Pantoll to East Peak – Mt Tamalpais

Pantoll to East Peak Mt Tam | Smiling in Sonoma

The hubs and I have found we have done most hikes within 1.5 hours from our home base….this leaves us with repeating areas we have previously hiked. Yikes! I don’t do well with that! Some people can do the same thing over and over each time, I am definitely not one that is capable of this. We have been searching high and low for new hikes. We have a few that will happen once the weather cools down but for now we will settle for the most amazing place of all to hike…Mt Tamalpais.

The diverse beauty from rocky trails to lush forest above the clouds, down in the fog in grassland, waterfalls, amazing bay views etc. We love visiting Tam whenever we can. She has amazing trails and history, there’s always something new to explore…well, at least until we have explored it all!

This time we started at the Pantoll Ranger Station and followed the Matt Davis trail through Bootjack Campground and around to the Vic Haun trail (see directions here). Make sure to get to Pantoll early enough to find some prime parking. Enjoy the flushing toilets and running water then cross Panoramic Highway to find the Matt Davis trail. It starts off with 2 miles of a very gradual climb. The stroll through the beautiful forest is easy and you get to cross a few bridges before you reach the breathtaking views of the bay.

Once you turn on to Vic Haun trail start drinking water and gear up for straight uphill, booty busting hike up a rocky path that is radiating heat off the rocks. There is little to no shade during this part of the hike, on our day there was no breeze and all sunshine. It was only supposed to be in the mid-70’s but it felt like we were in death valley at the height of summer. We had been up this trail before but we had a couple miles under our belt by the time we hit Vic Haun trail this time. It felt like it lasted forever until we hit the welcomed switchbacks. Our app told us our split pace was “not moving”…this is the first time we had heard her be so rude! We moved from one tiny shaded spot to another and took breaks. The whole time I kept wondering how we had gotten so out of shape. It’s only been a few weeks since we’ve done a good hike. Oh and then I remembered I slipped and fell in the tide pools the night before and my other leg now has a really great bruise on it like my right leg did in the beginning of the summer. This must be the summer of matching bone bruises…as I write this my left ankle is slightly swollen and completely bruised. Badge of honor?

The views from this hellish trail are amazing!!! We had dense fog to the west hiding Stinson Beach and most of San Francisco while blazing sun was highlighting the bay and everything to the east.


We truly hydrated on the way up this hike! Remember there are water fountains, flushing toilets and a cold drink vending machine once you reach East Peak!! This was a life saver. The heat had gotten to me after climbing 1,500 ft in less than 2 miles so the welcome rinsing off in the restroom accompanied by the replenishing water fountains and a vending machine was like heaven. There has only been 2 other times we have run out of water on a hike and both were 4 miles longer! The take away from this is to bring plenty of water or be ok with drinking water from the public water fountains (public wildlife I am sure drink out of these too!). While you are resting at East Peak, take some time to check out the gravity train and the look out tower. Then when you head down to WestPoint Inn, enjoy the easy descent.

We enjoyed our hike down to Wespoint Inn…there was a slight breeze and hope of cooling down and a snack. One day the hubs and I will spend a night here. Can you imagine the sunset and sunrise from atop this gorgeous mountain?!?!?

From Westpoint Inn we were supposed to take the Rock Springs trail t the Mountain Theater but we missed that and ended up heading down to Pantoll on a fire road. I would suggest heading to the Mountain Theater and check out how wonderful a place it is! I need to see a play up here. The hubs and I had already hiked there before (see this post) so we didn’t backtrack to the correct point to reach the Rock Springs trail. Side note: head across the top tier at Westpoint Inn to reach Rocks Springs trail, do not follow the signs that say “Pantoll” if you want to see the Mountain Theater.

Once you are back at Pantoll, head on down Highway 1 to have a picnic at Stinson Beach!

Pantoll to East Peak Mt Tam | Smiling in Sonoma

Hike details:

$8 parking fee, go early to find parking, flushing toilets and water fountains, good signage, beautiful views, 8.8 mi, 1,589 elevation gain.


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