Cross the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and something amazing happens: the people disappear. Nearly 50 percent of 520-square-mile Marin County is protected open space, from redwood groves to beaches to preserves like Point Reyes National Seashore and Muir Woods.
Adventure sports are a way of life—the country’s oldest trail-running race, the Dipsea, was first held in Marin in 1905, and practically every high school now fields a mountain-bike team. Of the county’s 28 towns, San Anselmo, population 12,500, offers the ideal combination of access (35 minutes from both Point Reyes and downtown SF) and culture (more than two dozen restaurants). “It’s an amazingly accepting and friendly place,” says Jelani Bertoni, founding director of The Bicycle Works, San Anselmo’s nonprofit community bike shop. It’s paradise—with a hefty price tag. The 2011 median home price was $851,000.