Tam Valley Improvement Club
P.O.Box 1446
Mill Valley, CA 94942
Message line: 415-383-3691

Website directory

Related links

Bay Area Hiker website
This website has a comprehensive list of trails, with rules, directions and photos. If you're not an experienced hiker in this area, we highly recommend that you explore bahiker.com's pages on things you should know before you go, especially if your are hiking with kids or dogs.

Bay Area Ridge Trail's website

Marin Trails is another useful website, which suggests some useful books about area trails.

A large collection of trail maps and books about area trails, wildlife, native cultures and history are sold at Marin Headlands Visitor Center, open 9:30 - 4:30 every day. (Follow the signs from Conzelman Road and Bunker Road.) 331-1540

The Headlands' Marine Mammal Center is another excellent tourist spot for families - after the kids are too tired to walk any more. Sea mammals rescued from all over the GGNRA area are brought here to recuperate. Open 10-4 daily.

    Happy trails!

    by Brenda Grantland

    The Tam Valley area and surrounding communities have a huge abundance of spectacular hiking and biking trails - and no shortage of website links describing them. Many trails originating in Tam Valley offer spectacular mountain views, or views of the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco bay, lush redwood forests, or all of the above. There are trails that allow horses but not dogs, walkers but not bikers, and even trails that are wheelchair accessible. Before heading out with children, pets or bikes, do a little homework first to see if the trail is suitable. The Bay Area Hiker website is an excellent source of detailed information on all of the trails in the Bay Area. Our list below pales in comparison.

    From Tam Valley, an easy biking/hiking trail connects us to Mill Valley and Sausalito, skirting the salt marshes along the edge of Richardson Bay. With a bit of luck in crossing Route 1, Tam Valley bicyclists can get on the path at Tam Junction. If you make it across Route 1 without being run over by cars turning right on red during the pedestrian/bike crossing light, you can follow the bike path north into downtown Mill Valley, or south under the Richardson Bay bridge along the quaint houseboat marinas of Sausalito, through the Sausalito waterfront, and through a tunnel to the Marin Headlands.

    For a slightly more strenuous ride, follow the bike path across the marsh to E. Blithedale, and south down the opposite edge of the bay to Tiburon. And from there (or from Sausalito) you can take your bike on a ferry to Angel Island or San Francisco.

    For a much more strenuous Tam Valley bicycle ride, take Route 1 (Shoreline Highway) to Stinson Beach, where Share the Road signs are the only protection offered in an extreme biking environment - steep cliffs plunging to the ocean on a narrow two-lane road with sheer cliffs above on the other side, many blind curves, and cars sharing the road, many of them filled with gawking tourists who stop in the middle of the road to take a photo, oblivious to the rest of us.

    Biking enthusiastis also highly recommend biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, although that may be way too much beauty for anyone to take in while riding a bicycle.

    Below are the "real trails" -- where bicyclist or hiker meets actual dirt and nature.

    Marin Headlands

    Bay Area Ridge Trail's website gives directions for a biking trail starting in the Marin Headlands and ending in Tennessee Valley park.

    Gerbode Valley trail (see pictures) is historically significant for our club. Gerbode Valley was the proposed site for Gulf Oil & Thomas Frouge's 1964 controversial development Marincello, which would have built a city of 30,000 people with 50 high-rise buildings, shopping centers, and a luxury hotel on the highest summit. The Tam Valley Improvement Club was instrumental in foiling Frouge's plans. Joining together with other Tam Valley residents and neighboring nature-lovers, the opponents filed lawsuits, lobbied Congress, and mobilized opposition to the plan. Eventually the Nature Conservancy purchased the land from Gulf Oil and donated it to the National Park Service, where it became part of the newly formed Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The united effort to stop Marincello was instrumental in bringing together the people who formed the Trust for Public Land, as well as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

    And while you're in the Headlands...

    Point Bonita Lighthouse is an easy walk through spectacular coastal views, through a tiny tunnel carved out by hand at the turn of the century, across a narrow footbridge 100 feet above pounding surf with no land below, to the lighthouse, which is built on a huge rock rising from the surf. The lighthouse is open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 12:30 - 3:30. Be there at 12:30 for the docent-lead tour.

    Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands becomes one-way right after Hawk Hill trail - a well-known raptor viewing area. The steep one-way section of Conzelman Road continues on a narrow ledge on a cliff towering above the Pacific Ocean. It is an incredible drive along one of most spectacular cliff-hanging views you'll ever drive on in your life.

    Mount Tamalpais

    Mt. Tam is a maze of trails of all descriptions and degrees of difficulty. Here are some of our favorites:

    Blithedale summit/railroad grade trail starts in downtown Mill Valley and climbs the mountain along the old railroad grade (see pictures)

    Dipsea trail - this hiking trail is the host of the annual Dipsea Race, held each year in June. This is a gruelling mountain to ocean footrace, from downtown Mill Valley, up and over Mount Tam to Stinson Beach
    For direhards, there's the Double Dipsea race (15 mile round-trip race from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach and then back). Call 331-3550 for registration.

    East peak has some trails that are wheelchair accessible, suitable for children in strollers, and all offer
    great views.

    Matt Davis trail - one of my favorites - is a beautifully sculpted trail from near the top of Mount Tamalpais to the Pacific Ocean, at Stinson Beach. Don Harlow's website describes it well.

    Mountain home trail (see pictures) starts at Route 1, across from the Mountain Home Inn.

    Old railroad grade - formerly held the tracks of the Crookedest Railroad in the World.

    Pantoll trailhead offers access to a number of trails of varying difficulty -- all, of course, with great views.

    Steep ravine trail - (see pictures or read Don Harlow's description) or Ann Marie Brown's description

    Ring Mountain

    Ring Mountain lies between Tiburon and Corte Madera, with access to the ridge-top trail originating in both towns. Because the trail follows the mountain ridge and has few trees, it offers a 360 degree view of the Bay Area - including San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, Tiburon, Belevedere, Angel Island, Berkeley, Richmond Bridge, Corte Madera, San Rafael, San Quentin prison. Ancient Miwok Indian rock carvings and petroglyphs can be found on rocks strewn on the mountain top. There are also beautiful wildflowers, including endangered species. As the Marin Open Space District website explains:

    Rocks such as blue schist and green schist, together with abundant serpentine, create soils which are toxic to most plant life. Plant communities which are able to survive this harsh environment, however, thrive in the absence of competition. For this reason, Ring Mountain harbors an unusual number of rare and endangered plant species. In some instances, the entire known population of a species is contained within the preserve.
    On the Tiburon entrance to the Ring Mountain trail, monster homes have taken over the beginning of the trailhead and the occupants try to discourage hikers and bikers from using the trail. But don't be discouraged -- it's public property. To get there from Tiburon Boulevard, turn left on Blackfield Drive (at the Cove shopping center), then go left on Via Los Altos and follow it to the top. The trail starts near the water tower.

    On the Corte Madera side, look for the Open Space entrance on Paradise Drive.

    Tennessee Valley

    Bahiker.com's page on the Tennessee Valley trailhead has lots of nice photos.

    Bay Area Ridge Trail's website gives directions for a bike trail between Marin Headlands and Tennessee Valley park.

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