If you’re looking for the best hike in the Bay Area, this is your complete guide to a moderate, 7-mile hike at Mount Tamalpais and Stinson beach. Mount Tamalpais State Park is located in Mill Valley, California, and houses more than 60 miles of trails.
This Matt Davis, Steep Ravine, and Dipsea loop is a great length and perfect loop to enjoy on a Saturday. Pack your snacks, lunch, and plenty of water. Also, be sure to bring your camera because the views are AMAZING. There was a good amount of fog when I went but it was still so beautiful, majestic even!
Getting To The Best Hike in the Bay Area
Leave home early as Stinson Beach and Mount Tam tend to get pretty crowded. You’ll begin your journey on the Matt Davis Trail starting at 32 Belvedere Avenue. Park along the road and begin your hike. I arrived at 9 am and there was still a decent amount of parking. There were no parking fees.
Matt Davis Trail
This is definitely the hardest part of the hike! Many inclines and steep heels for about 2.5 miles. But there is also plenty of shade and if you come early, the weather is very cool and refreshing. Take breaks when you need to and enjoy the many waterfalls and enchanting trees.
You’ll continue on this trail for about 4 miles. Always keep left when you the road splits and follow signs for the Matt Davis Trail. After the 2.5 miles on this trail, it will turn into a trail with fewer trees and more open mountains. Don’t be discouraged, it looks steeper than what it actually is!
Continue on this trail and follow signs for Pantoll
After about 4 miles, you’ll reach the end of the Matt Davis Trail and you will notice a parking lot on your lower right, this is Pantoll Station. Carefully cross Panoramic Highway to refill your water bottle, rest, and use the restroom.
Steep Ravine Trail
After your rest, you’ll follow the signs for the Steep Ravine Trail. This trail is mainly descending and is covered by many trees. There are so many photo opportunities on this trail. There are waterfalls, fallen trees, and a 15-foot wooden ladder you have to climb down! Follow this trail for Stinson Beach. Also, keep in mind that the roots on the trail are often very slippery so your hiking shoes will come in handy!
When you have reached the dam, there will be an option to go either left or continue straight, keep straight and you’ll eventually see the sign for Stinson Beach via the Dipsea Trail.
This is the home stretch. Just a little over a mile and you’ll be back to Stinson Beach. This part of the trail is open canyons and wider trails. You can enjoy views of Stinson Beach and the ocean on a clear day. Stay straight on the trail (there will be options to turn left or right but just stay straight). Eventually, you’ll reach Panoramic Highway, safely cross and finish the trail. The trail will end at Highway 1. There is no sidewalk so be mindful as you walk towards the fire station back to Belvedere Ave.
And you made it! 7 miles of hard work for breathtaking views – this is truly the best hike in the Bay Area! There are many shops and restaurants in Stinson Beach to enjoy. I chose to leave Stinson Beach and head towards San Francisco as Stinson Beach was very crowded at this point – around 3 pm.
Final Tips To Know Before You Go
- Leave early – Try to arrive before 9 am
- Wear hiking shoes – The trail is full of rocks and roots
- Bring water and snacks – You’ll need some energy and refreshments
- Bring a jacket – It can get chilly on some parts of the trail, especially on the Steep Ravine
- Take your time and enjoy nature – There are so many naturally formed things to look at, take your time and enjoy it!
- Be mindful of poison oak – There was plenty of it! I would even recommend wearing long pants and long sleeves.
I discovered this loop from The Nudge! This isn’t sponsored but The Nudge app is a Bay Area Planner to text you new hikes and places to discover in the San Francisco Bay Area. They have also voted it the best hike in the Bay Area after taking a poll with over two thousand participants!
To read more about my adventures and hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area, check here!