Sometimes you need a quick, easy hike with great views and an excuse to go to Sol Food for dinner. The Tennessee Valley trail has become our go-to for these situations.

We needed some time out of the city, but we didn’t have time for a full day hike, so we made our way across the Golden Gate Bridge and, after checking to make sure traffic on Hwy 1 wasn’t too horrible, wound our way through Marin neighborhoods to the Tennessee Valley trailhead.


The hiking book: none needed
The distance: about 4 miles with our spur up the bluff
The CityGirls rating: 7

It’s a popular trail with all kinds of hikers. The trail is easy enough and short enough to be accessible to small children, and lots of folks will trek out with coolers and totes and spend the day at Tennessee Valley beach. The Coastal trail bisects the Tennessee Valley trail, so you’ll also see a number of more adventurous hikers setting off over the hills to the south or north, headed to Rodeo Beach or to Muir Beach or even Stinson Beach up the coast. In fact, our first introduction to Tennessee Valley was crossing it on the Coastal trail as we hiked from Rodeo to Muir Beach.

This day, though, we were sticking to a flatter route to get our ocean views.

We couldn’t make it too easy on ourselves, though, so we speed-walked all the way out to the beach, blowing by all the other hikers. We were just a little out of breath when we arrived at the beach, so of course, we decided to try out a “trail” going up the bluff on one side of the beach.

The trail had become little more than a washout near the bottom, but the footing was better than it looked, and we soon found ourselves 10 feet above the beach with a real trail leading further up the steep slope of the hill. We continued upward with the goal of a promontory that reached out into the ocean a bit, but poison oak did what a steep climb couldn’t and halted our progress.

Content with the view, and with the wind whipping around us, we were ready for a somewhat more leisurely hike back up the valley. Though we still managed to blow by most of the other hikers on the trail…


And Sol Food was, as always, an excellent reward for our time on the trail.

Ease of following designated hike: 10. It’s a very straightforward out-and-back.
Best season to hike: Probably pretty good any time, though it might get rather muddy if it’s rainy.
Our hike time: 2 hours.
Solitude: 2. Lots of people on the trail and on the beach.