Nicasio to Marshall Wall

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Click here to view a slide show of the entire Picasa Web photos

The cold morning brings sheets of frost on the shaded grassy areas, which means the overnight temperatures were below freezing! That’s bloody COLD!

Today’s ride starts in Nicasio and heads north along the Nicasio Reservoir on Nicasio Valley Rd for 3.3 miles. The water in the reservoir is calm and very still; reflecting the mirrored images of the surrounding green rolling hills-it’s a beautiful sight!

The Cheese Factory climb on Pt Reyes Petaluma Rd is a little over a mile long with an average grade of about 6%. The descent on the backside brings you pass the Marin French Cheese Factory where food, water and restrooms are available.

Pt Reyes Petaluma Rd cuts through the gorgeous Hicks Valley; the essence of its beauty derives from the open pastoral rolling hills dotted with grazing cattle to the farmlands, ranches, vineyards and agricultural fields. Slow down, open your eyes and take it all in!

The short stretch on Hicks Valley Rd takes us to the quiet less traveled country road; Marshall Petaluma Rd. The gentle rolling terrain on Marshall Petaluma Rd goes through a narrow valley up to the open ridge to the small coastal enclave of Marshall. We ride past grazing cattle, working farms and ranches.

There is an old white farm-house on the left hand side of the road; this is usually where everyone regroups before starting the climb up to the ridge. The stair step climb up “Marshall Wall” is about 2 miles with a false summit. The first section is the steepest part with gradient ranges of 9-11%, it then eases up a bit and the climbing continues up along the west ridge with gradient ranges of 7-8%.

Tomales Bay comes into view atop of the ridge; the scenery is absolutely spectacular! There’s a quiet serenity surrounding the natural rolling hills among the seemingly untouched landscape.

The descent heading west to Hwy 1 can be wickedly fast; especially since the re-pavement of all the potholes and cracks. The back side of this road opens up to more rolling pastoral hills, old farms and ranches, grazing cattle and sheep. It’s all very picturesque! There is one short hump to the final descent down to Marshall. Slow down when you see the little red St Helen Church, the road ends abruptly onto Hwy 1.

We continue south on Hwy 1 to our lunch stop at the Marshall Store. The warmth of the sun feels great! The blue water of Tomales Bay is amazingly calm and still; it’s absolutely wonderful to be out here! There’s plenty of outdoor seating with prime views of the pier and the bay. The food of choice here is the delicious clam chowder.


We continue on Hwy 1 south for the next rolling 7.6 miles along the fabulous Tomales Bay. The water level is extremely low and very still; there are no winds! The super smooth pavement makes being on the tandem that much more fun! There is one short steep climb up towards the Pt Reyes Winery and the Tomales Bay Trail.

We take Mesa Rd into Pt Reyes Station for the mandatory coffee/pastries stop at the Bovine Bakery. Water and restrooms are available at Toby’s Community Playground on Mesa St-behind the Palace Market.

The return on Hwy 1 north takes us to Pt Reyes Petaluma Rd. This road has one short climb up to Black Mountain and continues on a rolling descent to the colored bridge at the intersection of Platform Bridge Rd.

We continue NE on Pt Reyes Petaluma Rd for the spillway climb up to the reservoir. The water running off from the reservoir onto the spillway creates beautiful sleek waves into Nicasio Creek.

The last several flat miles on Pt Reyes Petaluma and Nicasio Valley Rds hugs the northern, eastern and southern sides of the Nicasio Reservoir. The water of the reservoir has remained completely calm, reflecting the beautiful images of the gentle sloping hillsides.

We arrive back in Nicasio to a warmer temp of 55F. It turned out to be a fantastic day to climb up the coastal hills to the ridge and be able to have lunch outdoors at the Marshall Store with gorgeous views of Tomales Bay. Thanks to Phil for leading this ride!

~25+ people in attendance with 3 tandems

VDO Stats:
41.33 Miles with 2280′ of elevation gain
Avg grade: 4%
Max grade: 12%

Weather: FANTASTIC! Sunny with clear blue skies. Cool temps ranging from the low 40’s to the mid 50’s. Winds: minimal to none

Oh, the places you’ll go, oh, the things you’ll see.    ~ Dr Suess 

Click here to view the route map & profile

Follow this route for today’s ride:


  1. Thanks Nancy for sharing this great journey. The photos are fantastc. Happy new year to you!

    Mrs Barnes, Happy New Year’s to you & the family! I’m looking forward to another great year! Nancy


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