Take this claim with a grain of salt. This is the only real hike that I’ve done in SF. I don’t hike a lot. Actually, I take that back. I don’t like hiking, but I find myself hiking a lot anyway because certain views you just can’t get to by car. Anyway, over Memorial Day weekend, we decided to hike from Stinson Beach to Mt. Tamalpais. Roundtrip was about 5-6 hours. It’s not a hard hike. There’s a bit of a climb in the beginning but it’s definitely doable even if you don’t hike a lot. I highly recommend starting your hike from Stinson Beach! This hike goes around in a loop, so a lot of people also start from Mt. Tam. BUT, here are some pros of starting out from the beach:
- You get the hard, uphill part of the hike over with in the beginning. When you reach Mt. Tam (aka the halfway point), the rest of the way is easy downhill.
- The view going back down towards Stinson Beach is beautiful! Best way to end a hike.
- If you want food afterwards (trust me, you’ll be hungry), you’re way better off finding food around the beach than around the top of Mt. Tam.
- Parking is pretty easy to find near the start of the trail by Stinson. And it’s free! Most parking lots in Mt. Tam charge an $8 fee.
So start from Stinson Beach 🙂 The beginning of the hike freaked me out a little. You’re going up towards Mt. Tam and the trail is super narrow and there’s lots of shrubbery. I made the mistake of not wearing long pants, so I was feeling creepy crawlies all over the place. The trail widened after 20-30 min or so, and from there it’s all good until you get up to the hillside of Mt. Tam. There are these weird bugs that look like a cross between a wasp and a lady bug. I was walking a decent part of that hillside with my eyes closed!
The trail is usually pretty quiet if you go early enough in the morning. It’s a great place to calm the mind and enjoy beautiful scenery. Lots of mini waterfalls along the way! And lots of green, as I’m sure you would imagine. The scenery changes at the perfect pace (beach, forest, hills, forest, beach) so it never gets boring. The first forest section feels a bit long, though, cause of the narrow trail. Bring lots of water! And layers! And long pants if you don’t want to get cozy with dem bugs!
I was so happy to see the beach when we made it back down. The hike wasn’t super strenuous, I don’t think, but my feet were still quite sore at the end of it! We walked for another 10-15 minutes after we made it back down to go find food by the beach. So worth. We ended up at a place called The Siren Canteen. Such a great spot!! There’s a good amount of seating (although most people go back to the beach to eat), great views, quick service, very reasonable prices, and DELICIOUS food (especially given that it’s a window-serve shop along the beach). We ordered way too much for 2 people…but I would do it again in a heartbeat. The tacos were great, the burgers (grass-fed) were delicious, and the fries were bomb.
So our day in a nutshell: we ate back all the calories burned from a 6-hour hike in 20 min @ the Siren Canteen—best beach-front fast-food spot ever.