look for deer, fox, bobcat and owl as you progress.

You'll reach the Pioneer Tree at 1.25 miles (345') - a massive, bifurcated, and hollowed out tree that stands out from much younger redwoods in the vicinity.

The trail continues on a winding path through a diverse forest down to the Cross Marin Trail junction along Lagunitas Creek (1.75 miles : 182'). The Cross Marin Trail follows the creek west on a wide gravel path back to the Pioneer Tree Trailhead (2.25 miles).

150 million years ago Redwood and Redwood-like trees covered most of the Northern Hemisphere. Climate changes thinned out these forests and today only two redwood species remain in California: the Coast Redwood and Giant Sequoia.

Coast Redwoods are the tallest living organisms on earth and can live to be 2,000 years old. Redwoods grow best in moderate temperatures and need significant moisture to thrive. The Redwoods' success along the California coast is due in part to year-round fog, which condenses on the trees' needles, drips to the ground and provides moisture, even during the dry season.

Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout in Samuel P Taylor State Park
Lagunitas Creek, variously known as Papermill Creek, is one of the last natural spawning corridors for coho salmon and steelhead trout.

Coho will begin and end their lives in the creek, while steelhead will venture out to sea and return each year to spawn. Adult fish can be seen in the winter making their way up Lagunitas Creek - coho typically arrive December - January, and steelhead January - March.

Facebook Comments

Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N38 01.047 W122 43.933 — 0.0 miles : Pioneer Tree Trailhead
  • N38 00.860  W122 43.879 — .4 miles : Fallen tree at hairpin turn away from creek
  • N38 01.070 W122 43.766 — .75 miles : Columns of young redwoods
  • N38 00.974 W122 43.555 — 1.25 miles : Pioneer Tree
  • N38 01.106  W122 43.484 — 1.8 miles : Turn left on Cross Marin Trail
  • N38 01.047  W122 43.933 — 2.25 miles : Complete loop

Worth Noting

  • Lagunitas Creek is one of the last natural habitats for the California freshwater shrimp, a native two-inch crustacean.

  • Lagunitas Creek is variously known as Papermill Creek.

  • Samuel P. Taylor State Park offers AT&T Wi-Fi Service. Visitors with wireless enabled laptop computers and PDAs will have Wi-Fi access within 150 to 200' of the Ranger Station.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • The main campground has 61 family campsites with restrooms, hot pay showers and piped drinking water. Some parking spaces can accommodate small trailers, but none have hookups. Four group campsites can hold 10-50 people. Horse camps may be reserved.

  • Madrone Group Camp #1 has space for up to 50 people, and Group Camp #2 can hold up to 25 people.

  • Devils Gulch Horse Camp #1 has a corral, hitch racks, watering troughs and a campsite for up to 20 people (equestrians only). Two additional tent-only sites hold up to 10 people.

  • Each regular campsite may have up to eight people (including children).

  • Check in time is 2 pm or later; check out time is noon.

  • Two vehicle maximum per campsite; these may only be parked at your designated site.

  • Fires are permitted only in established fire rings or camp stoves. Firewood gathering is prohibited. Firewood is available for sale within the Park.

  • Generators are allowed 10 am - 8 pm. Quiet hours are 10 pm - 6 am.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is strictly prohibited in Lagunitas Creek and its tributaries within the Park.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's an $8 fee to enter Samuel P Taylor State Park.

  • Dogs are permitted in Samuel P Taylor State Park. Dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than 6' and under control at all times. Dogs are not permitted on any Park trails, fire roads, in the creek, or any undeveloped area. They may not be left unattended, and must be inside a vehicle or tent at night. Dogs are restricted to the campground, picnic area and on the Cross Marin Trail/Bike Path.

  • Bikes are allowed on paved roads and dirt fire roads, but prohibited on Park trails.

  • Maximum camper length: 31'

  • Maximum trailer length: 27'

Directions to Trailhead

Samuel P Taylor State Park is located 15 miles west of San Rafael on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

The Pioneer Tree Trail is located within the Camp Taylor Entrance, behind the Redwood Grove Picnic Area.

Contact Information

Samuel P Taylor State Park
8889 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard
Lagunitas, CA 94938

Operating Hours: 8 am - sunset

Camping Reservations: 800.444.7275

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


No one has written any comments


Add Comment

Only used to identify you to ProTrails. Will not show on comments list.
Tell us when your experience with this trail happened.