In many ways Samuel P. Taylor State Park
is a living history of Marin County. While it
officially opened in 1946, people have been coming to “Camp Taylor” for over a century. Before
then, the indigenous Coast Miwok lived here,
with a legacy dating back at least 3,000 years.
Today Samuel P. Taylor State Park welcomes
nearly 150,000 visitors a year. Some come to
stay at the campground, others to picnic in the
redwoods or to hike and view wildlife: depending on the season, you can spot everything from
gray foxes to owls to coho salmon here.
“It’s a really incredible place,” says Bree
Hardcastle, an environmental scientist with
the California State Parks Department. “It’s
a really unique, natural environment within
the Bay Area.”
After a fire broke out at the park last
September, Hardcastle served as the depart-
ment’s resource adviser. Thanks to fortunate
weather and hard work, any destruction from
the blaze — officially known as the Irving Fire
— was ultimately minimal.
“None of our structures were involved in the
fire,” she confirms. “It was really just the wild-
land areas where that fire burned, and they’re
all adapted for natural fires. Already the area
is rebounding in the way we anticipated, with
lots of plants germinating.” In fact, Hardcastle
is actually excited to see if the areas affected by
the fire will yield species of flora that often grow
in the wake of flames.
It won’t be the first time Samuel P. Taylor has
faced jeopardy only to rise from the ashes. In
2011, the area was among 70 parks in California
slated for closure due to state budget cuts.
Fortunately, the National Park Service stepped
in with funds to offset expenses, ensuring the
park’s survival and, in Hardcastle’s view, actu-
ally strengthening its long-term prospects.
“Even though that was a really difficult and
challenging time,” she says, “what came out of it
was actually pretty amazing. While it was terri-
ble, there have been some positive developments.”
In fact, the full story of Samuel P. Taylor State
Park — one of California’s first recreational
camping sites and a pivotal place of industry dur-
ing Marin County’s earliest years — dates to the
Gold Rush days. In 1849, it was the tantalizing
prospect of riches that compelled the entrepre-
neurial Samuel Penfield Taylor to sail from his
home in New York for San Francisco Bay. After
a few successful years of panning for gold and a
In 2018, the days of impulsively swinging by Muir
Woods officially ended with implementation of a
reserved-parking system. But while visiting that
particular wonder requires planning in advance,
there’s a more spontaneously accessible — and, arguably,
equally beautiful — alternative just 25 miles away.
Taylor’s second paper mill as
seen in 1889. Opposite: The
Azalia Hotel, part of Camp
Taylor Resort, circa 1908.