Stinson Beach to Mount Tamalpais via Matt Davis Trail

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Mount Tamalpais State Park

Stinson Beach to Mount Tamalpais via Matt Davis Trail is a 17 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Stinson Beach, California that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

Length17.0 miElevation gain3,717 ftRoute typeLoop
BackpackingCampingHikingNature tripsBird watchingRunningBeachForestRails trailsRiverViewsWaterfallWildflowersWildlifeNo dogs
Waypoints (5)
Tips
Getting There
1
Trailhead/Parking
Try to park nearby (it can be tough on nice days when everyone wants to go to Stinson Beach) and head straight for the trailhead. Park a long the street or you could park down at the beach park and walk up here. The Trailhead has a sign and small bridge. The first 2 miles are uphill along switch backs, but you will have some great views as you leave the beach for higher ground. The scenery quickly chances from beach to woods and eventually to rolling green hills.
37.89978, -122.63742
2
The Rolling Hills
After the initial 2-mile climb you will be rewarded with green rolling hills and distant views of San Francisco (on a clear day). Don't get too distracted by the views, as the hills are unexpectedly steep and a wrong step could lead to an unintentional game of rolling down the hill. This point marks the spot of a great overlook where you can sit down to take a break and have a snack before continuing further.
37.9022535, -122.6180649
3
Pan Toll Ranger Station
3.5-4.1 miles from the beach (depending on what signs you are reading), is the Pan Toll ranger station. You can also drive here if you want to make the trip a little shorter. There are several campsites set up, costing $25/night (parking included). If you are backpacking in, you can stay in the designated backpacker's camp, which is only $2 a person (although only about 5 people can stay there). There are bathrooms and running water here, so it's also a great place to refill water bottles and camelbaks on your way to the top. There are a few different ways to the top. If you want a wide road, you can use the fire road, or choose the Matt Davis trail for a single-track hike through the woods.
37.9039466, -122.6039886
4
East Peak and the Parking lot.
There is a rack here to store bikes while hiking up. The East Peak also offers a great view of the bay area on a clear day.
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5
Mt. Tamalpais East Peak
Finally, at the top you will be rewarded for your hard work. With a 360-degree panorama of the bay area it's quite the reward. There are bathrooms and even a small concession stand at the top where you can buy a quick snack before starting your trek back down the mountain. There are a few different trails down, and most of them run through the Pan Roll Ranger station, so id you want a change of scenery try another route.
37.9294064, -122.5776815

Bring a good amount of water, but you can refill at the Pan Toll ranger station about 3.5 miles from the trail head. It may be windy at the top, so be prepared. To make this into a 2-day trip, stay overnight at the Pan Toll ranger station campground, only $2 a person.

Drive to Stinson Beach and try to park on the street as soon as you reach the town.

Weather
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Reviews (204)
Photos (8,237)
Recordings (191)
Completed (822)
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Bharat Bhushan
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BERNARD MCGOURTY
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anubhav bhatt
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Hiking

epic hike!

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Elliot Simon
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Eduardo V
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Tired

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Thomas Lee
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Backpacking
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Sayaka Kato
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HikingGreat!

Gorgeous trail !! It’s good combinations of forest , ocean , mounts views.

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Jesse Gandt
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This is a hike that put so much into perspective for me. Seeing a 2500’ Peak from sea level is for sure eye opening. The view from the top is absolutely amazing. Probably the best views of the entire Bay Area I’ve ever seen. You’ll see all sorts of biomes from coastal brush to foggy redwood forest. Some really nice and leisurely sections, then some pretty gritty ascents. Namely from miles 2-3 and 6.5-7.5. For sure worth it though. One of my favorite hikes in the bay

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Tim W
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RunningGreat!

Awesome! Plenty of shade, the creeks always seem to be flowing, fun tight singletrack, and great views. What more could you ask for? It can be quite breezy on top even on an otherwise warm and still day, an extra layer isn't a bad idea if you plan to spend some time at the summit. Took about 3.5 hrs total at an ultra-shuffle pace.

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mtcondie User
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Janiene Langford
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Hiking

This was the first time I've started going up Matt Davis Trail and it was great! You gain elevation rather quickly, but the switchbacks make it a lot easier. When you get up to the West Point Inn, make sure that you go up to the Inn and walk behind it - we almost went off on the wrong trail, but memory kicked in from when we were there last year and we course corrected. Mainly, we were just trying to avoid the dozens of mountain bikers that were hanging out, maskless, in front of the Inn. Speaking of mountain bikers, there can be a lot on the fire roads, so be prepared for that. While the majority are considerate, a lot of them weren't wearing masks and came zipping by pretty quickly. We burned out on that experience and so cut off from the Railroad Grade Fire Road early to hook onto the Fern Creek Trail (9.5 miles into the hike). We have already summited Mt. Tam and figured it would be crowded, so it was nice to have the option to cut off early. Making that detour cut off approximately 2.25 miles from the hike. Steep Ravine is one of my favorite trails in the Bay, but I'm used to coming up it early in the morning. It was pretty heavily trafficked by the afternoon and some of the narrow areas made it challenging to safely pass people. I spent more of the time trying to avoid other people than enjoying the beautiful terrain and greenery. I did enjoy climbing down the ladder though, so that was fun! I will note that if you are not confident climbing down a ladder, maybe reverse the loop and start going up Steep Ravine and down Matt Davis. It's also easier to pass people on Matt Davis.

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Aidan Kelly lowenstein
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laura arcini
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Great!
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Jessy Calderon
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HikingGreat!
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Aysan Sarai
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I took a slightly shortened version of this trail and clocked in at 12 miles. Started at 8 am and finished at 2 PM. I parked at Whitegate Ranch Trailhead and picked up Dipsea Trail right by the gate. Continued on to Steep Ravine Trail until Pantoll campground. This first part was very beautiful and shady. Then, crossed the highway to continue on Old Stage Road towards West Point Inn. Then keeping left, turns into Old Railroad Grade. Then we were at Ridgecrest Blvd. We just walked up this car road to the East Peak Visitor Parking area and then continued the last part up the East Peak Summit Fire Lookout Trail. There was a lot of hikers & bicyclists on trail for a Sunday morning. There were also dogs on trails where they're not allowed in. I highly suggest you don't bring your pet on the trails, we saw a coyote and the trail is very slippery and narrow, plus there's a ladder you have to climb. Dogs can be on the Old Stage Road but keep in mind that there are a lot of bicyclists there. Also I don't suggest you do the Fire Lookout with a dog because there are some sharp rocks you have to climb over. But we did see 1 dog at the top. Going down, I don't suggest you take Steep Ravine on wet days, even on a dry day I slipped a few times going down. But overall I didn't think this was a super hard hike, very doable. Also its best to go on a clear day so you can see the views. The fog started clearing up by noon when we went down so we didn't get to see the views going up.

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Ariel Falcon
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HikingGreat!Rocky

We got to the parking lot earlier then it opened and was able to park on the street, it was great we started at 7 and got back to the car at 230pm though it wasn’t easy it’s well worth it! Not super steep just up and Quite a bit of stairs, and rocks all around it was beautiful I recommend double the socks and water enjoy.

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Ariela Simon
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Hiking

Did this backpacking with a friend as a three day weekend trip- camped twice at pantoll. What a beautiful park!! The steep ravine trail was amazing.

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Aidan Kelly lowenstein
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Eric Miles
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Blythey1 B
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HikingGreat!
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Lucas Rice
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Hiking

Fun hike! Lots of elevation and the top is fairly exposed. Unfortunately, the water fountains at the visitor center up top were turned off. I brought 6 liters which got me up and back down to the bootjack campground where I filled up, but would have been nice to have more before starting the descent.

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Laura Johnson
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Hiking

Matt Davis must have been an incline enthusiast. The last mile was fairly tough, with quite a few steps and elevation gain of almost 1000 feet. Bring lots of water and make sure you attempt the trail early in the day. Great variety of scenery along the way!

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Corey Leamon
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HikingBugs

I went up Matt Davis around 9am and there were already quite a few people on the trail. It was gorgeous with the morning fog. This section of the trail was highly enjoyable and under full shade. Going up Railroad Grade is something I would choose to avoid in the future, being that there are many bicyclists kicking up dust and short-hikers carrying their music speakers from a nearby parking lot. Be prepared for crowds once you reach the peak of Mt Tam. Most were adhering to COVID precautions, but not quite everyone. It is much warmer on the peak, with little shade, but the view is excellent. On the way back to Stinson, I opted to add a couple miles and take TCC to Dipsea – I am so glad I did. Not only does it avoid being near the road, but I encountered only a few people along the way, in great contrast to the earlier crowds. Overall, this was a nice day and great to end it on the beach. Bring a layer for the lower elevations for cooler temps and discouraging insect bites. Bring a hat for the higher elevations. Boots are recommended, as areas of the route are rocky and muddy.

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Katya Mills
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HikingGreat!

Trail was awesome. Be careful not to kill yourself on the winding drive down to Stinson Beach in the fog before dawn! I am 47 years old in pretty good shape but had not hiked anything serious in over a year so this was a very challenging trail. Toward the top where it gets steeper I had to stop frequently. But it was so worth it! Lots of microclimates along the way. One spot among fur trees was silent like a chapel. Another spot was old growth forest and almost like it was raining. Then you went from rainforest feeling in the fog to a hot summer day in minutes! Super fun and so long as you start early enough not too heavily trafficked. Loved it!

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E W
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Hiking

From the forested Steep Ravine trail (including the famous climbing ladder!) to the gentle Railroad Grade trail to the rocky switchbacks of the Temelpa trail to the fern-laden Matt Davis trail, this route offers an exciting array of terrain, ecosystems, and views and is an incredible experience for all those looking to summit Mt Tam. Even better, we were able to celebrate the completion of this 16-miler by immediately jumping into the ocean at Stinson Beach! What more could you ask for in a day hike?

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Jatin Bhatia
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HikingOver grownRocky

+1 to everyone talking about how amazingly gorgeous this trail is! Delivered an amazing workout and beautiful flora and some fauna throughout! Clocked in at 17.6 miles. Things to expect: 1. Was moderately trafficked in different parts, and half the people were not wearing masks and the trail for almost all of it is too narrow for proper 6 feet distancing. so please for your own protection carry a mask. put it on when you have to pass people or have an exchange. 2. The trailhead is on the street past the fire station NOT exactly at the beach parking. I was little lost but some of y'all are definitely better with maps. I'm fairly hopeless. 3. Some trail continuations may be across the street. keep the eyes peeled for that. 4. The terrain is fair bit Rocky, smaller rocks and not that much big slabs hence your feet may hurt. mine did. not sure what exactly would help there but something to expect. 5. Have fun! this is honestly an amazing trail and is a great hike! views from up top are unreal assuming it's a clear day.

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Tyler Chuck
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Hiking

Truly the best hike in the Bay Area. Amazing full day starting at the water, climbing to East Peak, and the coming back. There are some berries this time of year on the Dipsea Trail too! Many ways up and down as well, so it’s okay to deviate from this path a bit. I’d recommend the small detour to see the Mountain Theater. Currently the West Point is closed due to COVID-19, but that’s usually a great place to stop. While the weather is often pristine on Tam, it can get a little windy at the top, so make sure to have a layer for that. There’s some street parking if you get there early enough at Stinson if you want to avoid parking the parking fee in the lot.

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Kelsey A
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