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Across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, Marin County is an unabashed introduction to Californian self-indulgence: a pleasure zone of conspicuous luxury and abundant natural beauty, with sunshine, sandy beaches, high mountains and thick redwood forests. Often ranked as the wealthiest county in the US, Marin has attracted a sizeable population of wealthy young professionals to its swanky waterside towns, though in the past the region served as logging headquarters.

The largely undeveloped Marin Headlands , across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, afford some of the most impressive views of the bridge and the city behind. The coastline is much more rugged than it is on the San Francisco side, and it makes a great place for an isolated clifftop scramble, in among the concrete remains of old forts and gun emplacements. Heading west on Bunker Hill Road takes you up to the brink of the headlands before snaking down to Fort Barry, and wide, sandy Rodeo Beach , from which numerous hiking trails branch out. Check in at the Marin Headlands Visitor Center

The westernmost tip of Marin County comes at the end of the Point Reyes National Seashore , a near-island of wilderness bordered on three sides by over fifty miles of isolated coastline - pine forests and sunny meadows hemmed in by rocky cliffs and sandy, windswept beaches. This wing-shaped landmass is a rogue piece of the earth's crust that has been drifting steadily northwards along the San Andreas Fault, having started out some six million years ago as a suburb of Los Angeles. When the great earthquake of 1906 shattered San Francisco, the land here, at the epiCenter, shifted over sixteen feet in an instant, though damage was confined to a few skewed cattle fences.

From the east peak of Mount Tamalpais, a quick two-mile downhill hike follows the Temelpa Trail through velvety shrubs of chaparral to the town of MILL VALLEY , the oldest and most enticing of the inland towns of Marin County. This was originally a logging Center, from where the destruction of the surrounding redwoods was organized, but for many years the town has made a healthy living out of tourism and October's annual Mill Valley Film Festival, which draws area stars and up-and-coming directors alike.

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