San Francisco Suburban Attractions】 Mount Tamalpais State Park

Mount Tamalpais State Park | Introduction

Mount Tamalpais State ParkLocated in Marin County on the north side of San Francisco, it's only about a half-hour drive north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. There are picturesque hiking trails overlooking San Francisco Bay. Sightseeing in Mount Tamalpais began to grow in popularity in 1861 when the first railroad came to the area. By the early 20th century, it had become a popular tourist destination on the west coast of the United States. Today the state park and nearbyMuir Woods National Monumentwas established in the 1920s to protect its natural environment and ecology.

After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and following Highway 1, Mount Tamalpais is often covered in clouds as the seasons change. On a particularly sunny day, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way.

Mount Tamalpais, Mt Tamalpais, Mt Tamalpais 1

Attractions | East Peak

Mount Tamalpais has 60 miles of hiking routes to choose from, and visitors can choose to climb for a few hours to reach the East Peak. However, if you have limited time, you can also drive up to the East Peak directly to have a look. There is a small visitor center next to the East Peak parking lot, where you can find maps of the routes and free coffee. Outside the visitor center is the trailhead, so we recommend you to do at least one round of Verna Dunshee Trail.

Gravity Car Barn

The Gravity Car Barn at the Verna Dunshee Trail trailhead features replicas of gravity cars used for sightseeing from 1896-1930s. The photographs in the old barn tell an interesting history of the era. The barn is only open on weekends, so if you're visiting on a weekend, why not come in and take a look?

The population of San Francisco grew after the Gold Rush in the 19th century, and so did the tourism of Mount Tamalpais. Originally, the only way to get to the top was by horse-drawn wagon, but in 1896 the Scenic Railway was built to promote tourism. In 1896, the Scenic Railway was built to promote tourism, and because of the steep gradient from the Mill Valley at the foot of the mountain to the summit, the railroad was designed with 281 curves, making it the most winding railroad in the world, and in 1907, the Gravity Car was designed to transport tourists down the mountain. The Gravity Car was so called because it used no power, relying only on the weight of the load and the brakes to carry passengers down the mountain at speeds of up to 12 miles per hour. The itinerary for a day trip at that time was as follows: From the Ferry building in San Francisco, tourists would take a boat to Sausalito, then a train to Mill Valley, where they would take a tour bus to the top of the mountain, look at the view, send postcards, have lunch, and then take the gravity train back down the mountain to Muir Woods and Mill Valley, and then take the boat back to San Francisco. The trip was popular for the next decade or so, but was phased out in 1925 with the construction of new roads and the popularity of the private automobile.

Trails | Verna Dunshee Trail

The Verna Dunshee Trail is a must-do trail on the East Peak. The loop is gentle and easy to follow, only 0.7 miles, and makes for a great loop near the summit with spectacular views. Views from the summit include the Farallon Islands 25 miles away, the hills, downtown San Francisco, the East Bay and Mt Diablo, as well as California's coastal redwood and oak forests that cover the hillside.

In the middle of the trail, you'll see a sign for Scenic Overlook, which is a steep walk downhill to the viewpoint. This point offers a particularly wide panoramic view of downtown San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Ocean Beach.

If you don't want to spend too much physical effort, the view from the observation deck on the trail is actually very nice, behind a big rock, without the need to climb a steep slope.

Trails | East Peak Summit Fire lookout

If you still have the energy after the Verna Dunshee Trail, you can take this 0.3 mile uphill walk to Fire Lookout on the summit of East Peak, the highest point in Marin County, which reaches a summit height of 2,571 feet and offers panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay, the East Bay, and the Pacific Ocean.

Other Recommended Trails | Dipsea Trail | Steep Ravine Trail

The Dipsea Trail and the parallel Steep Ravine Trail are some of the most popular hikes in the park. The Dipsea Trail is 7 miles long and starts at the Pacific Ocean and goes all the way to the summit. There are actually a couple of different entrances to park if you want to take both trails, one is on CA-1 at the beach, near the west entrance of the park. Another popular entrance is on Pantoll road, near Pantoll campground.

The Dipsea Trail passes through dense forests, waterfalls and meadows, while the Steep Ravine Trail follows Webb Creek over bridges and challenging steps. If you're coming in from the beach entrance, take the Steep Ravine Trail up the mountain and then the Dipsea Trail down, both of which are very scenic and especially popular during peak season. There are several trails in the area, so you can organize your route according to your own physical ability.

Other Recommended Trails | Rocky Point Trail

Rocky Point Trail is inside the Steep Ravine Campground in Oceanside. To get down to Steep Ravine Campground, you need to go through a locked gate, because there are limited parking spaces inside the campground, you need to be a resident to open the gate. Most people hike the entire Rocky Point Road down the mountain, enter the campground and then connect to the Rocky Point Trail, Steep Ravine Campground is one of my favorite campgrounds in California with its beautiful views. If you're not a camper, you can walk in for a picnic and enjoy the view.


If you want to stay in the neighborhood of Mount Tamalpais and are willing to camp I recommend it!Steep Ravine Campground. If you're visiting from out of town, you can find lodging near Marin County and arrange a two-day trip to Muir Woods and Mount Tamalpais. If you want to stay at the beach, check out Stinson Beach, and there are plenty of lodging options near Mill Valley.

Looking for a price comparison for your Stinson Beach accommodation?

Further reading

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