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FATMAP difficulty grade
This trail combo packs a lot of Marin County’s best scenery into a relatively compact, moderately challenging loop.
There’s a sandy beach, elevated ocean views, mountainside meadows, redwood forests, and (after recent rainfall) lots of little waterfalls. The loop connects Stinson beach and Pantoll Station via Dipsea, Steep Ravine, and Matt Davis Trails.
As mapped, it begins from Stinson Beach and tackles the uphill first, but Pantoll is a perfectly good starting point if you want the downhill first. Begin on Dipsea Trail (the opposite direction—uphill on Matt Davis—is fine, too), which soon satisfies with coastal views from open hillsides.
Then the trail dips into a forested canyon and hits Steep Ravine Trail, where the character of the hike changes dramatically.
Instead of grassy meadows, the environment is a dense forest of tall redwoods, twisted oaks, and a carpet of ferns.
Using numerous stairs, bridges, and even a ladder, the trail climbs beside a cascading creek. The trail meets Panoramic Highway at Pantoll Station, where restrooms and water are located.
Next, cross the road and start on Matt Davis Trail.
It’s another stretch of idyllic forest at first, then it emerges in a brilliant meadow.
Clumps of trees and bushes dot the hillside, but it’s mostly wide-open grassland overlooking the sea.
On a clear day you’ll see the ocean; on others you’ll look upon banks of rolling fog. Matt Davis Trail then re-enters the forest and begins a no-nonsense descent to Stinson Beach.
You’ll negotiate switchbacks, stairs, bridges, roots, and rocks the whole way down.
Luckily, it’s pleasantly shaded and a stream trickles alongside, if it's rained recently.
You’ll catch glimpses of the ocean through small clearings and at a boulder called Table Rock.
Eventually the trail pops out on Belvedere Avenue in Stinson Beach.
Walk a short distance on the road to return to Dipsea Trailhead, or take a quick side trip to enjoy the beach.
This small town also has a delicious selection of snack bars and cafés, in case you crave hot food or a cold drink after your hike. Sources: https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/471/files/MountTamalpaisSPFinalWebLayout110816.pdf