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Mount Tam after the heat

Peak Summited2022 Mount Tamalpais
Type of HikeDay hike
TrailheadStinson Beach/Dipsea
EncounteredFall foliage
Road ConditionsRoad suitable for all vehicles
Bug StatusNo bugs
Snow ConditionsSnow free
Trail ConditionsTrail in good condition

I started with a lot of trepidation. Coming off a 10-hour bartending shift and only a few hours, as I looked up at the mountains that loom over Stinson Beach I genuinely didn't know if I was up for this hike.

From the Stinson Beach parking lot I made my way through town to the beginning of the Dipsea trail which, appropriately, begins with a set of stairs just to let you know what you're getting in to. The forested trail climbed into an open meadow where it started to sprinkle – not much, but enough to remind me of the deliberate decision I made not to bring my backpack's rain cover. Soon, the Dipsea heads south towards Mill Valley and I started up the inauspiciously named Steep Ravine trail.

There was a ravine. It was steep. And where the stairs on the Dipsea were nice wooden steps one would expect in Marin County, the uneven stone steps on the Steep Ravine trail were out of some Tolkein-esque fever dream. And just when you think the stairs are terrible you get a ladder. A ladder! Oh, there are more stairs afterwards, but every set afterwards whispers, “Would you rather have a ladder??”

The solitude of the Steep Ravine evaporates at the frenetic Pantoll campground. It was a Sunday and the weekend warriors were out in droves, many (oh, so many) making the hike and bike up to the West Point Inn. I was astonished at the sheer number of people lined up for brunch. Looked nice, but I was on a mission.

Old Stage Road leading up to West Point Inn and on to the summit was an exposed, gravel fire road with an even, gradual incline. If you reach the summit parking lot and think the worst is behind you… well, distance-wise you're right. But the climb on the “plank trail” and then the rocky scramble up to the fire lookout tower was an event in and of itself. The view from the top, though… spectacular.

I opted to return the same way I went up – I considered the Matt Davis trail, but it looked steeper and, frankly, I wasn't feeling steeper; I took my chances descending the hobbit stairs.

Soon enough I reached the sands of Stinson beach and looked back at the mountains behind and felt truly accomplished.

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