Sure, there are many open-space tracts in Marin County where you and your dog can hike without being tied together. But there are more that offer big rewards in terms of scenery, even if your tail-wagger has to stay leashed. The Marin Municipal Water District maintains seven reservoirs, most within the Mount Tamalpais watershed, that make for great outings. You won’t run out of places to roam, as dogs are allowed to accompany you on most of the 130 miles of trails and unpaved roads on district lands.
Many of the paths meander around the pretty reservoirs, while others climb into the hills to connect with state parks and open-space preserve. Some MMWD trails are so secluded that it takes some sleuthing to find them.
A favorite hike begins on the Phoenix Lake Trail, which skirts the lake of the same name to meet up with the Fish Grade Trail. This one angles uphill to Bon Tempe Lake (encircled by an easy 2-mile trail) and continues to Lake Lagunitas, popular with walkers and stroller-pushers due to its flat grade (it’s actually a fire road) and abundant shade. For a tougher trek, follow one of many trails leading up into the hills—you can go all the way to the summit of Mount Tamalpais if you’re up for it.
A tip: It’s easy to get lost on the maze of trails threading through these hills, and by all accounts, Google maps are not to be trusted! Buy an old-fashioned topo map or check the MMWD website and resources such as bahiker.com to help yourself stay on the right track.