Mt Tamalpais-A Break in Between Storms

Monday, December 24, 2012

View the entire Google Web Album

It’s been raining quite a bit and today’s weather provides a break in between storms. I’m going to do a counter-clockwise loop up to Mt Tamalpais. It’s better to climb Bolinas Fairfax Rd than to descend it under post storm conditions. I expect wet roads and plenty of fallen debris under the shaded wooded areas.

I start out in Mill Valley and climb Camino Alto into Corte Madera. It’s a short 1.3 mile up to the top at Chapman Dr with gradient ranges of 6-9%. I catch a view of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on the descent; it’s pretty awesome! I make my way through the city streets on Magnolia and Kent to continue on the bike route on San Anselmo Ave into the town of Fairfax.


Off Broadway Blvd, I head west on Bolinas Rd for the 2+ mile climb up to the Meadow Club; it winds through a residential neighborhood on the south side of the Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve. It’s a narrow two lane road with gradient ranges of 6-7% and a short steeper section with pitches of 9-11%. Watch for the many hidden driveways along this stretch of road!

The road becomes Bolinas Fairfax Rd when you see the Mt Tamalpais Watershed sign. The climbing continues with an average grade of 7% for the next 1.3 miles up to Pine Mountain. The views of the greens and fairways of the golf course slowly recede into the background of the gentle rolling hills towards Mt Tam.

The fast descent for the next 4 miles winds through the densely wooded area populated by redwood groves. I love this dark quiet stretch of road, it’s really beautiful; take the time to enjoy the surroundings and inhale the fragrant clean air! The creeks are overflowing which creates many mini waterfalls throughout this road.


Down at Alpine Lake, the water is rushing rapidly over the dam and flowing steadily into the creeks. I stop for a while to watch the hovering helicopter whirling above me, it’s mesmerizing.

Onwards I go, Bolinas Fairfax Rd continues for the next 2.5 miles up Ridgecrest Blvd. The average grade is at 6% with a few steep pitches of 8-11%. The climbing begins at the hairpin turn near the trailhead to Cataract Falls. Today would be a fabulous day to see the falls; many cars are parked along the edge of the road with many hikers in tow. This narrow two lane road steadily winds up through the redwoods with many mini cascading waterfalls in view. The embankments are overgrown with brilliant green colored ferns and moss.

Ridgecrest Blvd is by far one of the most beautiful roads in the whole SF Bay Area. It offers many spectacular vistas with stunning views of the Pacific, the surrounding soft gentle rolling hills and views of Bolinas, Stinson Beach, Bolinas Bay & Lagoon. The skies are perfectly clear and every view seems magnified-it’s so gorgeous, plus the winds are minimal to non-existent! What a magnificent day to be out here. I stop several times to watch the para gliders and hand gliders take flight from the top of the ridge and free-fly effortlessly and gracefully while descending down to the beach. WOW!


The epic rolling climbs on W Ridgecrest has gradient ranges of 9-13% and eases up to grades of 6% in between. You climb and descend consistently for about 4 miles out to the Rock Springs Parking Area. I continue on E Ridgecrest for the next 2.9 miles up to the East Peak-summit of Mt Tam. The average grade is at 6% with one short steep section that maxes out at 15%. On the climb up, there are several vista points to pull over and enjoy the dramatic views of SF, Marin and beyond. The road descends to the base of the upper parking lot, you can either take the steep climb through the parking lot to the top or take the gentler hiking/bike path on the right.


Water and restrooms are available at the top. On such a clear day, I can see all of San Francisco and the towns and cities; Oakland, Richardson Bridge and Bay, Angel Island, Alcatraz Island, Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Sutro Tower, Ocean Beach, the Pacific Ocean and more-WOW!


The downhill from the summit involves 3 short climbs before the actual descent to the Rock Springs parking lot. I continue descending on Pan Toll Rd; the road looks to lead directly out to the ocean! The slow setting sun above the light soft orange haze on the horizon creates a beautiful silhouette of the rolling hills below and around me-it’s gorgeous!


At the bottom of Pan Toll Rd, water and restrooms are available at the Pan Toll Campground. I head east and continue to descend Panoramic Hwy to Sequoia Valley Rd and Edgewood Ave. To avoid the steep descent on Molina Ave, I take the bike route on Janes St to Montford Ave back to Miller Ave. It’s a nice detour through a quiet residential neighborhood with minimal to no traffic.

Mt Tam was like my private playground for the day; I had it all to myself for the majority of the ride! What a great joy it is! To me, solo riding is a form of active meditation; it helps quiet the mind and brings much freedom. Silence elevates all that is beautiful around me! This is the best gift I can give to myself at anytime!

I’m glad to have been able to get one of my favorite rides in before another storm rolls in tomorrow for Christmas day!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to everyone!

VDO Stats:
38.53 Miles with 4398′ of elevation gain
Avg grade: 5%
Max grade: 15%

Weather: FANTASTIC! Sunny with clear blue skies. Cool temps ranging from the high 40’s to low 50’s. Minimal to no winds

The landscape belongs to the man who looks at it.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Click here to view the route map & profile

Follow this route for today’s ride:


  1. Thanks Nancy. I haven’t ridden most of this, I will fix that.

    Brian, Going up Mt Tam is by far one of the best rides in Marin County!
    Happy New Year! Nancy


  2. Nancy, Great pictures and I’m glad you got to enjoy the day. Carole

    Carole, Thanks! I had a wonderful ride-happy New Year! Nancy


  3. My quote for the day. “To me, solo riding is a form of active meditation; it helps quiet the mind and brings much freedom. Silence elevates all that is beautiful around me! This is the best gift I can give to myself at anytime!”

    James, I’m humbled-Thank you! Nancy


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s