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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Mount Tamalpais - East Peak Loop, CA

no permit
57 8 0
Guide 8 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List CA > Bay Area
5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 5.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 940 feet
Elevation Gain 1,800 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 14.3
Interest Historic, Seasonal Creek & Peak
Backpack No
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
7  2018-10-01 BiFrost
4  2017-05-05 JimmyLyding
7  2017-04-09 JimmyLyding
9  2015-11-28 Lucyan
20  2013-02-23 JimmyLyding
10  2010-09-12 JimmyLyding
Author JimmyLyding
author avatar Guides 109
Routes 335
Photos 4,221
Trips 568 map ( 3,575 miles )
Age 45 Male Gender
Location Walnut Creek, CA
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Oct, Jun, Sep → 5 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  5:54am - 6:15pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Nice loop on Mount Tam
by JimmyLyding

Likely In-Season!
Mount Tamalpais is the most noticeable land form in Marin County, and is visible from much of the Bay Area. While not a huge mountain, it rises 2500 feet near the southern tip of the Marin Peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Mount Tam, as it is commonly referred to, has a rich and varied history.

Mount Tam has been referred to as the "Sleeping Lady." A Native American legend has a sun god kidnapping a maiden to live with him in the sky. However, the maiden fell and tripped over Mount Diablo in the East Bay. She landed at her final resting place which rose up to become a mountain that is supposedly in the shape of a sleeping woman.

The origin of the name "Tamalpais" (pronounced 'tam-ell-pie') is in question. Some claim that it is of Spanish origin with "mal" meaning "bad" and "pais" meaning "country" due to the presence of hostile Indians in the area. Others claim the name originated from the language spoken by the local Miwok Indians. Perhaps it means "country of the tamales?" Whatever the origin of this mountain's name it has been the site of a rich and varied history spanning from the eons-long presence of Native Americans to Spanish settlers and finally to the American settlers who helped lay the foundations that would make the greater San Francisco Bay area one of the most important urban areas on earth.

One of the more memorable periods of Mount Tam's history was when the infamous serial killer David Carpenter, AKA the "Trailside Strangler" brutally murdered a number of victims here from 1979 until 1981. This case is notable because it was one of the first instances of FBI profilers successfully using forensic evidence to apprehend a serial killer with the help of a psychological profile. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Agent John Douglas for helping to pioneer these valuable techniques.

This hike, however, is lovely. The main parking area is across the Panoramic Highway from the Mountain Home Inn. The Inn seems to be a restaurant with splendid views where well-heeled folk drink fancy Chardonnay. Cross the highway immediately east of the Inn. The Gravity Car Grade trail branches to the right, a road to the Throckmorton Ridge Fire Station heads straight, and the Hogback trail follows that road on the left. Take the Hogback, and you will soon walk past the modern-looking fire station that features a roof covered in solar panels. The views from the Hogback trail are a taste of what is to come with panoramic vistas of the redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument below and San Francisco further south. Continue following the Hogback trail up the fairly steep grade to a water tower.

There is a junction here, and you want to continue straight up a "fire road." This is basically a trail that is suitable for trucks to use when fighting wildfires. You will encounter 3-way junction about 1/4 mile up, and continue straight. Continue on about 0.2 miles to another junction where you'll want to go to the left up the Railroad Grade trail. A little more than a 1/4 mile later you will hit the Fern Creek trail. There will be a wooden bridge across Fern Creek. You can take the glorified game trail just before the bridge or cross the creek and take the official trail. The game trail is not recommended except for those who love ducking and scraping through manzanita thickets.

The Fern Creek trail hits Ridgecrest Boulevard near its terminus just below East Peak. Take the paved path (it may be a road as it's in excellent condition, but looked too narrow for automobile traffic) up to the cluster of buildings just below the summit. There is a visitor center that sells everything from dry-mesh t-shirts to books about Mount Tam and a snack bar where you can buy a hot dog and a soda. You may encounter people who drove up here who might ask "did you hike up here?" We all love that.

The final ascent to the summit is easy enough with only about 300 vertical feet. The first half of the 1/3 mile trail is on a wooden ramp. The summit features a fire lookout tower and expansive views of the Sonoma Valley, the extensive mountains and ridges to the north, the redwoods and San Francisco to the south, and most of the Bay Area. The skylines of San Francisco and Oakland are easily identified. You will see the marine layer (fog) gently enveloping the seaward side of the Golden Gate, the Peninsula, and nearby Marin Coast if you're lucky.

Head back down the summit the way you came to near the snack bar, and take the Verna Dunshee trail around the north side of the mountain. The drainage to the west frequently features turkey vultures soaring over the deep forest below. You can also take a trail straight down the west side of the peak to the snack bar though the lower end is somewhat closed even the upper end is open. There is also a route along the south side of the peak that leads to a developed trailside lookout before both it and the Verna Dunshee trail connect with the Temelpa trail. Temelpa gently switchbacks down the east side of East Peak until its junction with the Vic Haun trail to the right (south). Take the Vic Haun trail as it follows the contour near the head of Cascade Creek until it meets the Railroad Grade trail/fire road. Take the Railroad Grade/fire road for about 1/10 mile and then jump on the Hoo Koo E Koo trail until it rejoins the Hogback trail a short ways above the water tower you saw just past the fire station. The previous 1.5 mile along the Vic Haun and Hoo Koo E Koo trails is absolutely gorgeous as you wind through thick chaparral in the portions on the ridgesides and forests of younger redwoods, California bay laurel, and Douglas fir in the drainages.

Make your way back the way you came from the water tower, and enjoy a glass of fine Chardonnay at the Mountain House Inn.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2010-09-13 JimmyLyding
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Mount Tamalpais - East Peak Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I just wanted a medium grade hike away from home, and Mount Tam did the job again. The trails weren't as crowded as they were the last time I was there, probably because conditions were not ideal as they quite often are. I saw a bunch of ravens for the first time in a while which was cool. I also saw a lot of dark eyed juncos rooting about in the underbrush.

    Today was not a blue bird day, but it was still a nice day for a hike. The weather was overcast with lots of haze in the air. Nights have been cold recently so people have been having fires, and there hasn't been any rain or much of onshore breeze so we're basically doing our best impression of Southern California. Luckily a lot of the haze is just water vapor.
    Mount Tamalpais - East Peak Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Another beautiful day for a hike on Mount Tam. My cousin was in town from Atlanta for another cousin's wedding, and a hike through Muir Woods then to the top of Mount Tamalpais seemed like the right thing to do. The conditions were as nice as they ever get, and there weren't too many people except for in Muir Woods Nat'l Monument near the visitor center. A better way to do this would be to bag the visitor center, and head down the longer way from the east side of the peak. The way down the south side of the peak is short, but painfully steep.

    Very few poppies, but quite a bit of everything else. I'll learn these California wildflowers one of these years.
    Mount Tamalpais - East Peak Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    It was great to get back on the trail after being laid low by the flu. That flu was a doozy! It was a gorgeous day so of course there were lots of people, but not as many as usual. Mount Tam is almost the perfect local hike because of the views, varied terrain, endless possibilities and mix of vegetation types. The big drawback is its popularity, but I can't be a hypocritical hater. This place is my go-to though I hope to do a LOT more hikes in the outer range of reasonable driving distance this year.
    Played around with a new wide-angle lens. We'll see how that came out.
    Mount Tamalpais - East Peak Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Another gorgeous day on Mount Tam. I expected to see lots of people today, and I wasn't disappointed. The views were superb, and Snow Mountain was clearly visible living up to its namesake 100 miles away. Snowy peaks of the Mendocino Range were even visible beyond Snow Mountain. Hopefully the guy from LA who I gave some hiking recommendations enjoys those hikes.

    I parked alongside the Panoramic Hwy about 1/2 mile south of the California Alpine Club, then proceeded up the Hogback Ridge Trail past Throckmorton Fire Station and a short stretch of the Old Railroad Grade (fire road) to the upper terminus of the Matt Davis Trail. It was steep uphill to this point, but Matt Davis is mellow as it follows the contour to the west to Bootjack and down to Stinson Beach. This trail is frequently done as a shuttle. I took it all the way to Bootjack then went up the Old Stage Road to the West Point Inn. The inn has a view south of the Marin Headlands and San Francisco, and must be a spectacular place to spend an evening.

    From there I got back on the Old Railroad Grade, and took it to the road near East Peak. My map indicates a way to take the Eldridge Grade down the north side of East Peak a short ways then cut up to the tiny visitors center. There was no shortcut so I walked back up to the road, and took it to the visitors center. From there a 500' long wooden ramp heads up to the actual peak and a small fire lookout. The views up there were superb except for the brown-orange haze over my East Bay home. I don't think the no-burn warnings are having much of an effect.

    I headed down the steep Fern Creek Trail to Old Railroad Grade then Hogback and the car. I need to get in better shape!
    Mount Tamalpais - East Peak Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Pretty sweet hike. I'm not sure I believe the 3,087' of AEG that my handheld got, but I sure feel like I hiked 3K. Gorgeous weather, but it was cold in a few spots. There were a lot of people on the mountain today. It was curious that so many people were headed up the mountain as we were leaving.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    Take the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) from Mill Valley west from Interstate 580. Follow the signs up to Mount Tamalpais/Muir Woods. Take the junction to the right up the Panoramic Highway past Four Corners until the Mountain Home Inn about 8 miles up from Hwy 1. Parking area is on the left side of the highway, and there are numerous smaller parking areas alongside the highway both above and below the Mountain Home Inn
    page created by JimmyLyding on Sep 13 2010 10:11 pm
    1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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