Hiking on Mt Tamalpais, nr San Francisco

My family and I have just moved back to the UK (August '17) after living in the San Francisco area for seven years. Here's a report of a hike we did earlier that year on Mt Tamalpais, the mountain overlooking SF. It's my favourite place to hike (and run) and these trails are my very favourite.

Our planned route was part of a brutal but spectacular half marathonI ran in 2016 (‘Ran’ is relative, let’s be honest.) Instead of starting at sea level where I started the race, we’d start at the top and hike 1,000 ft down Dipsea Trail, then join Steep Ravine Trail to hike back up. I’d ‘run’ up Steep Ravine during the race and it had blown me away (in between gasps for breath) with its beauty. I wanted to do it slightly more slowly, to take some photos and to show it to my boys.

The first part of the hike was easy. We parked at the Pantoll Ranger Station and took lovely Old Mine Trail through the trees until we came out on a clearing with a gorgeous ocean view and the city in the distance.


Old Mine trail

Views for days

We took Dipsea down. It was sunny but there was a very cold wind. After a while, sunny ocean views gave way to gorgeous groves of redwoods and my heart was pretty happy. Eventually we hit the steps down. My son counted over 300 – he lost track a few times so I wouldn’t rely on this but there were lots of steps. And sooner or later, two miles in, we came to a bridge and the junction with Steep Ravine.


Little boy, big trees
Tea time.


Hot tea and snacks. They must be British
Steep Ravine was as gorgeous as I remember. The rainy winter (yay) had left the brook gurgling and gushing, so the entire time we were on the trail we had the sound of running water. It was lush and green – thick moss on trees and rocks. We clambered under fallen trees, crossed rickety wooden bridges and climbed steps made of rock or root along the way.



The hike up wasn’t as bad as I remember. There were some steep moments where my legs ached but it was okay. I have no idea how I ran up there, no matter how slowly!


After a mile or so, we got to the highlight of the trail – the 11 foot ladder! The stream next to it was a full-on waterfall and it was ridiculously lovely. The Dude’s face – previously starting to show a loss of patience with the endless climb – lit up and he shot up the ladder.



The final stretch went on forever but it was still lovely. However we were happy to emerge from the forest to the car park at Pan Toll and to sit in the car boot, drink tea and eat our snacks. Roughly 4 miles all round.

This is a lovely hike. It’s not easy but it’s not as brutal as I remember from the race, and the beauty of the trails make it totally worthwhile. Bring $8 for the car park at Pan Toll (or snag a spot on the road), bring hot drinks on cold days and bring your best spirits to enjoy the gorgeousness.


Staff member
On the sofa
That's lovely WW, thank you for posting :thumbsup:
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