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Mount Tamalpais State Park, California, United States

Dipsea Trail-Steep Ravine Loop

A nice loop in Mount Tamalpais State Park

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 (8 votes, 4 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 3.8 miles / 6.1 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly
 
Overview: This hike includes great views of the Bay Area, Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate, Potato Patch, and down the San Mateo Coastline. As the walk progresses the trails will head into Redwood Forest, and drop - really drop - down into the heart of Steep Ravine. The trails become a series of stairs immediately adjacent to a seasonal creek. In some spots it’s surely underwater during storms.

Once in Steep Ravine it’s all uphill back to the Ranger Station. The trail criss-crosses the creek repeatedly looking for space for itself, regularly climbs more steps, and a short ladder next to a waterfall in the quest to gain altitude. The reward is one of the best Redwood Canyons around.


Tips: Follow the Panoramic HWY from HWY 1 (Mill Valley). The Ranger Station is at the junction of Panoramic HWY and Pantoll Road. A twisty and scenic route shared by cars, campers and bicycles.

Points of Interest

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Trail Head

Start at the Pantoll Ranger Station (and Park HQ) and head down the short road to the maintenance facilities and Ranger Office. Look for the sign to Old Mine Trail.
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Forested Ravine

The trail will take you down short switchbacks into a forested ravine and then will generally follow the contour line. Periodically the trail crosses short bridges.

After .6 miles the trail will break out of the forest and into grasslands.
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Ridge and Junction

Then up to a ridge which opens to a spectacular view of the Golden Gate, Potato Patch offshore, and down the San Francisco Peninsula.

The Junction includes the Old Mine Trail and Coastal Fire Road. Follow the fire road to the left to the next intersection ahead.
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Junction

Take the Dipsea trail head toward the coast. The trail generally follows the contours across the upper slopes of a deep canyon. For the most part, the trail is through exposed grasslands but dips into forested sections.
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View Point

A stone with "Dipsea Race 5" on a brass tag.

The Farallons offshore may be visible on clear days offshore. This segment of the trail will generally follow the contour and below a flat topped ridge between valleys. Generally the trail is in mixed chaparral and grasslands with occasional dips into forested areas.
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Junction

A fork in trail. Follow the trail to the right.

The left trail appears closed for replanting. The trail will immediately begin rounding the hillside, nose drop you into a Bay and Redwood forested valley.
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Downgrade

The start of downgrade down to Steep Ravine.

In the following segment the trail drops fast! Much of the trail consists of stairs following the flow-line down into a gully.
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Deep and Steep Gully

GPS accuracy is very poor in this narrow, deep, and forested gully. (Mine was indicating +/- 65 feet).

This point is near the start of a series of staircases built into the trail down.
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Stairs

More steps built into the trail.
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Stairs

Another set of steps. The ravine drops fast with the trail and creek bed nearly merging.
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Stairs

More steps! In this area the trail is effectively in the creek bed.

This portion of the trail would be under water in a hard storm!
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Stairs

Point taken at the base of a course of steps.

The gully and trail is approaching its intersection with Steep Ravine.
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Bridge

A "Dipsea Race #6" monument at the bottom of the canyon near a small bridge across the Steep Ravine creek.

The bottom is a deep, isolated redwood filled canyon with running stream; small waterfalls scattered both up and down stream.

Cross the bridge and head northeasterly up this new canyon.
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Junction

Steep Ravine Trail to Pantoll Ranger Station - 1.7 miles. Dipsea trail to Stinson Beach 1.4 Miles.

Follow Steep Ravine upstream. The trail will follow up the canyon just above the stream, crossing frequently in a quest to actually find a place to put it.

The canyon rapidly generates that primal feel that only a Redwood forest has. The floor vegetation grows everywhere where there isn't bare rock. The ferns were particularly lush.
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Steps

Base of stairs. The whole canyon is filled with redwood and fern. Truly spectacular! The uphill climb back to the Pantoll Ranger station starts in earnest.

The trail will continue the uphill climb at the canyon floor. The vegetation continues its starkly vertical theme tucked into this narrow canyon.

The creek in many places is stepped in a series of short falls and provides a constant background atmosphere.
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More Stairs

Who needs a gym? Just come here twice a week!
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Waterfalls

About 75 vertical feet of stepped waterfalls.

The trail continues to cross back and forth looking for a foothold across the stream.

The trail also periodically has steps to aid the climb.
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Low Clearance

There's downed redwoods passing over the trail.
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Waterfall and Ladder

Base of ladder next to a waterfall.

The trail continues up Steep Ravine but the elevation gain becomes less intense.

Along this segment the forest opens up a bit; there will be switchbacks and trails maintained to a higher level above.
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Trail Head

Trail head to Steep Ravine.

Located about 60 feet away is the trail head this walk began at.

Steep Ravine is just that! A spectacular canyon redwood forest. Nirvana for stair climbers. It’s one of the best hikes at Mount Tam.
Pictures in this guide taken by: Craig_H
Reviews
ryder.meehan
This is a great, intermediate level trail. Most of the route is a mild down grade out and upgrade back up it seems. If you are looking to add about an hour to your hike then adding a leg to Stinson Beach is awesome. This one is best done earlier in the day as you will be deep in the woods so it gets dark fast. There is also a lot to see so you don't want to feel rush to beat the day light.
Visited on Dec 15, 2013

by ryder.meehan on Dec 17, 2013
CIndyTellsMe
We did this route backwards, starting on the Steep Ravine trail and going down the ladder. The hike up out of the gully was a quick and pleasantly brutal climb up the steep stairs, and the reward was coming out of the forest onto the beautiful ocean views!

The trail was a little crowded, and next time it might be nice to add another loop.

Visited on Nov 24, 2013

by CIndyTellsMe on Nov 25, 2013
janarenee1021
I didn't do the entire loop because I got a late start. I parked at the Pan Toll Ranger station and walked along the Dipsea Trail a bit, beautiful views. Then I took Steep Ravine Trail down to the "ladder" and a bit beyond that, then turned and went back to the Ranger station. Another hiker I passed on the way told me that you can take the trail all the way to Stinson Beach and there is a bus that will take you back to Pan Toll Ranger Station, or you can hike the Matt Davis Trail back. I will try that next time.
Visited on Feb 15, 2013

by janarenee1021 on Feb 18, 2013
bmotzer
Sign said ladder was broke but when I got there it was brand new!
Visited on Dec 20, 2012

by bmotzer on Dec 21, 2012

Dipsea Trail-Steep Ravine Loop Trail Map


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About the Author

Craig_H
Craig_H
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A Trail Guide contributor for the CalParks App. A Partnership between the California State Parks Foundation...

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