Mount Tamalpais is one of the most gorgeous places we have had the pleasure of hiking. With hundreds of miles of trails that lead in and out of the park, insanely beautiful views and a diverse landscape to discover this area of the North Bay is a must-see! We have been on most of the trails in this park and each time we discover a new one it takes our breath away. So much beauty here!
Opting to take on the steep, narrow, rocky trail on the way up instead of down we headed up Willow Camp Fire Road cruised along Coastal Trail then dropped down Matt Davis Trail. The 1,759 feet in elevation gain was mostly in the first 2.5 miles up Willow Camp Fire Road. The views were incredible and the best part of our 6.5-mile hike!
Willow Camp Fire Road
Lucky enough to find a parking spot at the base of Matt Davis Trail in Stinson Beach, we walked uphill through the neighborhood above Stinson Beach to reach the Willow Camp Fire Road trailhead. Winding our way through the neighborhood was a great way to get the blood pumping and warm up on a chilly February morning. Reaching the clearing and trailhead we started seeing some of the incredible views of the coast and the mountain above us.
The hillsides were covered in lovely winter green grasses, wildflowers were popping up along the trail and we had the trail all to ourselves! We climbed up the narrow trail slowly as we took in the views of Bolinas Lagoon in all her glory. Glimpses of Point Reyes in the distance and the Farallon Islands kept us motivated to continue up the steep trail. Stopping constantly to catch our breath and enjoy the views it took us longer than normal to climb up. We had also not hiked anything steep in a few weeks. Crazy what your body forgets when you stop doing something for just a few weeks!
Seeing only 1 other person on this trail was great! It was so peaceful and we had all the good viewing spots to ourselves! We took a short spur trail to a rock outcrop with views of Bolinas Lagoon and saw 5 dear cruise up, see us, do their ear radar thing, and take another route around us. The trail then took us through wide-open meadows, dense forest, and at the top was a beautiful clearing where you could see the rolling green hills of Bolinas Ridge. It was like the world had just opened up with expansive views! The wind also opened up and cooled us off from the hike up. Beanies and jackets went back on! The wind hitting the side of the mountain is cold!
Following the trail up to catch the Coastal Trail we kept turning around to see the views behind us. We couldn’t believe how clear it was under the high cloud cover. A crazy storm was brewing that day and we were happy to have been able to get out before the skies opened up.
The Coastal Trail is part of a wider system of trails that lines the coast of California and is just a short part of our hike. This part of the Coastal Trail follows the curves along the side of Mount Tamalpais and was a very welcome break from climbing! The trail is pretty level between Willow Camp Fire Road and Matt Davis Trail. Enjoying the views out to the Farallon Islands and parts of San Francisco we stopped often, not to catch our breath but to soak in the fresh ocean air. Do you feel the calm that the negative ions provide when you are close to the ocean?
Cruising along around the winding trail that went in and out of trees we came across an old car that had fallen from Ridgecrest Road above. We have found a couple of cars on trails out in the middle of nowhere. Love sending pics to my brother to play ‘name that car’. He’s like an encyclopedia for old cars. Taking several photos of the rusted car that had no emblems left on it we sent them off and waited for a response. According to historians, they believe it is a 1941 Pontiac. My brother also came to the same conclusion of a 1940’s Pontiac. This particular car wreck appears to be something kids in the 1950s did to old cars that stopped running…they pushed them off the side of the mountain. Seems odd today but am guessing without cable TV and the internet kids needed other things to do to occupy their time.
After the curious rusted car along the trail, we started heading downhill back into the lushness of the bays and streams flowing down the small canyons along the side of the mountain. Views of the city to the south pop up just before you head down Matt Davis Trail.
Matt Davis Trail
Matt Davis Trail is one of the more popular trails on the west side of Tam. This proved to be true on a cloudy almost rainy day as well! The number of people on the trails picked up along Matt Davis Trail. It starts/ends just behind the fire station in Stinson Beach and leads to so many of the trails on Tam. One of the more popular loops from Matt Davis Trail includes the Dipsea Trail and an amazing waterfall!
As we were following the switchbacks that gently took us back down off the mountain we ran into a fellow Instagram hiker! So wonderful to meet people on the trails. To be in that spot, on that trail, at the very moment she was hiking up was crazy! After chatting with her for a bit we headed on down the lush and shaded trail. We could hear the streams flowing down the side of the mountain most of the way. Bay trees and firs provide cover and ferns line the trail. This is my favorite part of Matt Davis trail.
At the base of the trail, we found our truck and headed to the market in town to grab lunch and head back up the coast. Our lovely northern California coastline that runs from the Golden Gate Bridge and north is one of our favorite parts of the coast. Really all of it but this is less crowded and love the change from the rolling hills with cows to the trees towering overhead and the waves crashing below!
Parking is free but difficult to find, get there early! 25% sun, dogs on leash, moderate hike (take it slow), no restrooms on this loop, 6.5 miles with 1,788 feet elevation gain/loss. Stinson Beach has some great eats!! If the day had been nicer we would have taken our lunch and picnicked on the beach. Definitely love doing that!
Things We Love:
Normally Things We Love would lead you to an item we used on our hike, this time the below link will lead you to an organization that is working with the city, state, and federal lands to protect Mount Tamalpais. We definitely LOVE this!
Click the link for One Tam to see how you can volunteer, explore or donate to this great organization! We all love to see her rolling hills and tall peaks as we leave or head to the city. The open space provides so much for people, animals, birds, and the environment. As good stewards of the land it is good to give a little back to something so big.
All Trails Stats:
Where else can you find us?
Don’t forget to check out the video of the hike on our Hike Then Wine YouTube channel!