Established in 1963, Mount Tamalpais State Park is one of the Bay Area's open space treasures. Rising above the Marin Headlands, Mount Tam boasts over 50 miles of hiking trails, campgrounds, and Marin's highest point, East Peak, at 2,571 feet. With a diversity of ecosystems ranging from hill covered grasslands to fog-laden redwoods, the park leaves little to be desired when it comes to natural diversity. Mount Tam is connected to a larger network of Marin County open space areas and shares borders with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument, and the Marin Municipal Water District, offering visitors a nearly inexhaustible swath of open space and trails to explore.
The park's namesake is it's central feature, providing a stunning backdrop to the waters of the blue Pacific. Three rather indistinct peaks, West Peak, Middle Peak and East Peak, form a summit ridge.The upper slopes vary in vegetation depending on their aspect and exposure to fog, but all share a scenic commonality and provide some of Marin's best panoramic vistas. The Park covers the majority of the mountain's west and south facing slopes as well as a corridor that runs along the summit ridge. The western slope extends down to the ocean and includes the shoreline around Steep Ravine Environmental Camp. Highlight trails on coast side of the park include Steep Ravine, Matt Davis, and the Coast View Trail.
The park's drier south and east-facing slopes are traversed by fire roads popular with mountain bikers and hikers. The Old Railroad Grade and the Hogback-Fern Creek Trail, are two popular paths leading to the summit. The Dipsea Trail is notable, traversing the park from east to west, extending for 14 miles between Mill Valley and Stinson Beach.
Mount Tamalpais can draw quite a crowd on sunny weekends. Try and get up there early or plan for a midweek visit if solitude is what you're after. There are various parking areas to begin hikes and rides, some with no parking fees (try Whitegate Ranch Trailhead or Coast View Trailhead), while central parking areas require a day use fee. Temperatures can vary greatly depending on whether you're in a forest, in the fog, on a sun-soaked hillside, or sitting on top of a windy East Peak; suffice it to say, make sure to pack a couple layers.