Weekend Hike: The Steps and Lanes of Mill Valley

Weekend Hike: The Steps and Lanes of Mill Valley


For this weekend's hike, head across the bridge to Mill Valley for a badonk-enhancing workout. 

What You'll See: Walk among towering redwoods, discover hidden paths, meander along winding roads, and catch glimpses Mill Valley’s past when the close-in hillside neighborhoods were crowded with summer cottages for well-to-do San Franciscans.

The Step by Step: Park anywhere you can in downtown Mill Valley and head to the main plaza. This used to be the arrival spot/depot for train passengers coming from Sausalito via the ferry from SF. Many would then proceed by another rail line (once called the crookedest railroad in the world) to the top of Mt. Tamalpais, which looms over the town to the Northwest. A reproduction of one of the rail cars sits in the square.Proceed (West) left from the plaza on Throckmortorn Avenue Immediately you'll get a sense of old Mill Valley. Two blocks and you'll come to Old Mill Park, site of the first sawmill in Marin County. Cut through the park and at the roundabout go up Cascade Way about 50 feet to begin our ascent up the Dipsea Steps. The Dispsea Race, first held in 1905, is the oldest footrace held in the US. It heads out to Stinson Beach and the Pacific Ocean 7.4 miles away. There are 688 steps to be climbed (as well as a number of hills, one named Cardiac). We'll confine ourselves to a few hundred as we ascend first to Millside Lane where we bear right then go up to Marion Ave. for a few yards, before resuming our climb on the next set of stairs.At Hazel we turn right to leave the Dipsea and head down towards Monte Vista Ave. There are many interesting homes, many with eclectic architecture and landscaping. Once you've reached the intersection you have two choicesturn right on Monte Vista (the blue line on our map) or you can continue straight, entering Earnscliffe Park. You may notice the blue arrow painted on the roadway with the white E. They denote the fastest pedestrian access to downtown Mill Valley in the event of an emergency.
There is a caveat to taking this particular routecurrently the trail is extremely narrow and a bit hazardous, and isn't recommend unless you're wearing lugged shoes and have hiking poles. It is however very scenic, and the canyon is a delight after a good rain, as the water flow in the creek cascades in continous roar. If you opt to take the road it soon intersects again with Marion Ave. Go right here and after three homes take the path to left down to Cascade Drive. if you opted to go down through the park, you'll also end up on Marion. Your choice to climb up (right) or go left, also ending up on Cascade.

In either case, mosey down Cascade to Josephine St., heading uphill and then make a right back onto Throckmorton for the return to downtown. If you have a few moments, step into the lovely Mill Valley Public Library and appreciate the serenity of their back deck.

How to Get There: From SF go north on Hwy. 101, exit at Stinson Beach/ Hwy. 1 (the 4th north of the tunnel after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. At the 4th stoplight at Tam Junction go straight on Almonte Blvd. This morphs into Miller Ave. at the high school. Continue straight in downtown Mill Valley.

North and East Bay drivers go south on 101, taking the East Blithdale exit. Turn right at the stoplight, and take East Blithdale into downtown.

The Golden Gate Transit bus #17 also services downtown Mill Valley. Connect to the #17 at the Marin City depot (from SF) or the San Rafael Transit Center (East Bay and points North).

Other Things to Do: Mill Valley is filled with many interesting shops and art galleries, as well as restaurants that run the full range of tastes and prices. Our favorites are the Boo Koo (Asian, noodles), The Beerworks (beer, ales, small plates) and Piazza D'Angelo (Italian).

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