by Brenda Grantland
The Tam Valley area and surrounding
communities have a huge abundance of spectacular hiking and biking
trails - and no shortage of website links describing them.
Many trails originating in Tam Valley offer spectacular mountain
views, or views of the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco bay, lush redwood
forests, or all of the above. There are trails that allow horses
but not dogs, walkers but not bikers, and even trails that are wheelchair
accessible. Before heading out with children, pets or bikes, do
a little homework first to see if the trail is suitable. The Bay
Area Hiker website is an excellent source of detailed information
on all of the trails in the Bay Area. Our list below pales in comparison.
From Tam Valley, an easy biking/hiking
trail connects us to Mill Valley and Sausalito, skirting the salt
marshes along the edge of Richardson Bay. With a bit of luck in
crossing Route 1, Tam Valley bicyclists can get on the path at Tam
Junction. If you make it across Route 1 without being run over by
cars turning right on red during the pedestrian/bike crossing light,
you can follow the bike path north into downtown Mill Valley, or
south under the Richardson Bay bridge along the quaint houseboat
marinas of Sausalito, through the Sausalito waterfront, and through
a tunnel to the Marin Headlands.
For a slightly more strenuous ride,
follow the bike path across the marsh to E. Blithedale, and south
down the opposite edge of the bay to Tiburon. And from there (or
from Sausalito) you can take your bike on a ferry to Angel Island
or San Francisco.
For a much more strenuous Tam Valley
bicycle ride, take Route 1 (Shoreline Highway) to Stinson Beach,
where Share the Road signs are the only protection offered in an
extreme biking environment - steep cliffs plunging to the ocean
on a narrow two-lane road with sheer cliffs above on the other side,
many blind curves, and cars sharing the road, many of them filled
with gawking tourists who stop in the middle of the road to take
a photo, oblivious to the rest of us.
Biking enthusiastis also highly recommend
biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, although that may be
way too much beauty for anyone to take in while riding a bicycle.
Below are the "real trails" -- where
bicyclist or hiker meets actual dirt and nature.
Area Ridge Trail's website gives directions for a biking trail
starting in the Marin Headlands and ending in Tennessee Valley park.
Valley trail (see pictures)
is historically significant for our club. Gerbode Valley was
the proposed site for Gulf Oil & Thomas Frouge's 1964 controversial
development Marincello, which would have built a city of 30,000
people with 50 high-rise buildings, shopping centers, and a luxury
hotel on the highest summit. The Tam Valley Improvement Club
was instrumental in foiling Frouge's plans. Joining together with
other Tam Valley residents and neighboring nature-lovers, the opponents
filed lawsuits, lobbied Congress, and mobilized opposition to the
plan. Eventually the Nature Conservancy purchased the land from
Gulf Oil and donated it to the National Park Service, where it became
part of the newly formed Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The united effort to stop Marincello
was instrumental in bringing together the people who formed the
Trust for Public Land, as well as the Golden Gate National Recreation
And while you're in the Headlands...
Point Bonita Lighthouse
is an easy
walk through spectacular coastal views, through a tiny tunnel carved
out by hand at the turn of the century, across a narrow footbridge
100 feet above pounding surf with no land below, to the lighthouse,
which is built on a huge rock rising from the surf. The lighthouse
is open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12:30 - 3:30. Be there at 12:30
for the docent-lead tour.
Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands
becomes one-way right after Hawk Hill trail - a well-known raptor
viewing area. The steep one-way section of Conzelman Road continues
on a narrow ledge on a cliff towering above the Pacific Ocean. It
is an incredible drive along one of most spectacular cliff-hanging
views you'll ever drive on in your life.
Mt. Tam is a maze of trails of all
descriptions and degrees of difficulty. Here are some of our favorites:
summit/railroad grade trail starts in downtown Mill Valley and
climbs the mountain along the old railroad grade (see pictures)
Dipsea trail - this hiking trail is
the host of the annual Dipsea Race, held each year in June. This
is a gruelling mountain to ocean footrace, from downtown Mill Valley,
up and over Mount Tam to Stinson Beach
For direhards, there's the Double Dipsea
race (15 mile round-trip race from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach
and then back). Call 331-3550 for registration.
peak has some trails that are wheelchair accessible, suitable
for children in strollers, and all offer
Davis trail - one of my favorites - is a beautifully sculpted
trail from near the top of Mount Tamalpais to the Pacific Ocean,
at Stinson Beach. Don
Harlow's website describes it well.
home trail (see pictures)
starts at Route 1, across from the Mountain Home Inn.
railroad grade - formerly held the tracks of the Crookedest
Railroad in the World.
trailhead offers access to a number of trails of varying difficulty
-- all, of course, with great
Steep ravine trail - (see pictures or read
Don Harlow's description) or Ann
Marie Brown's description
Ring Mountain lies between Tiburon
and Corte Madera, with access to the ridge-top trail originating
in both towns. Because the trail follows the mountain ridge and
has few trees, it offers a 360 degree view of the Bay Area - including
San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, Tiburon, Belevedere, Angel Island,
Berkeley, Richmond Bridge, Corte Madera, San Rafael, San Quentin
prison. Ancient Miwok Indian rock carvings and petroglyphs can be
found on rocks strewn on the mountain top. There are also beautiful
wildflowers, including endangered species. As the Marin
Open Space District website explains:
Rocks such as blue schist
and green schist, together with abundant serpentine, create soils
which are toxic to most plant life. Plant communities which are
able to survive this harsh environment, however, thrive in the absence
of competition. For this reason, Ring Mountain harbors an unusual
number of rare and endangered plant species. In some instances,
the entire known population of a species is contained within the
On the Tiburon entrance to the Ring Mountain
trail, monster homes have taken over the beginning of the trailhead
and the occupants try to discourage hikers and bikers from using the
trail. But don't be discouraged -- it's public property. To
get there from Tiburon Boulevard, turn left on Blackfield Drive (at
the Cove shopping center), then go left on Via Los Altos and follow
it to the top. The trail starts near the water tower.
On the Corte Madera side, look for
the Open Space entrance on Paradise Drive.
page on the Tennessee Valley trailhead has lots of nice
Area Ridge Trail's website gives directions for a bike trail
between Marin Headlands and Tennessee Valley park.