Date: 03 May 2014
Duration: ½ day
Distance: 6 miles
Trail: (Starts behind the fire station) Old Railroad Grade -> Fern Canyon Trail -> East Peak Parking lot -> East Peak
Best time to go: Spring, early summer.
I’ve always wanted to go hiking at Mt. Tamalpais. Having been to Point Reyes, Muir Woods and the areas around there quite often I had not yet gone up to East Peak. Lakshmi organized this hike on Saturday and the moment I knew about it, I jumped in. It’s about an hour and half drive from the south bay past the golden gate bridge. The Mt. Tamalpais State park shares boundaries with Muir Woods and Stinson Beach. The route that we took was 101-N , CA -1 N to Mt. Tam state park entrance. The group this time was Shyam, Rajath, Lakshmi, Sridevi, Sheetal, Sameer, Vatsan, Venkatesan and I.
We started the hike at 11:00am. It’s quite late to start a hike but since this was a short one, time was not an issue. For people who would just like to take in the views from the top of East peak, you could just drive all the way up to East Peak parking lot (Paid parking - $6 day use fee) and walk up the wooded trail (0.3miles) to the top. It is quite steep up there though. For the more adventurous folks who would like to spend some calories in the process of going up to the top, you could start from the entrance to the park, walk to the Fire station and take the old railroad grade trail from behind the fire station and go up to Fern Canyon trail. You could also explore the Hoo Koo E Koo or the Verna Dunshee Trails there. The old railroad grade trail wasn’t very interesting; it is pretty much a fire road up the peak. But once we got to the Fern Canyon Trail junction and took the steeper shorter way up to the East parking lot, the trail became small (one person) and nice. Trees all throughout shaded the trail and a small water stream flowed gently down besides the trail. It was indeed quite pleasurable walking here. I wanted to get to the water so went down off trail to add some fun to the hike. The water was pretty cold considering the heat wave that passed the bay area over the week. After a while we reached a point where the trail crossed the small stream and from here it was a well laid out trail with stairs and wooden bridges.
Once up at the east parking lot, the wooded trail to East peak of 0.3 miles was what we took. This is more fun, at least for me. There were so many boulders that one could climb. It was a lot of fun bouldering up and down all the way to the top. The vistas opened up walking up this trail. The lake, Sausalito, Golden Gate, SF everything could be seen – I’d definitely call it the birds eye view of the North Bay and SF. On the way we came across a Buddhist make-do shrine with a picture and a saffron cloth twisted to a tree. There was a paper with something written in what seemed to be Celeriac (according to Vatsan). There was also what seemed like a more direct path to the watchtower at the top of east peak but a board said that it was closed. This was right opposite to the make-do shrine I talked about.
Walking higher, we reached more boulders. We were at the top at 1pm or so. It was time for snacks, lunch or whatever food people brought. Sheetal treated us to some great juicy cut papayas. We spent some time at the top taking pictures and just chatting. Oh there is one more bit that is real interesting –Sheetal and I went in search of shit and found shit. :-P That’s another story in itself. We started our journey down to the east peak parking lot at around 1:45pm. At the parking lot, we visited the Gravity car barn - quite an interesting place. The gravity car is a carriage that ran on tracks all the way from atop Mt. Tam down to Mill Valley and completely by the help of gravity. It was pushed up to the barn by a steam engine in those days. After that, we made our way back to our cars along the same route. We were down at the parking lots by 2:45-3pm. We then decided to stop by for a proper lunch somewhere on the way. We drove down to Mill Valley through some amazing dream home type residential localities. Guess what, we saw the last stop of the gravity car which is right in the middle of downtown Mill Valley. A nice lunch at Prabh Indian restaurant, and we headed back to the bay area completing my ever pending desire to go up Mt. Tamalpais. Pictures: here
To see (around): East Peak Lookout (Lookout tower), Gravity Car (Gravity Car Barn), Mill Valley