Mount Tam Century

Thursday, July 18, 2013

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Today’s century ride around Mt Tamalpais follows much of the same annual route put on by the Marin Cyclists Club. It’s a fairly hilly course that climbs Bolinas Fairfax Rd up to Ridgecrest for the rolling climbs along Bolinas Ridge with stunning views of the ocean and golden hillsides. The climbing continues north on CA-1 from Muir Woods into Stinson Beach and Olema. I’ve added two short out and back spurs into Inverness Park and the Cheese Factory for additional miles to complete this hundred. The gentle climb and descent on Lucas Valley Rd finishes off this beautiful ride!

We begin on flat to rolling terrain on Lucas Valley Rd for the first climb up to the summit at Big Rock; it’s about a mile long with an average grade of 8%. The descent drops you into the valley through the ranches, open grasslands and towering redwoods into Nicasio.

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Nicasio Valley Rd runs SE towards the many large horse ranches and farms scattered throughout the valley; it’s 3.8 miles long with a very short steep climb through the woods followed by a longer 7% climb up Nicasio Hill. The descent leads us down onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd into San Geronimo.

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The flats on Sir Francis Drake Blvd takes us through the golf course, open grasslands and pass Woodacre for the short climb up the west side of White Hill. The sweeping descent takes us into the town of Fairfax for the climb up Bolinas Rd; it’s a prelude to the much longer, scenic climb on Bolinas Fairfax Rd.

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Bolinas Rd is a narrow stretch of road that winds up and around a residential neighborhood to the Meadow Club Golf Course. Do watch out for the hidden driveways along this stretch of road! The road becomes Bolinas Fairfax Rd at the Mt Tamalpais Watershed sign.

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Bolinas Fairfax Rd is a quiet less traveled road with minimal traffic; the 1.4 miles up to the top at Pine Mountain has an average grade of about 5%. The descent is fast with many tight turns-watch your speed! The road narrows and winds through the beautiful wooded area on rolling terrain out to Alpine Lake/Dam-you’ll love it!

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Once you cross the dam, the climbing begins at the first hairpin turn and continues up a narrow road under the canopy of trees for the next 2.2 miles with an average grade of 7%. You’re near the top at Ridgecrest when you pass the third switchback up to the last bend. Take a moment at the top of the ridge and enjoy the towering redwoods from below!

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The next 3.8 miles on W Ridgecrest Blvd takes you along the ridge with stunning views of the ocean and coastal mountains-today the ocean is covered with a thick blanket of fog-it’s still a beautiful sight! The run along the ridge consists of a series of giant rolling climbs with gradient ranges of 9-13%-enjoy the ride!

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The road eventually drops down to the Rock Springs parking lot and continues again on more rolling climbs for the next 3.1 scenic miles up to the East Peak summit. The average grade is around 6% with one short steep section with grades of 9-15% near the Air Force Station.

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At the summit, walk out to the picnic area near the Verna Dunshee Trail and take in the magnificent views of Marin and of the greater SF/Bay Area!

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To descend Mt Tam, you have to climb almost 300 feet in before the road drops down to the Rock Springs parking lot. The descent on Pan Toll Rd is wild; the scenery is amazing and it looks like you can fly off the side of the road, but don’t-keep your eyes on the road, it’s a pretty twisty ride down to Panoramic!

Panoramic Hwy is a great stretch of road with wonderful smooth pavement; it sweeps along the northern edge of Mt Tam State Park out towards the other end at CA-1. The fog is quickly rolling in as we slowly make our way down Muir Woods Rd.

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The summer traffic here is crazy; cars are lined up and parked along the side of the road for miles-Muir Woods National Monument is a very popular tourist destination. Once we past the congested area, the traffic subside greatly as we near the open space at Santos Meadows. This road runs along the eastern edge of Mt Tam State Park out to Muir Beach.

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We continue on CA-1/Shoreline Hwy N for the next 6.3 miles. There is one significant mile long climb from Muir Beach up to the ridge near the Muir Beach Overlook Area; the average grade is around 7% with several steeper sections with 9-11% grades!

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The run along CA-1 is absolutely gorgeous; the rolling terrain threads its way in and out along the western edge of Mt Tam with spectacular views of the rugged coastline and mountainsides!

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We drop into Stinson Beach for our lunch stop at the Stinson Beach Market.

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We continue on CA-1 N for the next flat 4.4 miles along Bolinas Bay and Bolinas Lagoon on wonderful smooth new pavement-it’s great!

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The fog and clouds have lifted on this side of the bay and it’s sunny again-just in time to peel off for the next few climbs. The short steep climb up to Dogtown always comes unexpectedly and is followed by a longer mile climb with 7-10% grades.

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The rolling terrain for the next 6+ miles goes through Pt Reyes National Seashore pass the Five Brooks Ranch and the Stewart Horse Camp into the small town of Olema.

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We take Bear Valley Rd to Sir Francis Drake Blvd for our stop at the Busy Bee Bakery in Inverness Park. The cinnamon roll we shared was super dry and it took a lot of water to wash it down!

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We turn around and take Sir Francis Drake Blvd to CA-1 N into Pt Reyes Station and continue on Pt Reyes Petaluma Rd out to Platform Bridge. The climb up the spillway is short and steady to the flats along the Nicasio Reservoir.

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The next climb is up to the summit on Pt Reyes Petaluma Rd; it’s about a mile long with an average grade of 6% followed by a fast descent to the flats out to the Cheese Factory-our turn around point.

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The climb up the north side of Pt Reyes Petaluma Rd is much shorter and easier on the return. The blasting descent takes us straight down to the turn on Nicasio Valley Rd along the reservoir and through the open meadows into Nicasio.

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The last climb of the day is on the gentler side of Lucas Valley Rd back up to the Big Rock summit. The descent is fast and twisty with a few tight turns-proceed with caution! The last few miles along the flats take us back to the Marinwood Community Center. 

This century route gives you steep hills, long climbs, coastal ocean views and forests. The glory of Mt Tam awaits-you won’t be disappointed!

Garmin Stats:
100.12 Miles with 8888′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 2325′
Max grade: 15%

Weather: GREAT! Early morning fog around the valley into Nicasio. Sunny and warm on the climb up to Mt Tam. Cool, foggy and breezy around Muir Woods up to Hwy 1 to Stinson Beach. The return of sunshine on the run into Pt Reyes Station back to Lucas Valley.

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Life is a beautiful ride.
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Follow this route for today’s ride:

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