Up on Mount Tam , you can try anything from a leisurely 30-minute interpretive stroll up to a strenuous hike up and down one of the many deep ravines. Mount Tam’s hiking areas divide into three major sections: the East Peak, the Pantoll area, and the Rock Springs area.
Each of these regions offers a number of beautiful trails, so you’ll want to grab a map from the visitors center or online to get a sense of the mountain and its hikes.
At the top of the paved road up to the East Peak, you’ll find a small visitors center that’s open on weekends. The clearing also shelters a small refreshment stand that’s open on weekends in the winter and daily in the summer.
The charming interpretive Verna Dunshee Trail offers a short, mostly flat walk along a wheelchair-accessible trail. The views are fabulous, and you can get a leaflet at the visitors center that describes many of the things you’ll see along the trail.
For something with a little more vertical challenge to it, head for the Pantoll Station and take the Old Stage Road. For a shorter loop (about 2 mi, moderate), turn off onto Easy Grade, and then take the Old Mine Trail back.
If you’re looking for a longer hike, start out the same, but instead of cutting back quickly, take Easy Grade to Rock Springs Trail, then on to Nora, and finally return on Matt Davis for a total of five miles. This way you also get to take a peak at the Rock Spring part of the mountain.
Looking for a guided hike to help you to better understand the landscape you’re seeing? The Mount Tamalpais Interpretive Association (www.mttam.net ) offers a full schedule of guided hikes. Choose anything from a sedate, flat nature walk to a strenuous steep trek, all with an experienced guide who’ll enrich your experience tremendously. Check the website for a schedule of upcoming guided hikes.