Bay Area Bucket List: Get to the Top of Mt. Tamalpais

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Some outings leave a lasting impression; the trek to the top of Mt. Tam will leave you with the kind of awe-inspiring memories that last a lifetime. 


Often referred to as the Sleeping Lady, for its unique profile when viewed from the southwest, this iconic backdrop to San Francisco’s distinctive skyline is a must see experience for any Bay Area visitor or resident.
(Photo by Ray Bouknight via Flickr Creative Commons)

How to Get There

1. From San Francisco, drive north on Hwy. 101 and take the Hwy. 1, Stinson Beach exit.

2. Head west on Hwy. 1 for 2.6 miles, turning right onto the Panoramic Hwy.

3. Continue another 5.3 miles to the crest (Pantoll Ranger Station) and make a right turn uphill onto Ridgecrest Blvd.

4. Proceed another 1.5 miles and when the road tees at the Rock Spring parking area, make a right on East Ridgecrest Blvd. and drive to the end (13 miles total).

The Hike

Walk towards the summit from the parking area. The circular Verna Dunshee Trail is just over a half-mile in length. As you proceed around the trail, the various views that unfold before you are jaw dropping – you’ll find it difficult to pick a favorite.

You also can hike up the Plank Trail to get to the base of the Fire lookout.


(Photo by Liza Chudnovsky via Flickr Creative Commons)

Other Notes

The hike is fairly level, the path is paved, and is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. The park is open from 7am to sunset. There are restrooms, water stations, and a concession stand. Just behind the ice-cream stall you'll find the Gravity Car Barn Museum which memorializes the former Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railway that ran up the mountain from Mill Valley. In those days, tourists could reach the top of the mountain by locomotive, and then rapidly descend on the free-wheeling Gravity Cars. Dogs are not allowed on most trails in State Parks.