Entries tagged with “Mt. Tam”.

It was supposed to be a warm, sunny day.

We had slathered on the sunscreen and filled the Camelbaks up to capacity. The weather forecast said 68 and sunny throughout Marin.

But as we approached it, the bridge was wreathed in fog. And as we started up Mt. Tam to Pan Toll Ranger Station, the fog got thicker. And thicker. And then it started to drip rain in spurts. And the fog was so thick you could barely see 50 feet up the road.


The hiking book: Hiking the San Francisco Bay Area
The distance:
5.2 miles
The CityGirls rating:

On a warm, sunny early summer day, we revisited Alpine Lake in the foothills of Mt. Tam. When we hiked this in late February last year, the highlight of the hikes was all the wildflowers, especially the Fetid Adder’s Tongue.

In early June, it’s a whole different hike, with dragonflies darting back and forth across the trail, the sun beating down, and an acrobatic troupe of ducks performing synchronized dive routines.



The hiking book: 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles (San Francisco)* and our brand new and very exciting Mt. Tam trail map
The distance:
6.5 miles
The CityGirls rating:

We were back on Mt. Tam again this weekend, this time for an actual hike with good friends S&J.

We started out at the Rock Spring parking lot and set out downhill via the Cataract Trail. It was a warm day, and we were thankful that we’d filled our trusty Camelbaks almost to their three liter capacities. The sun was out in force and the parking lot was crowded with hikers, but we soon plunged into tree cover, shade, and relative solitude.

The Cataract Trail is known for its 12 waterfalls, but water level in the creek was looking pretty low, especially for this time of year, so instead of rushing waterfalls, we mostly saw dry rocks with a trickle of water running down them.

Instead, we entertained ourselves with some deep philosophical (or maybe sociological) discussions of race, perceptions of color, and why Mitt Romney  would spend any time campaigning in the Bay Area.

After the descent through cool forest, we emerged onto the stunning golden hillside and  gem-bright blue sky of Bare Knoll.


We didn’t really go hiking this weekend. We went tourist-hiking. By which we mean we drove to the East Peak of Mt. Tam, then took a leisurely stroll up the quarter-mile Plank Walk trail to the summit.

We’ve hiked on Mt. Tam many times, but this is the first time we’ve ever driven to the top of East Peak. The verdict: hiking is better than driving. More time to enjoy the scenery and less queasiness from the super-windy road.

But this weekend we have family in town, and this was just one stop on a grand circle tour of our favorite Marin spots, so we did the tourist thing.


The hiking book: Hiking the San Francisco Bay Area
The distance:
7.2 miles
The CityGirls rating:

The hike in pictures

Beautiful day for a hike. One of the warmest we’ve had in a while.

We started at Pantoll Ranger Station on Mt. Tam and headed down to Stinson Beach.


The hiking book: Hiking the San Francisco Bay Area

The distance: somewhere just under 7 miles

The CityGirls rating: 8

It’s been a while since we went hiking, what with the holidays and all, but we got back in the swing of things this weekend with a great hike around Mt. Tamalpais in the Marin foothills. The hike started about 2/3 of the way up the mountain, dipping down to a big open meadow, then back up to loop around past Middle Peak and East Peak before heading back down via the West Point Inn and the Mountain Theater amphitheater.

We’ve hiked Mt. Tam before, from the Mountain Home Inn to the East Peak. It was hot, sunny, and crowded. We made it up to the East Peak, with a stop at the West Point Inn, only to find it swamped with tourists who had driven to the top then dragged their crying, unhappy children up the short but steep path to the peak itself. The view was amazing, but somewhat marred by the wailing children.

Even with the crowds, Mt. Tam is fast becoming one of our favorite Bay Area hiking locations. If you choose the right trails, you still have stretches of solitude, and most impressively, hiking on Mt. Tam can feel like hiking in the middle of the wilderness. A wilderness that happens to sit in the middle of a growing urban area, but up on the mountain, it feels quiet, secluded, peaceful. It’s amazing, especially so close to the city.

We made a few changes from the hike as written in the book. We started at the Rock Spring parking lot so we could do the uphill first and end with the downhill instead of starting at East Peak as the book said. In fact, we skipped the last little spur trail to East Peak entirely, — taking the spur up to the Middle Peak instead. Even without consideration for the grade, we think that’s the better way to do the hike — it ends with the West Point Inn and the Mountain Theater Amphitheater.

The West Point Inn is a great story. When there was a tourist railway going up Mt. Tam, the West Point Inn was a stopover where travelers would spend the night on the way to or from the coast. Today, there’s a non-profit association that maintains the Inn. The Inn is open for overnight guests, and they maintain the front room for hikers to stop in and rest. It’s a super cute little place with great views out over the Bay.

Then there’s the Mountain Theater Amphitheatre. Okay, officially it’s the Sidney B. Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre. But really it’s an awesome stone amphitheater, pretty big, built by the CCC in the 1930s. The amphitheater was built for an annual theater production held on Mt. Tam, which is still going today. We just might have to go see the Mountain Play next summer. Where else can you hike up a mountain to see a musical?