It is awesome atop this 2500 foot high mountain in Marin with its 360-degree view from San Francisco Bay to the Pacific. But anywhere on "Tam" you can find nature at its most glorious. Miles and miles of trails ribbon the mountain, crossing redwood valleys, creeks, waterfalls, and wide-open grasslands. It has been treasured turf for hikers, cyclists, and equestrians since the 1880s.
- Three of the five parking lots are fee lots; two are free.
- On weekends and holidays, a Golden Gate Transit bus runs from Stinson Beach up to Pantoll Ranger Station and along the Panoramic Highway to Marin City.
- The Mount Tam Visitor Center, situated at the east peak’s summit, is open only on weekends.
- The Pantoll Ranger Station, located off the Panoramic Highway, is a good place to pick up hiking and camping maps and information.
- There are two drive-in picnic areas on Mount Tam: Bootjack Picnic Area and East Peak Picnic Area. Both sites have picnic tables, rest rooms, and running water.
- The historic Mountain Theater, accessible via a hike from Pantoll or the Rock Springs parking lot, is another spectacular place for a picnic.
- Abundant waters flow down Mount Tam and through the surrounding park lands in the springtime, forming many small but exquisite waterfalls. Trails offering the best waterfall views are the Steep Ravine, Troop 80, and Cataract trails.
A Forest of Dwarf Cypress
On the slopes of Mount Tam grows a forest of small cypress trees (Cupressus pigmaea). Lack of nutrients in the mountain’s serpentine soil stunts the growth of these trees, causing them to mature when only a few feet tall. To visit this pygmy cypress forest, take either the Ben Stein Trail north from Rock Springs or the Old Stage Road half a mile northeast of the Bootjack Picnic Area.
The Crookedest Railroad
Mount Tamalpais enjoys the unique distinction of having once had the world’s crookedest railroad ascend its southern slope. Built in 1896, the Mill Valley and Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railroad negotiated 281 hairpin curves on its eight-mile way to the summit.
Riders came from near and far to try out this new branch line, which later became known as the “longest roller coaster ride in the world.” The Mill Valley and Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railroad was removed in the 1930s. Today you can hike the Old Railroad Grade Trail from the north side of the Mountain Home Inn to Blithedale Ridge in Mill Valley.