Dipsea Trail: Mill Valley to Stinson Beach, Mt Tamalpais State Park - Dipsea Trailhead in Mill Valley, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California
Dipsea Trail: Mill Valley to Stinson Beach - 13.7 miles
Mt Tamalpais State Park - Dipsea Trailhead in Mill Valley
|Round-Trip Length:||13.7 miles (see distance notes below)|
|Start-End Elevation:||132' - 88' (1,370' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-44' net elevation loss (+4,112' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Dipsea Trail: Mill Valley to Stinson Beach - 13.7 Miles Round-Trip
The Dipsea Trail runs 7 miles from a quiet residential neighborhood in Mill Valley to Stinson Beach, tracing much of what historians believe is a similar route used by Coast Miwok to reach the sea from the west slope of Mt Tamalpais.
The Dipsea Race, for which the trail is now famous, is the 2nd oldest foot race in America. Colorful names such as Suicide, Cardiac and Hogsback describe notoriously challenging sections of the trail. Visitors will enjoy varied terrain and scenery en route to Highway 1 and Stinson Beach.
It's worth noting that the Dipsea Race and Dipsea Trail routes vary slightly; the following describes the trail as close to its original routing as possible:
To locate the trail, first find the intersection of Cascade Drive, Cascade Way and Molino Ave in Mill Valley. Look for Dipsea Trail signs on trees leading up Cascade Way to a set of stairs, the first of three consecutive flights - 676 steps in all. Make a right at the top of the 1st flight (.11 miles : 309') to pick up the 2nd.
From the top of the 2nd (.26 miles : 55') make a right, then left to find the 3rd. The 3rd set deposits you at the intersection of Edgewood and Sequoia Valley Rd (.31 miles : 527').
Continue straight across to a recently blazed dirt path, which merges with Walsh Drive. Continue up Walsh into a residential cul-de-sac, which funnels you onto another narrow footpath.
The footpath emerges on Bay View Dr (.67 miles) and climbs to Panoramic Highway (.84 miles : 747'). Make a right on Panoramic HWY, then quick left at a sign for Mt Tamalpais State Park and the Dipsea Trail (.88 miles : 760').
A more traditional trail eases through high, open hills to the Sun Trail junction (.95 miles : 710').
Enjoy views of inland coastal hills before dropping into thick forest on a rugged, oft-obstructed path. The trail crosses a road to resume at a marked sign for the Dipsea (1.03 miles : 623').
It steepens down switchbacks, then levels momentarily above a thickly vegetated ravine to another road crossing (1.45 miles : 412'). The trail continues down winding switchbacks that moderate on smoother conditions to Muir Woods Road (1.85 miles : 128').
Cross Muir Woods Road into the parking area where the Dipsea Trail begins an appreciably more scenic run to the ocean (1.9 miles : 127').
The Dipsea crosses Redwood Creek and climbs steadily, gaining nearly 370' in just .35 miles. It emerges on a fire road and quickly departs, the first of many brief interludes on service roads. Follow signs and remain on the designated trail. At 3.4 miles it crests (1,010'), then undulates through redwood and fir to the Ben Johnson Trail split (3.6 miles : 1,087').
The Dipsea climbs once more and merges with a service road (3.75 miles : 1,130'), predictably veering off (right) soon after (3.85 miles : 1,175'). A steep grade continues above the TCC Trail junction (3.95 miles : 1,295'), abruptly leveling and bursting into an open saddle (4.0 miles : 1,365').
Views are exceptional from the trail's highest point: on clear days you can see the San Francisco Bay, Mt Tamalpais and Pacific Ocean.
Here it crosses a service road and bends west on a diverting stretch that curls around an open hill top. It edges into a young redwood grove on a sharp right hairpin turn (4.95 miles : 1,118'), then drops on a winding course that tightens up on a set of corkscrewed stairs.
The descent quickens on steep, oft-slippery stairs before leveling over Webb Creek and the first Steep Ravine Trail junction (5.6 miles : 515').
The Dipsea veers right past a dam facility, then a second Steep Ravine Trail split (5.7 miles : 530') and across a service road (5.8 miles) before emerging in open chaparral along the coast.
The trail drops and rises through open coastal hills and a live oak grove (6.5 miles) to Panoramic Highway and Highway 1 at Stinson Beach (6.65 miles : 125'). Cross Panoramic Highway and resume the Dipsea to its official terminus Highway 1 just above Stinson Beach (6.85 miles : 88')
- N37 54.300 W122 33.241 — Dipsea Trailhead on Cascade Way
- N37 54.248 W122 33.340 — .16 miles : Resume trail at bottom of 2nd set of steps
- N37 54.192 W122 33.386 — .26 miles : Resume trail at bottom of third set of steps
- N37 53.827 W122 33.658 — .88 miles : Resume trail at Bayview Ave - MTSP sign
- N37 53.835 W122 33.717 — .95 miles : Dispea Trail - Sun Trail split
- N37 53.562 W122 33.952 — 1.5 miles : Begin steep descent on stairs to Muir Woods
- N37 53.483 W122 34.160 — 1.9 miles : Resume trail in Muir Woods
- N37 53.620 W122 35.104 — 2.9 mile mark
- N37 53.889 W122 35.735 — 3.6 miles : Ben Johnson Trail junction
- N37 53.870 W122 36.017 — 3.95 miles : TCC Trail junction
- N37 53.545 W122 36.810 — 4.9 mile mark
- N37 53.509 W122 37.076 — 5.45 miles : Begin descent on stairs
- N37 53.508 W122 37.250 — 5.6 miles : Cross Webb Creek
- N37 53.569 W122 37.810 — 6.15 miles : Descend coastal hills over Stinson Beach
- N37 53.794 W122 38.156 — 6.65 miles : Dipsea - Panoramic Highway intersection
- The Dipsea Trail crosses Redwood Creek in Muir Woods National Monument at the approximate midpoint of both the watershed and trail. Artifacts found near the Dipsea Trail suggest that indigenous Coast Miwok people followed a similar course from inland areas to reach the ocean.
- Redwood Creek flows year round, providing critical support to the Redwood stands and riparian corridors it touches en route to the sea. Water needy trees such as maple, willow and alder share space along the creek, while live oak, buckeye and bay occupy adjacent, drier soil beds. High winter waters provide Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout safe passage upstream to their birthplace, where they in turn spawn the next generation.
- Portions of the trail between Mill Valley and Muir Woods are occasionally washed-out or obstructed by deadfall. Use residential roads and Muir Woods Road when directed.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Backcountry camping is not permitted within Mt Tamalpais State Park.
- The Pantoll Campground is located on Panoramic Highway adjacent to the Pantoll Ranger Station. It has 16 campsites, each with a table, rock barbecue, food locker and space for a tent. Phones, faucets, firewood and flush toilets are nearby. There are no showers. Sites are first-come, first-served.
Steep Ravine Environmental Campground
- The Steep Ravine Environmental Campground is located on a coastal terrace off Highway 1, one mile south of Stinson Beach. It has nine rustic cabins and seven primitive campsites. Each cabin has a wood stove, picnic table, benches, sleeping platforms and outdoor bbq.
- The cabins do not have running water or electricity. Primitive toilets, faucets, and firewood are nearby. Primitive campsites are located a few hundred yards from the parking area. Each site has a table, fire pit, food locker and space for a tent. Primitive toilets and water faucets are nearby. There are no showers at Steep Ravine Campground.
Alice Eastwood Group Camp
- Alice Eastwood Group Camp is located off Panoramic Highway on Alice Eastwood Road. It has two campsites. Site A holds up to 50 people; Site B holds up to 25 people. Both sites have tables, flush toilets, water faucets with sinks, bbq grills and a large area for tents.
Frank Valley Group Horse Camp
- Frank Valley Group Horse Camp is located 1.5 miles West of Muir Woods National Monument on Muir Woods Road. It has 12 pipe corrals, water faucets, watering troughs, picnic tables, fire rings and a pit toilet. The minimum group size is 2 horses; the maximum size is 12 horses.
- To reserve a campground visit www.reserveamerica.com or call 800.444.7275. For specific camping and campground questions, call Pantoll Ranger Station at 415.388.2070.
- While no fishing is allowed at Muir Woods, it's an excellent place to view two different species: The Coho or Silver Salmon and Steelhead Trout. Adults can be seen in the winter as they make their way to Redwood Creek to spawn. Coho can be seen first in the creek from December - January, then Steelhead from January - March.
- The Coho will both begin and end their lives in Redwood Creek. The Steelhead, however, will race back out to sea after spawning in hopes of returning the next year.
Mt Tamalpais State Park
801 Panoramic Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, CA 94941-2696
Visitor Information Recorded Message: 415.388.2595
Information For Hearing Impaired (TTY): 415.556.2766
By Fax: 415.389.6957
The park is open from 8 am to sunset, including holidays