If 2,571 feet in elevation with breathtaking views sounds like something you would enjoy hiking, then Mount Tamalpais is the perfect spot for you.
Located just outside San Francisco – in Marin County, California – Mount Tamalpais is the highest peak in the Northern California Coast Range. Residents of the San Francisco Bay area have been enjoying the beauty and majesty of the mountain for years.
Mount Tam, as it’s affectionately nicknamed, is mostly public land protected by the Mount Tamalpais State Park. This state park is where you’ll find many activities for you and your family to enjoy.
San Franciscans have been enjoying all that Mount Tam has to offer for years, including the numerous hiking trails. But these trails aren’t just for the locals to take advantage of.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 reasons you should include Mount Tam in your hiking adventures.
Mount Tamalpais: A Hiker’s Dream and So Much More
1. Over 60 Miles of Trails
If hiking is your number one goal then Mount Tamalpais will not disappoint. There are over 60 miles of hiking trails. If you think 60 miles aren’t enough, then you’ll be happy to know the trails also connect to over 200 miles of additional trails outside the state park lines.
There are multiple types of trails for the novice up to the most advanced. Mount Tamalpais is a great spot for trail runners too.
While you’re making your hike, you’ll notice the incredible views that Mount Tam has to offer. You’ll be surrounded by the beautiful redwoods and wildlife.
2. You Can Hike Alone or Connect with a Group
The State Park offers guides on hiking alone or even has scheduled group hikes. There are group hikes for Easy, Regular, Moderate or Advanced Hikers.
The coolest group hike may be the Moonlight Hike, which takes place on Saturday nights just after sunset.
3. The Many Seasons of Mount Tamalpais
Each season offers a different reward for those hiking on Mount Tam. And with over 750 species of plants and various wildlife, you’re sure to experience something different each time you hike.
In the winter, specifically December and January, you are likely to catch a glimpse of the gray whales migrating along the coastline. Make sure you bring your binoculars to enjoy this sight!
Also, during the winter rainy season (December through February) the waterfalls and streams swell and run high. This creates a thick fog over the slopes toward the ocean. You can imagine what a beautiful scene this creates as you hike.
With the springtime brings beautiful wildflowers blooming, such as the California Poppies and lupine for you to appreciate.
4. Perfect Place to Picnic
Don’t forget to pack your picnic supplies! With all of the natural beauty, Mount Tamalpais has to offer, it’s no wonder it’s also a perfect place to have a picnic.
There are several areas along the hiking trails that offer picnic tables, running water and even barbecue grills. You’ll be able to easily stop and enjoy the surroundings while refueling for your hike.
Make sure to check with the Visitor’s Center for even more information regarding the best places to picnic.
The best amenity for your lunch or dinner will definitely be the views that Mount Tam has to offer while you eat. All the picnic areas are strategically placed so you can get the most out of the scenery while you stop and rest.
5. Mount Tamalpais Is a Great Place to Camp
After a day of hiking, you may be interested in camping for the night. Mount Tam is a camper’s dream, offering you several places to stop for the night. Although many of these are first come, first serve, your trip to Mount Tamalpais will be truly complete with the camping experience.
The most popular campgrounds are the Steep Ravine Cabins and Campground. You can either pitch your tent or try to book a cabin. You’ll be overlooking the ocean which is why this is such a preferred camping spot. The sunsets alone will make this worth the effort.
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Other options for camping include the Pantoll Campgrounds (which has 16 campsites) and the Bootjack Campgrounds (which have 15 campsites). You can also check out the Alice Eastwood Group Camp if you have a large group (up to 50 people).
There are also campgrounds available for people who are horseback riding.
6. Perfect Place for Cycling
Maybe you’re not sure if you want to experience the trails either by hiking or cycling. Mount Tam offers a great number of trails for both. For cyclists, it’s a perfect opportunity for mountain biking. The mountaintop trails offer views of San Francisco as well as the Pacific Ocean.
You can choose to do both the cycling and hiking, it will take a little extra planning to figure out which trails are best. You’ll also definitely want to keep in mind the number of cars as you’re exiting, the traffic can build up quickly.
There are many challenging rides available, whether you’re looking for 25 miles or 60 miles worth of roads to conquer.
7. Star Parties on Mount Tamalpais
Of the many things to do when planning your hike, one item worth considering are the monthly Star Parties.
No, we’re not referring to a big party with lots of celebrities. We’re referring to the Astronomy viewings that take place each month. If you plan your hike during April through October, then this viewing is a great addition to your trip.
Astronomy Nights are hosted by the Friends of Mt. Tamalpais and are open to the public. These are held at the Cushing Memorial Theater (aka The Mountain Theatre) and are for all ages to enjoy.
8. Lots of Freebies to Take Advantage Of
The great thing about nature, and Mount Tamalpais is you can enjoy hiking and so many other activities even if you’re on a budget.
You can park at either the Pantoll, Bootjack or East Peak parking lots for only $8 a day, even less if you’re a Senior.
On the weekend, you can stop by the East Peak Visitor center and find a museum, videos and souvenirs for you to explore. The volunteers at the visitor center can even help you plan your hike for the day.
9. You Can Even Paraglide on Mount Tamalpais
Can you imagine anything cooler than combining your hiking adventure with a chance to paraglide over the mountain? This is a unique way to see the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay that Mount Tam has to offer.
The hang gliding and paragliding activities are handled through the Marin County Hang Gliding Association. There are 3 different launch sites so you’ll have your choice as to which beautiful spot you pick.
Paragliding and hang gliding can actually be enjoyed all year at Mount Tam, weather permitting.
10. Experience Culture After Hiking Mount Tamalpais
Who says hiking and the arts can’t come together and be enjoyed at the same time?
For over 100 years, the Mountain Theatre group have been providing a unique theatrical experience right in the heart of Mount Tamalpais. The theatre has enough seating for 3,750 audience members. The seating was actually created out of blasted boulders and classic stone.
The Theatre group performs musicals throughout the year, offering a chance for hikers to enjoy the arts while visiting Mount Tam.
If history is your interest, then you have to check out the Crookedest Railroad Museum and the Gravity Cars Shelter. Both offer a glimpse into the history of early transportation up and down Mount Tam.
Mount Tamalpais Is Truly the Best of California’s Hiking Trails
Whether you’re young or old, a beginner or advanced hiker, a day tripper or a weekend-long adventure, then Mount Tam is your place.
There are so many different ways to enjoy a hiking adventure at Mount Tamalpais, you’ll definitely have to plan more than one trip. It’s guaranteed that each trip to Mount Tam will be different and unforgettable.