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Steep Ravine Trail

The ever-popular Steep Ravine-Dipsea-Matt Davis loop in Marin County’s Mt. Tam took my breath away…in more ways than one. This stunningly beautiful hike is perfect during the wildflower season, when the trails look like they have been dusted in glitter or fairy dust.

Wild About Wildflowers

There are two ways to do this hike. The more-sane people opt to start at Stinson Beach and hike up the Dipsea Trail and Steep Ravine Trail and walk back down the Matt Davis trail. My hard-core Closet Granola though prefers to start at Pantoll Ranger station and go the opposite direction. The route we took is ideal for a midway break at Stinson Beach for a picnic lunch, but the hike up Matt Davis afterward may make that lunch your last meal.

Make a Wish

The Steep Ravine Trail requires that you climb down a ladder, which is the least of your problems once you realize that what goes down must come up. The trails are well kept and the vegetation is lush. There are so many flowers of different colors that a photographer should leave ample time for photographic distractions.

Garden of Paradise

On the way back up from Stinson Beach, we passed a house with a garden that made us wish there was a hidden trust fund somewhere with our names on it. Once we passed this house, though, we couldn’t catch our breath for the next couple hours. The elevation gain was enough to knock a girl off her feet, but luckily the switchbacks helped a little.

Ocean Views

On the climb up, we stopped many times to admire the view of the ocean over the wildflowers, or at least I pretended to as I have huffed and puffed and tried not to see stars in the middle of the day.

Carpet of Flowers

Caveat: This was one of my earliest hikes and I may have been seriously out of shape. Perhaps this wouldn’t seem like such a big deal after the Big Basin hike. However, when I returned home, my roommate did say that I’ve never looked so bad in my life.

Overall rating: Hiking boots (in the moment), Trailblazers (in hindsight)

Fairy Dusted Path

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

Point Reyes National Seashore is fast becoming a city girl’s favorite out-of-the-city spot. The views on the Tomales Point hike are stunning and the difficulty won’t kill you, so it’s a good value for your feet. This 10.5 mile out-and-back hike exposes you to full sun (wear sunscreen lest you look 40 when you’re 25), fly-me-away-Mary-Poppins winds, and a trek through sand to reach your final destination.

A bit further north than the the Alamere Falls hikes, the Tomales Point hike may be

Coastal views

Coastal views

even easier if longer. Like it’s sister hike, it has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and rolling hills rather than steep climbs, and a very climactic ending that makes the first couple hours worthwhile.

Elk Preserve

Elk Preserve

In order to get to Tomales Point, we hiked through an elk preserve and saw many herds of elk along the way. They were grazing, sleeping, resting, running, and playing. We saw two young males standing on their hind legs as they tried to show each other who was boss; we saw another two using their antlers to initiate play; and we saw an elk prancing around in front of another like dogs do when they want to play/attack. It was all very cute and Nature channel-y.

Tomales Point

Tomales Point

Towards the end of the first section, the dirt trail becomes sand, which was much more difficult to walk around in and slowed our progress. But we persevered and continued out to the very end of the point, where we had views of the ocean on one side, views of the bay on the other, seagulls and pelicans overhead, and wildflowers at our feet. We were the only two people out there (probably because we always get a late start) and we marveled at how wonderful it is to be able to leave the city after noon and be in such an idyllic location.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

It took us 5 hours to complete the hike with a half-hour stop for a late lunch picnic that we picked up at my favorite place, Cowgirl Creamery.

Overall rating: Flip-flops for difficulty, Pumas for duration (hiking boots if you don’t want sand in your shoes)

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip: On the way back to San Francisco, stop at Sorella Cafe in Fairfax, where the locals dine delicious, home-style Italian dishes, snack on bread with chunks of Parmesan cheese, listen to the pianist, and chat with the hostess. As much as I love the anonymity of the city, sometimes it’s nice to be at a place where everyone knows your name…not that they know my name yet, but one day.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

On our way from San Francisco to Point Reyes to hike Alamere Falls, I ask…

“How hard is this hike?”

“How long is this hike?”

“Is there a lot of uphill?”

My boyfriend looks at me with a straight face and says, “I don’t know. I haven’t done much research on this hike, but there is a waterfall at the end.”

I sit back, placated by this response…there’s a waterfall. That’s a good sign. The hike should be pretty and have something for me to photograph.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

The hike didn’t disappoint. It was stunning with beautiful ocean views and abundant wildflowers (we went in late spring) and we stopped for many photography opportunities. The inclines were gentle enough and we walked by a peaceful lake on the way to the falls. We passed a horse as well, and whenever they’re around, be sure you don’t accidentally dirty your shoes in their not-so-little “deposits.” Also, the trails said “No Dogs Permitted”, but I saw all kinds of cute furry pooches along the way.

Trail

Trail

It wasn’t entirely perfect though. At one point, I wanted to take a picture of a lizard (there are lots of them!) that came out from the plants and stood in front of me. I called my boyfriend to come look at it and as he started to walk back, a 6-foot long gopher snake decided to come take a look as well. It slithered across the trail, coming straight towards me. Avid outdoorsy girl that I am (NOT!), I froze and stood there paralyzed. Finally, I stepped back and I’m not sure who was more scared…me or the snake. The snake decided to let his lunch go and slither away and I almost had a nervous breakdown. At least the lizard was saved. Other than that, the hike was great.

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls

At the end of the hike, the waterfall descends straight into the ocean (only one other waterfall in California goes to the ocean, McWay Falls in Big Sur). It was a beautiful day and we sat on a hill, with views of the waterfall and the ocean, and had a picnic.

On our way back to the car (it was an out-and-back hike), I asked my boyfriend:

“So how long do you think that hike was?”

He responds, “Probably 8.5 miles.” Just then we pass the entrance sign and it says the hike was 8.6 miles. Didn’t do any research, my ass! He knew all along how long it was, but didn’t tell me for fear that I would have balked at an 8 mile hike. But it’s true, if he had told me the truth, I probably wouldn’t have gone.

Overall rating: Flip-flops for difficulty; Pumas for duration

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip #1: Do your own research. Boyfriends will often pretend to know nothing when the facts get in their way.

Tip #2: A fancy picnic lunch with smoked salmon, fresh bread, smelly cheese, and red wine is not optional, so stop at Cowgirl Creamery before hitting the trail and you’ll both be happier when the glucose levels drop.

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