Benstein Trail and Kent Trail to Hidden Lake, Mt Tamalpais State Park - Rock Spring Trailhead, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California
Benstein Trail and Kent Trail to Hidden Lake - 6.2 Miles
Mt Tamalpais State Park - Rock Spring Trailhead
Benstein Trail and Kent Trail to Hidden Lake
|Round-Trip Length:||6.2 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||1,965' - 1,150' (2,266' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-815' net elevation loss (+1,672' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Hidden Lake is a small, marshy depression tucked deep in thick woodlands between Rocky Ridge and Alpine Lake. Those who value the journey as much the destination will enjoy this ecologically and scenically varied route that includes spacious meadows, Douglas-fir forests, serpentine outcrops, redwood stands and sweeping views from some of Mt Tamalpais State Park's highest elevations.
Head north on the Cataract Trail through Rock Spring Meadow to the Benstein Trail (.07 miles) and veer right. The Benstein Trail rolls gently past the Simmons Trail (.17 miles : 1,948') and enters a mixed forest, its thin understory and small clearings a good place to see wildlife. The trail rises gradually through intervals of forest and meadow to a spur for Mountain Theatre (.4 miles : 2,070'), past which it steepens through a cluttered forest.
The Benstein Trail reaches Lagunitas Fire Road and merges left (.8 miles : 2,235'), then veers left again back into a busy forest (.87 miles : 2,250'). Anticipate this quick turnoff. Notable in the vicinity are madrone, a tree distinguished by its smooth, reddish bark. Climbing resumes to the trail's highest point (.95 miles : 2,266'), then drops on a winding course that levels abruptly through an ecologically curious and contrasting swath of rocky outcrops, manzanita, sargent cyprus, chaparral pea and chamise. Look for snakes in this dry and sunny area (1.1 miles : 2,090').
Forest soon reclaims the way, twisting steeply down to Benstein Trail's terminus on Laurel Dell Road (1.2 miles : 1,992'). Cross the road and pick up an unmarked piece of trail that merges with an access road leading to Potrero Camp, variously referred to as Potrero Meadow. The road skirts Potrero Meadow to the well-marked beginning of the Kent Trail (1.3 miles : 1,977').
The Kent Trail climbs to a second serpentine outcrop with rangy panoramas over inland hills and Alpine Lake (1.55 miles : 1,910'). It re-enters thick timber and pitches down once more on a rugged, occasionally faint path past connections for the Cross Country Trail (1.75 miles : 1,822') and High Marsh Trail (2.35 miles : 1,512'). From High Marsh the Kent Trail crosses East Fork Swede Gorge Creek and pushes uphill to a split for Serpentine Knoll (2.5 miles : 1,562'). Bear left and follow signs to Alpine Lake.
The trail tilts sharply down tightly wound switchbacks that gradually ease at the bottom of a redwood-lined ravine and signpost for Alpine Lake and Rocky Ridge (2.95 miles : 1,175'). Bear right toward Rocky Ridge on what is the unlabeled Stocking Trail. The Stocking Trail grows faint as it edges by the marshy, tangled shore of Hidden Lake (3.1 miles : 1,150'). Circumnavigation is all but impossible, however you can explore Hidden Lake's south shore along a short piece of the Stocking Trail before it bends away toward Rocky Ridge.
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N37 54.654 W122 36.766 — Rock Spring Trailhead
- N37 54.756 W122 36.864 — .18 miles : Benstein Trail - Simmons Trail split
- N37 54.906 W122 36.697 — .4 miles : Mountain Theatre access spur
- N37 55.169 W122 36.668 — .8 miles : Merge left onto Lagunitas Fire Road
- N37 55.226 W122 36.678 — .87 miles : Veer left off Lagunitas Fire Road
- N37 55.469 W122 36.822 — 1.2 miles : Benstein Trail ends - pass thru Potrero Mead
- N37 55.519 W122 36.800 — 1.35 miles : Begin Kent Trail in Potrero Meadows
- N37 55.782 W122 36.673 — 1.75 miles : Kent Trail - Cross Country Trail split
- N37 56.079 W122 36.748 — 2.35 miles : Kent Trail - High Marsh Trail split
- N37 56.194 W122 36.787 — 2.55 miles : Kent Trail - Serpentine KKnoll split
- N37 56.392 W122 37.016 — 3.0 miles : Kent Trail - Stocking Trail split for Hidden
- N37 56.415 W122 36.941 — 3.1 miles : Hidden Lake
- On clear days from the Benstein and Kent Trail's highest points you can see Mt. St. Helena (4,343') to the north, the San Francisco Bay Area watershed's highest point.
- The smooth red bark of eastwood manzanita should not be confused with the similarly hued and textured but much larger madrone tree.
- Note that the free Park map inadequately illustrates the area between the end of the Benstein Trail on Laurel Dell Road, Potrero Camp and start of the Kent Trail. If in doubt simply turn left on LDR, then right on a well-marked access road for Potrero Camp.
- The free Park map also incorrectly illustrates the location of Hidden Lake on the right side of the Stocking Trail. Hidden Lake is in fact located on the left side of this unlabeled trail on the Park map.
- You may purchase an updated and considerably more detailed Park map at the East Peak Visitor Center.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Pantoll Campground
- The Pantoll Campground is located on Panoramic Highway adjacent to the Pantoll Ranger Station. It has 16 campsites, each with a table, rock barbecue, food locker and space for a tent. Phones, faucets, firewood and flush toilets are nearby. There are no showers. Sites are first-come, first-served.
- The Steep Ravine Environmental Campground is located on a coastal terrace off Highway 1, one mile south of Stinson Beach. It has nine rustic cabins and seven primitive campsites. Each cabin has a wood stove, picnic table, benches, sleeping platforms and outdoor bbq. The cabins do not have running water or electricity. Primitive toilets, faucets, and firewood are nearby. Primitive campsites are located a few hundred yards from the parking area. Each site has a table, fire pit, food locker and space for a tent. Primitive toilets and water faucets are nearby. There are no showers at Steep Ravine Campground.
- Alice Eastwood Group Camp is located off Panoramic Highway on Alice Eastwood Road. It has two campsites. Site A holds up to 50 people; Site B holds up to 25 people. Both sites have tables, flush toilets, water faucets with sinks, bbq grills and a large area for tents.
- Frank Valley Group Horse Camp is located 1.5 miles West of Muir Woods National Monument on Muir Woods Road. It has 12 pipe corrals, water faucets, watering troughs, picnic tables, fire rings and a pit toilet. The minimum group size is 2 horses; the maximum size is 12 horses.
- To reserve a campground visit www.reserveamerica.com or call 800.444.7275. For specific camping and campground questions, call Pantoll Ranger Station at 415.388.2070.
- Backcountry camping is not permitted within Mt Tamalpais State Park.
Steep Ravine Environmental Campground
Alice Eastwood Group Camp
Frank Valley Group Horse Camp
- All seven lakes operated by the Marin Municipal Watershed District (MMWD) are open to fishing year-round.
- Bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish can be caught in all of the lakes except Lagunitas.
- State fishing licenses are required for all fishing in MMWD lands. Lake Lagunitas is managed under a special program for trout and has different fishing regulations from the rest of the reservoirs.
- Lagunitas Creek between Alpine Lake and Kent Lake is open to fishing from the last Saturday in April through November 15. All other streams on MMWD lands are closed to fishing year-round.
- Call 415.945.1194 for a recorded message with the most current fishing information.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times.
- Bikes are not permitted on the Benstein Trail or Kent Trail.
- Fishing is not permitted in streams along the Benstein Trail or Kent Trail.
Mt Tamalpais State Park is located north of San Francisco in Marin County. The Rock Spring Trailhead is located 9.9 miles from Highway 101 on Panoramic Highway. The Rock Spring Trailhead is located 1.4 miles north of Pantoll Ranger Station at the Pantoll Road and West Ridgecrest Blvd intersection.
From Highway 101, exit Stinson Beach – Highway 1 and follow the exit ramp west .6 miles to the Highway 1 – Almonte Blvd intersection. Turn left on Highway 1 toward Stinson Beach. The road winds up the mountain to the Panoramic Highway split (3.2 miles) – veer right on Panoramic Highway (anticipate this quick turnoff). Remain on Panoramic Highway and follow signs for Mt Tamalpais State Park to the Pantoll Ranger Station (keep straight at the Muir Woods – Mill Valley fork at 4.0 miles). From the Pantoll Ranger Station, veer right up Pantoll Road and continue 1.4 miles to the Rock Spring Trailhead parking area.
Mt Tamalpais State Park
801 Panoramic Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Marin Municipal Water District
220 Nellen Avenue
Corte Madera, CA 94925-1169