52 Hike Challenge Finished! – Stinson Beach to Mt Tam Summit

Stinson to East Peak | Smiling in Sonoma

52 hikes since January 1, 2016 consisting of 306.29 miles with 48,811 feet of elevation gain in 732.5 blissful hours of time spent with the hubs exploring nature and urban areas around the bay area…whew!! We did it!! In January we joined the #52HikeChallenge movement on Instagram which helped me to track all of our adventures and to stay motivated. We’ve had a great time exploring waterfalls, national parks, stewardship with fellow hikers, leading a couple of group hikes and seeing places most people native to NorCal haven’t heard of or explored. This isn’t the end to our hiking fun, just the end of this fun challenge.

The final hike we were preparing for was to be a round trip hike from Stinson Beach to the east peak of Mount Tamalpais and back. We would have hit all of the highlights on the mountain but 2 weeks before we were set to do this hike my back went out…so it was postponed and then shortened to just a one way 7.8 mile 2,594 ft elevation gain hike with one car parked at the top and one car at the bottom.

The weather was clear, the sun was out and everyone was still recovering from the holiday. We dropped the hubs’ car at the top with a picnic lunch in it and drove back down the winding road while enjoying clear views of the city and ocean. Parking was easy to find at Stinson Beach being there so early. We hopped on the Dipsea Trail from Highway 1 and started our ascent through some fun funky trees and then into an open meadow. Please turn around here and enjoy the views of Stinson Beach below! This hike is full of wonderful views but this is one of my favorites (you might hear me say this a lot!)

Hang a left onto Steep Ravine Trail and head up through the ravine along Webb Creek. The water was flowing pretty good for us. It is so beautifully lush in this area and the sounds of the creek flowing make it feel like you are in another world. We were, as usual, in awe of the untouched by urban growth land we were walking through. Still amazes us the city is just right there but there’s so much open space everywhere. Keep following the creek and enjoy the nice climb. Caution, there’s a super scary but more sturdy than last time ladder you have to climb up next to the waterfall. It is way easier to go up than down but it still freaks my scared-of-heights self out! After this it is smooth climbing up to Pantoll Campground with no obstacles except for tree roots. At the campground you will find flushing toilets, a ranger station and vending machines. It’s a welcome sight to have the potty break! One really great thing about this hike is there are restrooms along the route. Just about the time your bladder is about to burst you will find a restroom.

We opted to hike up to the Mountain Theater from Pantoll via the Old Mine Trail. You get peek a boo views of the city and the ocean from this trail and less traffic on it. The Mountain Theater is a spectacular place for a break to enjoy the views and being halfway through your hike. This is one of my favorite spots on Tam to explore. There were people with kids letting them pretend this was their stage and we were all the audience, some people were picnicking, some were relaxing and reading and then there was us who were just passing through.

From here we took Rock Springs Trail over and through the woods and creeks to Old Railroad Grade which is a fire road. The fire road has some good views of the city and Mt Diablo, lots of mountain bikers and sorry but a little boring for us. The climb is gentle which is nice but it seems to take forever to get to the lookout on East Peak that you can see from far away.

Reaching the parking lot we dropped our packs and headed up the last .3 mile to the peak and the lookout tower. It was so lovely to reach this spot and see how far we had come….and to sit and enjoy the breeze and views. We snapped several pics and watched all the tourists that had driven to the parking lot to get the views and felt like we had finally accomplished what we set out to do in January. We devoured our picnic lunch and headed back down the hill to pick up the other car. Hiking Mt Tam is one of the highlights of our hikes this year. We have done many and few were repeats due to my need for the excitement of ‘what we might see’ to keep trucking uphill when my legs are burning and plan on doing many more.

Hike details:

7.8 miles, 2,594 elevation gain (Marin has a bus that can pick you up from Mountain Home in and take you to Pantoll or Stinson if you wish to do the roundtrip and possibly shave some miles off the downhill), like I said restrooms all along the way, parking fee at the top is $8, shade and sun, not crazy amounts of poison oak, waterfalls in the wet months and probably one of the best hikes in the North Bay.

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