I took Friday off of work so I could hike somewhere out by the coast. This loop is the best hike out of Stinson Beach in my opinion because of the botanical diversity, views, terrain, strenuousness and location.
The large parking lot at Stinson Beach was virtually deserted when I arrived which wasn't surprising because it was gloomy, cold and windy. Perfect hiking weather! I took the Dipsea Trail up through the coastal scrub with golden blooming sticky monkey-flower. I noticed my GPS appp showed something called the Stinson Tree so I took a side trip down an old road to what turned out to be a huge eucalyptus tree with a picturesque swing. A great view, and a steep plunge down to Hwy. 1 250 feet below was only a few steps away. It was then I discovered three World War 2-era bunkers facing out to sea. Actually, the bunkers had been discovered before as evidenced by being covered in graffiti and full of trash.
Dipsea then runs in conjunction with the Steep Ravine Trail through a nice redwood forest as the route continued its ascent of the westernmost flank of Mount Tam. The Dipsea branched away from Steep Ravine and climbed up the longest stretch of its dreaded stairs. The redwood forest opened up and the trees got progressively smaller the higher the trail climbed until finally the views returned. At least views of foggy Douglas-fir and ground clouds blowing through. I have to admit that it was pretty neat. The trail flattened out as it approached Cardiac Hill. The highlight of this stretch was the leopard lilies.
I continued down to the Stapleveldt Trail through a nice redwood and Douglas-fir forest, and then reached Pantoll right at the 5 mile mark after the last big climb.
I then took the Matt Davis Trail west as it roughly contours along the 1500' mark just below the southern end of Bolinas Ridge. The views really open up here as the trail smoothly transitions between mountain grassland, young redwoods and tanoak groves. Finally, Matt Davis went steeply down through a mixed woodland until it dumped me out at the end of a cul-de-sac only 2 blocks from Hwy. 1 in downtown Stinson Beach. That was a good day.
I've grown accustomed to starting my forays into Walnut Creek's Shell Ridge Open Space at trailheads other than Indian Valley. IV has gotten out of control in terms of crowds. This was a nice route that took me to two different high points. Mask compliance at Shell Ridge has unfortunately gone from being good to mediocre.
The glorious weather today plus two full days of drying out from the last storm guaranteed a lot of fellow travelers. The local bird population appears to be at a nadir right now.
It's nice to see that the hills are finally mostly green which is about a month late here. There weren't as many people out as I expected, and it wasn't nearly as muddy as I feared it would be. No mud clods clinging to boots today. I saw my first poppy of the year though it was still still curled up.
It was nice to sit for a moment on top of the north Shell Ridge high peak in the warm sunshine.
Seems like it's been forever since I've done that.
It was good to hike something besides Shell Ridge. It was also good that it gave me an excuse to get takeout green chile enchiladas from Dos Coyotes The first part was up the moderately steep and unrelenting Rocky Ridge View Trail. I was rewarded with a view of San Francisco and quite a bit of the bay area when we reached the top of the ridge. Rocky Ridge is a 2-mile-long ridge on the west side of Danville, and is one of the more popular hiking spots in the East Bay. We got lucky as there wasn't much of a crowd when I started. It was a zoo when we finished, however.
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.