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John Guilford's Hikes

Tamalpais State Park, CA on 2010-11-13

Date: 2010-11-13

Location: Tamalpais State Park, CA

				Alt.	Miles
Start:	Panoramic Hwy	1:20	960	0	
Ocean View Trail  	1:25		0.2
Muir Woods Visitor Ctr	2:05	160	1.7
Fern Creek Trail   	2:30	220	2.3
Lost Trail 		2:45	280	2.6
Ocean View Trail	3:00	880	2.9
Panoramic Hwy		3:20	960	3.1
Hogback Fire Rd		3:20	
Matt Davis Trail	3:30	1120	3.5
Nora Trail 		4:00	1360	4.5
West Point Inn		4:15	1800	4.8
Railroad Grade Fire Rd	4:25	
Hogback Fire Rd			1440	6.1
Panoramic Hwy		5:00	960	6.8
I was visiting California, and a friend suggested going to Mount Tamalpais state park, just north of the Golden Gate for some hiking.  I had done a little research online before going down, but not nearly enough.  In particular, I hadn't printed out any detailed maps. 

In California, I counted on my GPS to get me there.  That is another, and not really relevant story.  I expected once I was "there", there'd be sign boards and maps to help me out.  The GPS did get me "there", but once "there" I wasn't sure "there" was there.  I was along the Panoramic Highway about 2 miles north of Rt 1.  The GPS announced I was there, and I was clearly somewhere as there was a small parking lot rather full of cars, as well as a fair number of pullouts along the road, also full of cars.  I hesistated going further w/out a map, circled back to the parking lot, and got lucky and found a space to park.  I still didn't know any of the trails around, but I figured I could just pick one and go.  Then my luck changed when a ranger showed up to service the pair of latrines at the parking area.  She gave me a map of the park showing the trails and some advice on what might be good trails to try. 

The day was hot (for November) and sunny.  I was starting half way up the western hillside.  One possible destination was to hike down into the canyon, via the Ocean View Trail to Muir Woods National Monument.  Another was to hike more up the hillside where the Matt Davis trail ends up at the West Point Inn.  The day was warm and the hike down would be in the shade and cool.  I thought the hillside above looked pretty sunny, so I went down. 

After going south alongside the road for a short while, I found the sign for the trail and started down.  The trail decends pretty steadily quickly moving into shady trees.  I was a bit concerned about all the elevation I was losing, knowing I'd be making all the up when I came back up, but the time was early so I had plenty of time. 

About a half mile in, I passed a sign for the Lost Trail heading off to the right, but I continued down the Ocean View Trail.  The two trails meet in a bit of a clearing, and at first it wasn't obvious where the Ocean View Trail continued, but following the clearing finally led to the obvious trail. 

Sooner than I had expected, I heard a growing number of voices ahead of me, and I popped out at the base of the trail near the Muir Woods visitor center.  After a quick stop to refill my water bottle, I headed up the main trail (Bootjack trail?) along Redwood Creek.  I had decided to make a loop and return via the Fern Creek and Lost Trails.  Down in the valley it was shady and rather cool, almost cold.  The dimness made taking pictures a bit mroe challenging due to the need to brace the camera due to the slow shutter speeds needed. 

[ PIX1 ] [ PIX2 ] About a half mile up the valley I came across the Fern Creek Trail and followed it to the Lost Trail.  These wasted no time climbing up the hillside.  There were some stretches that were more stairs than trail due to the use of timbers for erosion control.  Climbing, I quickly warmed back up.  As the trail climbed, the view opened up more with more sunlight getting through the trees.  I met up with the Ocean View trail and regained the road and my car. 

This loop hike didn't take as long as I had initially thought, and I still had time for another hike before dark, so I chose my second objective, namely the West Point Inn.  I divided the time till sunset in half, and figured I'd go until that time, and if I didn't get to the inn, I could just turn around. 

[ PIX3 ] To get from the parking area to the inn, you can either take some dirt fire roads which are great for mountain biking, or a foot only trail.  The trail starts a short distance up the dirt road which initially passes the Throckmorton Fire Station and water tank. 

To get to the Inn, you actually take two trails, starting on the Matt Davis trail most of the way before switching to the shorter, steeper Nora Trail which takes you to the inn.  I had initially expected the trail to be more open in the sun.  In truth, it was pretty well covered and shady almost the entire way, though part of the shade may have been due to the hillside blocking the setting sun to some extent. 

[ PIX4 ] When I got to the junction of the Nora trail, I knew I was getting close and would have time to make the inn before my turn around time.  The Nora trail climbs up the hillside ending at the inn.  There I saw a number of hikers and a fair number of mountain bikers who presumably came up the dirt road. 

[ PIX5 ] After a break for a snack, some water, and some photos, I got ready to head down.  Instead of retracing my way down the trail I had come up on, I decided to make another loop and return down the dirt road in order to see some new terrain.  The road is easy walking and is more open than the trail.  Thus the road affords more views of the San Francisco bay, the city, as well as views of the Pacific ocean.  There were also a number of small waterfalls along the side of the road.  As I had some time, I opted to pull out my tripod and take some time exposure shots. 

[ PIX6 ] About a mile and a quarter down the road, the Hogback road takes off from the right.  For walkers or people going down, this is a steep but much shorter way back to the highway.  I got back to my car just before sunset, and spent some time shooting sunset scenes before beginning the drive back down to Santa Clara. 


[ PIX1 ] Lost Trail

[ PIX2 ] Moon rising over Ocean View trail near Panoramic Highway

[ PIX3 ] Water tank on Hogback Fire road

[ PIX4 ] West Point Inn

[ PIX5 ] Cascade along Railroad Grade Fire Rd

[ PIX6 ] Sunset from Panoramic Highway

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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015