Trail: ALPINE DAM — Fairfax to Mt. Tam, Hot Damn!


You’ve followed the Coffee Run and ended up in Fairfax, but aren’t ready to head home, what do you do? If you are up for a challenge, it’s time to head west! This route takes you toward Bolinas, up the Seven Sisters and drops you 2.9 miles from the summit of Mt. Tamalpais. If you still have the energy after conquering this much climbing, the route to the summit is detailed in Welcome to the Top of the World. Once you reach the summit with this route, you’ll be on your way to 5000 feet of climbing from the Ferry Building and just over a mile of climbing if you are brave enough and have the energy to make it back to the Ferry Building.
-Distance from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail): 46.46 miles; Distance from Marin Crossroads: 33..05 miles; Distance from Sausalito: 37.07 miles; Distance from Coffee Run: 14.26 miles
-Climbing on Route: 2,329 feet (710 meters)
-Distance/Climbing remaining to Mt. Tamalias Summit: 2.9 mile/630 feet (192 meters)
-Difficulty: This is the more difficult way to ascend to the top of Mt. Tam with an initial climb 3.5 miles long that is just the beginning of a tough ride that will challenge any experienced cyclist.
-FOR A MORE DETAILED LOOK click here for the full route provided by MapMyRide.com.
-Elevation Map for the Route provided by MapMyRide.com
At the end of The Coffee Run you are left with a question, “Am I feeling up for climbing?”
From the Fairfax Coffee Roastery, make a left onto Bolinas Road.
At the stop sign with Cascade Drive and Frustuck Avenue, follow Bolinas Road toward the left and towards Mt. Tam and Alpine Dam.
Continue following Bolinas Road as it starts to climb just past Deer Park Villa.
The initial climb is quite steep at the beginning approaching grades of 8% and continues for 3.5 miles with an average grade of 4.5%.
Once you reach the Meadow Club Golf Course you then enter the Mt. Tam Watershed district and are only 0.75 miles from the top of the first climb.  The traffic along the road at this point starts to dissipate.
The top of the climb is a parking lot, but just beyond the views of the valley below and Alpine Lake are beautiful.
Follow the road as it descends around hairpin turns and then undulates all the way to Alpine Dam.
Alpine Damn is your last flat road until you return back to the Marin Crossroads.  This is the place to stretch and refill your water bottles before the next climb.
The next climb begins on just the other side of the dam. This second climb is 2.75 miles long and by far the hardest on your way to the summit of Mt. Tam.  It has an average grade of 5.7%, but hovers between 7-8% for most of the climb up to West Ridgecrest Road.
Don’t burn yourself out on this climb, because there is still another two mile climb once you reach the top. Take your time and take in the views.
Once you reach the top, take a left onto West Ridgecrest Road.
This is another good place to stop and stretch as the next climb, the climb up The Seven Sisters (aka The Seven Bitches), starts right away.
The climb up The Seven Sisters is not your normal climb. It is a 2 mile long series of upward undulations with an average grade of 3.4%.  There are sections with grades between 5 & 6% towards the last set of undulations.
Your legs will beg for relief as you make your way up this series climbs, but the views can’t be beat as you will overlook Bolians Lagoon and Stinson Beach below.
Just before the last climb, there is a great place to take a brake, take in the views and maybe even see some hang gliders as they glide over the ocean.
After a quick break to take in the views, you have one last climb until you reach the intersection of West Ridgecrest Road, East Ridgecrest Road and Pan Toll Road.
Once you reach Rock Springs point you’ve climbed over 2,300 feet from Fairfax alone, if you came from San Francisco you are at over 3,000 feet. Now its up to you to determine whether you have the legs to keep climbing up to the summit of Mt. Tam, or if you want to take a break from climbing and head back to Sausalito where you will meet up with the route from the Three Amigos at the intersection with CA-1.
If you decide to finish off the last 2.9 miles of climbing and summit Mt. Tam, follow East Ridgecrest Road to The Top of the World for the last 630 feet.  This is a challenge after such a tough climb, but the views are well worth it!
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Trail: WELCOME TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD – Mount Tamalpais Summit


After Paying the Toll, the summit of Mount Tamalpais is almost within reach.  The last stage of the Mt. Tam assent is grueling and sometimes just plain cruel! The steepness of the first mile will push you to your limits before you reach the first of three peaks.  At the summit, take a breath, enjoy the view and brace yourself for a tough climb back to the first peak before you make the descent back to the Bay.

Distance from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail) 27.42 miles; from the Marin Crossroads 12.99 miles; from Somewhere Over the Rainbow 8.91 miles; from A Panoramic View 4.42 miles; from Paying the Toll 2.99 miles

Difficulty: If you’re not prepared for a tough slog back from the summit as well, you might be spending the night on the mountain!

Climbing on Route: 630 feet (192 meters)

Total Elevation Gain from Marin Crossroads: 2641 feet (805 meters)

Download your route sheet here: Directions – Welcome to the Top of the World

Download your route sheet for the entire Mount Tamalpais Route here: Directions – There and Back Again

FOR A MORE DETAILED LOOK click here for the full Geoped Map provided by g-map-pedometer.com.

Elevation Map for the Route provided by MapMyRide.com

From the top of Paying the Toll, make a right onto East Ridgecrest Boulevard and follow it all the way to the third peak which is the summit of Mount Tamalpais.

Make a right onto East Ridgecrest Boulevard to Summit Mt. Tam

The first peak is the hardest to reach.  This peak is next to the Doppler Radar station at the top of a 1.25 mile climb.  Though less steep than the climbs on Pan Toll Road, this first climb is lengthy and difficult. By the time you finish the first climb, your legs will be Jello!

View from the top of the first peak

Make sure to pause at this first peak and take in the views of Mill Valley below.  Get some energy back as you take the first descent and start making the climb toward the next peak.

Stand and push up the second climb and take another break at the top of the second peak.

The view from the second peak gives you better views of Tiburon and Sausalito

From the top of the second peak, the views of Tiburon and Sausalito get closer.  One last peak to climb before heading back.

Another short descent and the last peak is all that stands between you and the summit.  The last climb is steep.  Once you make it to the summit, take in the views and know you’ve climbed over 2,500 feet on your way to this point!

View of Tiburon, Belvedere, Strawberry, Mill Valley and Sausaltio from the summit of Mount Tamalpais

On a clear day, you can see San Francisco, East Bay and all over Marin County from the summit of Mount Tamalpais.  At over 2,500 feet in altitude, you can see above the fog as it rolls over San Francisco Bay.

The historic Mt. Tam Fire Lookout and Ranger Station

At the summit, you can lock up your bikes and take a stroll up the stairs to the Fire Lookout and Ranger Station.  On a clear day, you can see not only San Francisco and East Bay, but also out to the Farallon Islands (to the west and 25 miles off-shore in the Pacific Ocean) and it’s even been reported that you can see the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada range 150 miles to the east.  At the parking lot, there are bathrooms and a water fountain at the top so you can relieve and refill.  Enjoy your time at the summit, because once you are ready to go, you have more hill climbing awaiting.

Elevation Map for the Route provided by MapMyRide.com

Another 300 feet of climbing over two more hills looms once you leave the summit of the third peak.  The return to the second peak is a breeze compared to the climb back to the first peak.  The climb to the west peak is almost a half-mile long and is very steep.  Push through this tough climb and then it’s all down hill from there.

Once you’ve gone there and back again, the summit of Mt. Tam allows you have options of where to go next.  You can continue on Ridgecrest Boulevard and head towards Fairfax-Bolinas Road, or you can turn back down Pan Toll Road and go to Mill Valley or Sausalito. If you’re feeling particularly adventerous that day, you can even head to Stinson Beach from where A Panoramic View and Paying the Toll meet. No matter which way you decide to go, after reaching the summit of Mount Tamalpais, you have entered a club with others who have pushed themselves to conquer this beast! Enjoy the journey, but make sure to stop and enjoy the view as well.

Trail: PAYING THE TOLL — Mount Tamalpais Stage 3


Pan Toll Road the shortest stage of the climb to the summit of Mount Tamalpais, but it’s also the toughest. The route is full of relentless double-digit grade assents.  If you are looking to test your grit and stamina, this is the place to do it.  Once you pass the first mile, you can stop and break for some pictures of the sweeping views around you and then press on through the last half-mile of the stage.  At the end of the trail you feel as major sense of accomplishment because you know you’ve made it through one bad ass climb!

Distance from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail) 24.43 miles; from the Marin Crossroads 10.00 miles; from Somewhere Over the Rainbow 5.92 miles; from A Panoramic View 1.43

Difficulty: HC (hors catégorie) aka this would be a steep climb on the Tour de France! 

Climbing on Route: 531 feet (171 meters)

Total Elevation Gain from Marin Crossroads: 2011 feet (649 meters)

Download your route sheet here: Directions – Paying the Toll

Download your route sheet for the entire Mount Tamalpais Route here: Directions – There and Back Again

FOR A MORE DETAILED LOOK click here for the full Geoped Map provided by g-map-pedometer.com.


Elevation Map for the Route provided by MapMyRide.com

At the crest of Panoramic Highway and the end of A Panoramic View, the summit of Mount Tamalpias still lies four miles away.  Before reaching the top of Mt. Tam, you will have to conquer Pan Toll Road.

To begin the next stage of ascending Mt. Tam, turn right from Panoramic Highway onto Pan Toll Road.

Pan Toll Road is the entrance to Mount Tamalpais State Park.

The first section of climbing is step with very little shoulder room, so watch out for the passing by.

Gradient looking toward Panoramic Highway at the turn onto Pan Toll  Road

You will get a slight reprieve from the constant climbing and the road will level off for a short stint before the steep grade returns.  The road turns around corners as the grade changes from gradual to steep to moderate.  Theses series of turns will take you to the one mile marker of the route where you are presented with your first opportunity to break.

Steep climbs and sweeping turns typify the climb along Pan Toll Road

The first rest area is a great place to take pictures of your adventure and to rehydrate.

A vista with a view of the climbing you have just completed and the Pacific Ocean

The road to come is the steepest and toughest climbing of the stage

The last part of the climb is short, but extremely steep all the way to Ridgecrest Boulevard.

There is one more rest area along the last section of the climb.  This is a good place to stop if you need a short break. At the end of the climb along Pan Toll Road you will reach Rock Spring.

Rock Spring is at an elevation of 1940 feet above sea level.  The slight descent along Panoramic Highway increases the total elevation gain from Marin Crossroad to over 2000 feet! Once you reach this point, you can either turn left onto West Ridgecrest Boulevard and  take in the spectacular views of Stinson Beach and Bolinas below, or turn right onto East Ridgecrest Boulevard and begin the final stage of ascending Mount Tamalpais.

Reaching the top of Pan Toll road is no small feet, with over 2000 feet of climbing, conquering this advanced route is what many Bay Area bikers do when they are up for a challenge and want a spectacular descent as their reward.  The steep climbing turns into steep descending with technical twists and turns as you make your way back to Mill Valley or Sausalito.