FATMAP difficulty grade
Mount Tamalpais is the crown of Marin County at nearly 2,600 feet elevation, and it rules the horizon around most of the Bay Area.
There are many routes to the top, but this loop is king of them all.
It begins at sea level in Stinson Beach, ascends the south slopes to tag East Peak, then descends on the north and west slopes.
The huge ups and downs make a punishing workout, and it may be the best mountain running circuit in the Bay Area.
Make the sea-to-summit loop your goal to train for, then use it to prepare for even bigger objectives elsewhere. The steepest sustained sections are at the beginning and the end.
The initial climb through Steep Ravine has lots of stairs and even a ladder, making it more of a hike rather than a run for most.
It’s nicely shaded in lush forest, though, and the stream flows in small waterfalls in the wet seasons.
The final descent is on the many switchbacks of Matt Davis Trail, complete with rocks and roots to negotiate.
Try to save some strength and keep the home stretch under control. In between these sections is a lot of variety of terrain and trail types.
You’ll run on smooth singletrack and rocky fire roads, rolling hillsides and sharp drainages.
There’s redwood forest, oak woodlands, chaparral, open meadows, lofty ridgelines, and flowing creeks.
Aside from the physical challenge, this loop is worthwhile as a spectacular tour of Mount Tam. The route is complex, taking a series of different trails and fire roads.
All are marked on official maps and most junctions are well signed, but it’s easy to blow by a crucial turn if you aren’t paying attention.
You’ll want to check your map frequently when running this for the first time.
It’s also useful to know where you can refill water.
Spigots are at Pantoll Station, Bootjack Campground, and East Peak, which are all on the ascent if running in the direction mapped here. Sources: http://www.norcalhiker.com/mt-tamalpais-via-the-steep-ravine-trail/ https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/471/files/MountTamalpaisSPFinalWebLayout110816.pdf