MTB Trail: West Point Inn to East Peak, Mt. Tam, Part 2


Reaching the peak of Mt. Tam is an achievement for any biker, road or mountain.  The second part of the ride from West Point Inn to East Peak is relatively tame, but worth the additional time for the wonderful views and sense of accomplishment.

Map - West Point to Tam

Elevation - West Point to Tam

Length: 1.7 miles (2.7 km)

Elevation Gain: 534 ft (163 m)

Difficulty:  The second part of the climb is very tame with an optional steep grade at the entrace to the parking lot at the East Peak.

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At the West Point Inn you will encouter the interstection with Old Stage Road.  Old Stage Road is the trail that will take you back to the ranger station at the intersection of Panoramic Highway and Pan Toll Road as seen in the road bike trail …

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From the West Point Inn, continue climbing and go toward the right past the interstection with Old Stage Road.

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The climbing continues for just under two miles.

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The trail ends at the “saddle” of Mt. Tam.  The “saddle” is the  dip between the Middle Peak and East Peak.

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The top of the trail is marked by a gate.

Past the gate is East Ridgecrest Drive.  From the gate, make a right and onto the road.  Follow the road another hundred feet and your big decision of the day presents itself.  There is a bike and pedestrian walking path on your right and the road to the parking lot straight ahead and the entrance to Eldridge Grade Trail to your left.

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Eldridge Grade Trial will take you down the backside of Mt. Tam toward Ross and Fairfax.  Following East Ridgecrest you will encounter a short, 18% climb leads directly to the parking lot and panoramic views all around.  Taking the path winds you below the parking lot directly to the picnic table and bathrooms.  It’s a much easier way to reach the top and just a quarter mile long.

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To your left, just past the picnic benches is a short path that leads you up to the parking lot, which have sweeping views of the Bay Area.  At this point you’ve reached one of the pinnacle climbs in the Bay Area.

Enjoy the view and get ready for the 8.5 mile descent just ahead of you.

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MTB Trail: Old Railroad Grade – Mill Valley to West Point Inn, Mt. Tam, Part 1


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Mount Tamalpias (aka Mt. Tam) is the highest peak in Marin County and can be seen from all around San Francisco Bay. Making it to the top on your road bike is a feet as you conquer stage after stage of steep, leg-busting climbs.

However, on a mountain bike the climb to the top is a bit more gentle. It still includes a significant and lengthy climb, but the trail was carved by using the old railroad bed from “The Crookedest Railroad in the World” which took passengers and timber to and from the top of Mt. Tam from 1896 to 1930.

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This first part of the trail takes you to the West Point Inn, a stop that has been open since 1904.

The total route is 8.25 miles long with gradients ranging from 4%-7%, and an average grade of 5%. While the significant uphill section is long and winding, the downhill is also steep and fast as the original trail was meant for a gravity train.

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Length: 6.51 miles (11 km)

Elevation Gain: 1,704 feet (519 m)

Difficulty: The major challenge to this route is the constant climbing along with some rocky ground. While the pitch doesn’t go above 7%, breaks may be necessary just to keep you moving. This trail is not for beginners, but it can be conquered by mountain bikers with some pretty minimal experience.

Route

This route starts in downtown Mill Valley at the intersection of Throckmorton and Miller Avenue.

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You’ll recognize this intersection from our route, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. This time, make a right on to Throckmorton and then another right onto Corte Madera Avenue.

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Next, make a left on to West Blithedale Ave.

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Follow West Blithedale for the next mile to Old Railroad Grade.

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Make sure to make a left to follow West Blithedale at the intersection with Woodline Road.

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Continue along West Blithedale for another half mile.

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You’ll see the path entrance on your right through a gate.

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Cross over the bridge just past the gate.

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The climbing starts now.  If you’re lucky, you’ll have the opportunity to see mountain biking pioneer and legend Gary Fisher as he swoops past you.

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Continue climbing through the wooded fire road as it climbs higher and higher.

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The tree cover will open as you continue climbing.  Watch for the sweeping views.

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You’ll then encounter a gate with a bench and then Fern Canyon Road, which is a public road open to cars.  Keep right and continue climbing.

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Another mile or so along Fern Canyon Road and you’ll be back on the trail after going through the gate.

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A short way down the path you will wind around a couple of 180 degree turns and pass Gravity Car Road.  These are the start the next twisting climbs.

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The Gravity Car Road leads back to Panoramic Highway right at the Mountain Home Inn.  If you’re done climbing for the day, this is a good bail out option.

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If you are ready to continue climbing, make a right where the trail intersects with the Gravity Car Road to continue climbing as Old Railroad Grade twists and winds around the mountain. 

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The climbing will continue for another mile or two until you reach the West Point Inn.

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This is a great place to stop, use the “facilities” and take a well-deserved break.  

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We’ll pick up from here to take you the rest of the way to the top of Mt. Tam in the next installment.  Stay tuned and have a great ride!