The combination of Mill Valley’s idyllic location tucked away beneath Mount Tamalpais coupled with the its ease of access to San Francisco has made it a popular home for many high-income commuters. In July 2005, CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Mill Valley tenth on its list of the 100 Best Places to Live in the United States.
Mill Valley is surrounded by national parks, San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The natural wooded areas bordering the Pacific Ocean attract visitors from around the world. Combined with a Mediterranean climate and its scenic location at the north end of Richardson’s Bay, Mill Valley is one of the most desirable communities in Marin County.
In Tennessee Valley
Known for the easy and gentle two-mile jaunt (popular with the stroller set) to the sandy shore of Tennessee Cove, this trailhead provides access to many scenic loops for hikers of all ages. Most trails are not dog friendly. This hike is rigorous and rewarded with city and ocean views:
Marincello Loop (6.5 miles)
The Marincello trailhead is at the southeast corner of the parking lot located just to the right of the Miwok Stables sign. There’s a steady grade (often shared with bikes and horses) 1.2 miles up to the peak. At the top of the trail, take a sharp right onto Bobcat Trail, which quickly runs into the Miwok Trail. Continue on the Miwok Trail and take a right onto Old Springs Trail, which starts off by crossing a wooden bridge and continues as a narrow and scenic return to the stables and parking lot.
Hwy 101 exit at Hwy 1 in Mill Valley. Left onto Tennessee Valley Rd to parking lot.
In Mill Valley
Dipsea Steps to Sun Trail, Tenderfoot Loop (6.5 miles)
Start at the base of the Dipsea Steps. Pace yourself as you climb—there are three sets of stairs, totaling over 670 steps. At the top of the first set, turn right and then left, and reconnect with the stairs on the right side of the road. At the top of the second set, turn left; the stairs will continue a few yards later on the right side of the road.
At the top of the third set, cross Edgewood Avenue and take the trail across the street that goes along the road leading to Walsh Drive. Continue past the houses on Walsh Drive and through the trail at the end of the paved road to Bay View. At the top of Bay View, turn right along Panoramic Highway and the trail will pick up across the street. Head down the steps, and keep to the right to merge onto the Sun Trail.
The trail continues until you cross a paved road, which connects to the German Tourist Club (a spot to stop for a drink or picnic if you like). Continue across the bridge, where the route becomes the Redwood Trail. Great views of the Pacific abound. As you head north the trail becomes the Panoramic Trail.
When you reach the Panoramic Highway, cross at Mountain Home Inn and veer down Edgewood Avenue until it dead-ends. Tenderfoot Trailhead is a small, unmarked path off to the left at a fire hydrant just before one of the last homes on the road. Zigzag your way back down the mountain until you reach Cascade Avenue. Keep right along the residential street to Old Mill Park. Dogs OK on leash.
From downtown Mill Valley, head west on Throckmorton Ave to Old Mill Park on the left (park on street). Turn left on Cascade. Stairs are alongside a driveway, at the intersection of Cascade Ave, Molino Ave and Cascade Way.
Blithedale Ridge Fire Road (2.3 miles one way)
Although a bit tricky to access, the Blithedale Ridge Fire Road is a great trail, with many options for offshoots and other trails. The fire road itself runs along the two-mile Blithedale Ridge with dramatic views. From the gate at the base of Via Vandyke, veer right, up and around the water tank at the end of the paved road. From here the path is a veritable roller coaster of ups and downs. At just under one mile there is a wide clearing (known as Judy’s Corners) where the Corte Madera Fire Road merges from the right; continue straight on the fire road to begin a major descent down the ridge. The fire road technically ends at the junction with the Indian Tree Fire Road (although you can continue up to the Eldridge Grade to the left, or down to Kent Woodlands on the right). Dogs OK on leash.
From Mill Valley, take East Blithedale Ave to West Blithedale Ave. Go right on Oakdale Ave and left on Elinor Ave to Via Vandyke.
Dias Ridge Trial (3.1 mile loop)
This new trail, reconstructed to protect the area’s ecosystem, offers breathtaking coastal views for hikers, bikers and horseback riders. Connecting State Route 1 to the Panoramic Highway, the 3.1-mile loop curves through rock gardens and connects to the ridge. Scale Mount Tamalpais, descend to Muir Beach and reward yourself after with sustenance at the Pelican Inn restaurant and pub. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, increase the distance by continuing on the Miwok or the Coastal Trail.
As part of an effort to restore the ecosystem at the 8.9-square-mile Redwood Creek watershed and improve its sustainability, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has repaired approximately 500 linear feet of erosion on the Coastal Trail, which lines the Pacific Ocean west of Muir Woods.
Old Gravity Car to Railroad Grade Loop (3.1 miles)
A great loop with a slight incline, steep downhill and south-facing views. Head out on Gravity Car Grade, just beyond the dirt overflow parking lot to the right of the Throckmorton Ridge Fire Station. Redwood groves open up to chaparral shrubs and vistas and, in time, a fork in the road marked by a stately madrone tree. Veer left onto Old Railroad Grade and continue uphill. The slope is gradual but noticeable. Look for Hogback Trail to the left, and take it for a steep descent back to the parking lot. Dogs OK on leash.
From Pantoll Ranger station, head east on Panoramic Hwy. The Mountain Home Inn will be on the left.
From Miller Ave in Mill Valley, take Montford to Panoramic Hwy. Park in the lot across from the Mountain Home Inn, or find a spot on the dirt road, just past the inn.