Mount Tamalpais State Park is one of the most talked about locations in the bay area for hiking. Most of the hikers I meet always tell me it’s their favorite place to hike. And I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never hiked there. Until yesterday!
I’ve had this hike bookmarked in one of my favorite hiking guides, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles (San Francisco edition), for a couple of years now. I love this book and the hikes are amazing! I chose the Matt Davis-Steep Ravine Loop hike (there are 3 different Mount Tamalpais hikes in the book) because the trails are the ones I’ve most heard about. It’s essentially a hike from the mountain top to the ocean and back.
I was worried about parking so I got an early start and was in the Pantoll Ranger Station parking lot by 9:30am, and there were only a couple of spaces left. Parking was $8, but well worth it since I made the drive from Oakland and I was so excited to finally be hiking at Mount Tamalpais.
It was an extremely foggy Saturday morning, in Oakland as well as Mount Tamalpais. Many hikers were wearing ponchos or rain jackets. I put on my sun/rain hat and started down the Steep Ravine trail which was narrow and muddy. And it was breath-taking, so green and dripping with water everywhere. The redwoods were huge! I saw a lovely little banana slug, and hoped he wouldn’t get squashed by other hikers. The stream had water flowing in it and there were many waterfalls along the way. Crazy that even with our drought this summer there was enough water to form clear pools along the stream. It was pretty steep going down with lots of wooden steps and I quickly got to the famous ladder that you need to climb down to continue on the trail.
It was early still in the day, so I didn’t see very many hikers. But that changed as the day progressed. There was a trail race and there were many runners as well as hikers. When I reached the Dipsea trail, I was excited because I knew I was halfway to the ocean, it was a little disappointing because I could hear the ocean but it was too foggy to see the views. When I was almost at the bottom the fog had lifted and I could see the lovely town of Stinson Beach and the ocean waves beyond it.
The trail goes through town a short ways and then heads back up to the top on the Matt Davis trail. There were many runners coming down the trail fast! The walk back up was warm and pleasant with many hikers out on the trail, the blue sky was gorgeous and the trail reminded me a lot of the hiking on the AT. Narrow and rocky, but beautiful and green.
When I reached the parking lot, it was packed with cars waiting for spots, so I quickly headed out. But I can’t wait for my next trip to Mount Tamalpais.
Where is your favorite hike to see waterfalls?
Start/end: Parking lot at Pantoll Ranger area
Trail names: Steep Ravine, Dipsea, Matt Davis
Approximate mileage: 7.3