On a clear day, the views from the trail and from the top of Mount Tamalpais in the Mount Tamalpais State Park in Marin County are breathtaking.
The challenge for us was the drive to the city. If you can just accept the traffic knowing you will see the city from a new point of view it may be easier to leave our foothill homes to make the trek.
The deep canyons and oak woodland will remind you of home as you hike to the top of the 2,571-foot east peak and Gardner Fire Lookout Tower.
100-miles from Auburn puts you on the road for two and half hours. Take I-80 west toward Sacramento. Stay left at the split toward San Francisco. Take exit 33B for CA-37 W, look for signs for US-101 S, merge onto 101 S. Take exit 447 onto E Blithedale Ave., left on Nelson Avenue Right on Sycamore Avenue, left on La Goma Street, Right on Montford Avenue, and right on Molina Avenue. Continue straight onto Edgewood Avenue, left on Sequoia Valley Road, take a sharp right onto Panoramic Highway and a right onto Pan Toll Roadm then right onto E Ridgecrest Boulevard to the parking area on the left. Or just head for Stinson Beach and follow the signs for Mount Tamalpais.
Once parked and paying your $8 fee (East Peak, Pantoll and Bootjack trailheads have parking fees, cash only) and once beyond the office and vending machines near plank Walk Trail you start out on 50-miles worth of trails in the park.
The Plank Walk Trail will get you to the East Peak lookout tower with 261-feet elevation gain in just over half a mile. From here you can see San Francisco Bay, East Bay and Mount Diablo. On a clear day you can see the Farallon Island 25-miles away. It may have been my imagination or wishful thanking but looking east I believe I could see home in our snow capped Sierra Nevada Mountains.
My family made the trek for my husband Micah’s birthday in winter. I was amazed we had a clear day. The Bay Area fog is legendary and beautiful in its own way. But after several trips we were thrilled to have clear skies.
Mary West is author of the book "Day Hiker: The Gold Country Trail Guide." The book is a collection of the Day Hiker columns found in the Auburn Journal from 2016-2018 where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, and favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond. West was the recipient of a 2017 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column by the Outdoor Writers of California. You can follow West on Facebook and Instagram.