mt tam

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Almost two years after my first hike on Mt. Tamalpais, Closet Granola and I headed out to relive the day when the Matt Davis trail kicked my butt. It was wildflower season then and it’s wildflower season again now, so if you’re looking for a gorgeous hike strewn with wildflowers and not too much sun, this is a great one to do NOW.

I won’t recap all the details about the hike since you can read about it here, except to say that it wasn’t nearly as bad this time around as it was last time. It just makes me realize how out of shape I was back then. Even with the little exercise from skiing and biking, this hike was fairly manageable.

Here’s what you can expect in terms of wildflowers if you go now…

And the icing on the cake…ocean views from Matt Davis and a little waterfall on Steep Ravine

Overall rating: Trailblazers

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.

One of the great things about living in California is that you can go hiking and biking almost year-round. I know I’ve neglected this hiking blog a bit over the last few months, but ever since my “injury” in Yosemite, hiking has taken a back burner to the easier outdoor activity known as biking. Note: my “injury” was not so much an “injury” but as my sports medicine doctor at UCSF said “the pain is likely caused by the lack of muscle in your legs…oh, and you also walk bow-legged.” Ouch, if anything knocks Hiking Diva down a peg, that might be it. But back to my apology, which somehow got sidetracked, for not blogging as much about hiking…I may have to make up for it with reviews of biking trails. If anyone has an objection, speak now or forever hold your peace. Of course, I control what comments show up, so it’s pretty much a done deal.

Now, back to today’s feature: the Matt Davis trail to Coastal Trail. If you’ll recall, Closet Granola had already dragged Hiking Diva on a rather steep uphill climb on Matt Davis in Take My Breath Away, Mount Tamalpais, but this hike was to be much easier on the knees. This out-and-back hike is more of a stroll along the ridge of Mt. Tam, overlooking the ocean. We parked at the Pantoll Ranger Station, which, by the way, has gotten quite pricey at $8 for a parking permit. But, California is in a bit of a financial crisis, so it was the least we could do to support the parks. Instead of heading down the Steep Ravine/Dipsea Trails like we did last time, we headed over to the Matt Davis Trail past the warning signs for mountain lions and rattlesnakes (nice way to set the mood).

Rather than continuing down the Matt Davis Trail, we veered right to take the Coastal Trail. This gave us great views with virtually no elevation change. The first part of the hike was shaded, but once on the Coastal Trail, it was very exposed. Since this hike was out-and-back, this also meant that the last part of the hike was very shaded, and given that we have a tendency to start our hikes late (not recommended) it was very dark in the shaded areas on the way back. It was a full moon, but very little light was filtering through the trees. That now makes THREE hikes where we haven’t made it back before dark, but who’s counting.

This particular hike is rather scenic with views of San Francisco, the beach, and the water. The sunset was gorgeous and if I had had a real camera with me (rather than my G1), I would make a panoramic picture that shows a gorgeous sunset scene where you can see both the moon and the sun. But alas, no camera…just a G1 with a low battery.

I’d recommend this hike for beginners. It’s a great introductory hike since you can wow them with the views, and you won’t have to listen to complaints of body aches the next day. On the day we went there was virtually no wind. Since the hike is rather exposed, I would check the weather report before heading out there. I’m sure I would not be recommending this hike if I had been blown off the ridge.

Overall rating: Heels (definitely)

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.

It’s my favorite time of the year for hiking…waterfall season, so Closet Granola and I decided to go chase waterfalls in Marin a couple weekends ago. Although lesser known than the ever-popular Alamere Falls in Point Reyes, the Cataract Falls trail is much closer and easier to get to from the city AND it boasts views of the waterfall for pretty much the entire hike, so it has an excellent cost-benefit ratio Alamere Falls, however, has the advantage of ocean views. Tough call.

This hike starts off flat near the lake, but rather quickly we came to the bottom of the falls. For the next 1.5 miles or so, the trail follows the waterfall straight up almost 1100 feet. There are a lot of stairs to help out, but the narrow trail isn’t too difficult for beginners, and nowhere as difficult as the Matt Davis trail. The trail is also dog-friendly, but the narrow trail doesn’t lend itself well to a pack of dogs and we didn’t happen upon any pampered pooches.

The beautiful trail was lush and very green, but had few wildflowers. The waterfall was set against a background of green and we found many places to stop and have our picnic. Every step of the hike, there’s a different view of the falls, ones with massive drops and ones with smaller ones. I absolutely fell in love with the Cataract Falls and this hike just shot up to top 3 on my list.

At the top of the falls, most people turn back, but we continued on to Laurel Dell and then kept going until we got to Bolinas Ridge. We crossed the street and climbed up the ridge. At the top we could see back to San Francisco and Oakland.

On the outbound part of the hike, we took very few pictures because we thought we would do this on the way back. But on the way back, the sun started to set and we were nowhere near out of there. So we started trail running, and since we had hiked all the way up, this meant we were trail running straight down. After a few minutes of “hoofing it” as Closet Granola so kindly put it, I rolled on my left foot and twisted my ankle. Ouch!

Well, it was a lot harder to get out on a very painful ankle and it was way after sunset by the time we did. We swore we would be back one day to take more photos. In the meantime, you all should get out there before those falls dry up.

Bonus: The drive out to this hike literally goes past “our restaurant”, Cafe Sorella in Fairfax. A delicious pasta dinner is mandatory after this hike, even if you’re in pain from a twisted ankle.

Overall Rating: Trailblazers

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.

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.
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