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Stinson Beach, California, United States

Stinson Beach to Mt. Tamalpais

A great day (or overnight) hike from the beach to the top of Mount Tamalpais where you can see the entire bay area.

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Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 17.3 miles / 28 km
Duration: Full day
 
Overview: Mount Tamalpais (or Mt. Tam as the locals call it) is a must-do hike for anyone living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although you can drive to the top, the hike is much more rewarding, and you see many hidden treasures that those driving would likely miss.

The best way to hike Mt Tamalpais is by starting at sea-level at Stinson Beach, hiking up through the trees until you get to the rolling green hills with distant views of San Francisco. After another few miles through the trees you will reach the fire roads by West Point Inn, only a mile from the top.

At the top you will have a 360-degree panoramic view of the Bay Area and you may not want to leave.


Tips: Bring a good amount of water, but you can refill at the Pan Toll ranger station about 3.5 miles from the trail head.
It may be windy at the top, so be prepared.
To make this into a 2-day trip, stay overnight at the Pan Toll ranger station campground, only $2 a person.

Points of Interest

Junction
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Trail head

Try to park nearby (it can be tough on nice days when everyone wants to go to Stinson Beach) and head straight for the trailhead. The first 2 miles are uphill along switch backs, but you will have some great views as you leave the beach for higher ground. The scenery quickly chances from beach to woods and eventually to rolling green hills.
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The Rolling Hills

After the initial 2-mile climb you will be rewarded with green rolling hills and distant views of San Francisco (on a clear day). Don't get too distracted by the views, as the hills are unexpectedly steep and a wrong step could lead to an unintentional game of rolling down the hill. This point marks the spot of a great overlook where you can sit down to take a break and have a snack before continuing further.
Information
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Pan Toll Ranger Station

3.5-4.1 miles from the beach (depending on what signs you are reading), is the Pan Toll ranger station. You can also drive here if you want to make the trip a little shorter. There are several campsites set up, costing $25/night (parking included). If you are backpacking in, you can stay in the designated backpacker's camp, which is only $2 a person (although only about 5 people can stay there). There are bathrooms and running water here, so it's also a great place to refill water bottles and camelbaks on your way to the top. There are a few different ways to the top. If you want a wide road, you can use the fire road, or choose the Matt Davis trail for a single-track hike through the woods.
Hotel
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West Point Inn

The West Point inn is only a couple of miles from the top, and you can stay in cabins there overnight if you wish. They host a number of activities, and it is a great base (despite its elevation) to start hikes, mountain biking rides, or just relaxing with the great views of the surrounding areas.
Viewpoint
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Mt. Tamalpais East Peak

Finally, at the top you will be rewarded for your hard work. With a 360-degree panorama of the bay area it's quite the reward. There are bathrooms and even a small concession stand at the top where you can buy a quick snack before starting your trek back down the mountain. There are a few different trails down, and most of them run through the Pan Roll Ranger station, so id you want a change of scenery try another route.
Pictures in this guide taken by: chris, Yiping, masayoshi, Stuart_Green, earons, indymachead, epedersoli

Stinson Beach to Mt. Tamalpais Trail Map


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About the Author

chris
chris
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When I'm not spending all of my work time and free time working on cool new products for EveryTrail,...

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