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Fishing, hiking, biking at Marin's hidden lakes.

Hidden on the north slope of Mount Tamalpais are four lakes with exceptionally clear and clean waters. These watershed lakes provide Marin County residents with the basic ingredients for morning coffe, evening ice cubes, and late-night hot tubs. Beyond being fresh-water resources (total capacity is 4.6 billion gallons), The lakes sites offer superb opportunities for trout fishing, hiking, jogging, and cycling (swimming and boating are not allowed).

Managed by the Marin Municipal Water District, the waters of Phoenix, Bon Tempe, Lagunitas, and Alpine lakes are captured by dams and encircled by 20,000 acres of land. Like droplets in a spider's web, the lakes are surrounded by 150 miles of trail and 225 miles of fire road. You'll find madrone, fir, and redwood forests to wander in, picnic spots on sunny knolls, and--higher up--broad views of the scenic rolling countryside of souther Marin. The slopes seem to quiet all sound except perhaps the cry of a gull or the splash of a lure on the water.

Trout about in the lakes, three of which are planted every two weeks (Alpine is planted once a year). You need a state fishing license; limit is five fish per day.

We outline each lake's recreation options, then list nearby bait and tackle stores and places to rent off-road bikes (telephone numbers are area code 415). The best trail and fire-road map of the area is the Erickson Trail Map of the Tamalpais Region, $2.50 at the Sky Oaks entry station (open Fridays through Sundays), the Sky Oaks Ranger Station, and nearby sports stores. You can also write Erickson Maps ($2.89 plust tax and postage), 337 17th St. #211, Oakland 94612, or call 893-3685.

Hours are sunrise to sunset for all district lands. For a trout plant update, call 459-0888. For general recreation information, call the district office at 924-4600. Four lakes: hiking, fishing, views Phoenix Lake. A short jaunt from the parking lot brings you to Marin Municipal Water District lands and the lake. Favorites with hikers and joggers, a fire road and dirt trail ring the lake. At the head of the dam (built in 1905), a sign shows you the way to the 2-mile hike (or run) to Lagunitas Lake.

Fisherman have plenty of room to cast along the winding shore. Off-road bicyclists can connect with a network of fire roads; bicycling on foot rails is strictly prohibited and enforced by six full-time rangers.

To reach the lake from U.S. 101, take the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard-San Anselmo exit west to Ross. Turn left on Lagunitas Road; continue 1 mile to Ross City Park at the foot of Phoenix dam. Entry is free. Park hours are 6 A.M. to 5 P.M. daily. Picnic tables, rest rooms, and telelphone are available.

Bon Tempe Lake. Less croded than Lagunitas, this lake is the most recent (1948) and second largest. Fishing, hiking jogging, and picnicking (no tables) are popular lakeside activities. Magnificent views of Mount Tamalpais (especially the 2,586-foot east peak) can be seen from the 4-mile-long lakeside trail.

From Ross, head north on Sir Francis Drake through San Anselmo to downtown Fairfax, then take Bolinas Road 1-1/2 miles to Sky Oaks Road (where Bolinas becomes Fairfax-Bolinas Road). Turn left on Sky Oaks Road and continue to the Sky Oaks Ranger Station and the entrance to the district lands. Day-use fee is $3 per vehicle for the Lagunitas-Bon Tempe facilities.

From the station, follow the paved road to the sign that indicates directions to both Lagunitas and Bon Tempe lakes. Bear right and follow the dirt road to the dam; you'll park near the top. This lake can also be approached by trail from the Lagunitas Lake parking lot.

Lagunitas Lake. Circled by a 1-mile fire road, Lagunitas is the most popular, oldest (1873), and smallest of the watershed lakes. IN winter it's among the wettest spots in Marin (average rainfall is 52 inches); in summer it's among the most beautiful. Because of its numerous shaded points of land projecting into the waters, Lagunitas is a favorite fishing spot; trout average 7 to 11 inches.

From the Sky Oaks station, proceed to the dirt-road junction and bear left. Near the parking lot, you'll find a shady picnic area, trail map, and a tip of Bon Tempe Lake.

Alpine Lake. Alpine is the largest of the four lakes; its concrete dam was completed in 1919. Trout tend to be larger here (12 to 14 inches), but fishing is slower. Most fishermen prefer to use night crawlers instead of the standard combination of marshmallows and fish eggs they use at the other lakes.

From Sky Oaks Road, continue on the newly reopened Fairfax-Bolinas Road for 4-1/2 miles to Alpine dam. (The stretch of this road from the Meadow Club gof course to Bolinas Ridge i subject to occasional closure because of fire danger on extremely hot summer days.) You'll find several places to park near the dam and along the lake. The trail along the east shoreline runs 5 miles to Bon Tempe Lake. Driving, you'll follow the lake's corrugated contours, cross the top of the dam, then ascend into wooded valleys leading to Ridgecrest Boulevard and Mount Tamalpais State Park.

The section of Fairfax-Bolinas Road Beyond Ridgecrest Boulevard remains closed (there are plans to open it this summer). For road information, call the Marin County Fire department during the day at 488-0123.

Bait and tackle storeS. Fradelizio's Bait and Tackle (located in Harry's Arcade), 42 Bolinas Rd., Fairfax 94930; 485-0638. Hours: 6 to 6 daily. The store sells state fishing licenses and a wide selection of bait and tackle. Rod and reel rental is $3.25 per day ($10 deposit).

Western Sports, 902 Third St., SAn Rafael 94901; 456-5454. Hours: 6 to 8 weekdays, 6 to 6 Saturdays, and 6 to 4 Sundays and holidays. Sells state fishing licenses and a wide selection of bait and tackle. No rentals.

All-terrain bicycle rentals. Mike's Bicycle Center, 1601 Fourth St., San Rafael 94901; 454-3747. Hours: 10 to 6 Mondays through Fridays (10 to 7:30 Wednesdays), 9 to 5 Saturdays, and noon to 4 Sundays. Rental fee is $20 per day, including helmet, air pump, and water bottle. Refundable check or credit card deposit equal to the purchase price is required.
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Title Annotation:Mount Tamalpais, California
Date:Jun 1, 1984
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