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Mount Tamalpias State Park Hiking down the Dipsea trail
pic mt tam hike n copy

209 staff reporter

Check the weather reports.

That alone should be high on anyone’s list when planning for a day hike.

I learned that lesson the hard way a few years ago at Mount Tamalpais State Park in Marin County.

It was a group hike that began at the Pantoll Station and looped down to the town of Stinson Beach.

Along the way we were greeted by some fantastic sweeping views of the Pacific coastline after descending down from a lush redwood canyon with streams and waterfalls not to mention a climb down the famous wooden ladder.

After a nice lunch at the beach, we encountered a few rain drops at the halfway point of this 7.3 mile loop, ascending up the Matt Davis Trail.

Those little splatters soon became heavy buckets of water falling from the skies mixed in with a few strong gusts.

From Stinson Beach, the Matt Davis Trail begins near the fire station. There’s a bridge that crosses over a creek, with a climb up a narrow path in a heavy forested area with cotoneaster, ivy and poison oak as ground cover.

The trees did provide some refuge from the heavy rains but you really had to watch your step given the damp path. This became more apparent when water overflowing from the creeks erased some of the trail – we were forced to jump over these cascades along the way.

The hiking adventure continued following the tight switchbacks on to a chaparral. If it were a clear day, you can see a great view from here of the ocean. Instead, we were caught up in what may have been classified as a storm with visibility nil.

Before reaching our destination, we came across a massive boulder known as Table Rock. This is another worthwhile stop on a clear day – you can actually a glimpse of Stinson Beach from here on a clear day (I did a return hike to Mt. Tam some two years later).

Through it all, this hike was one unforgettable one. It gave you a bit of everything – waterfalls, uphill challenges, great vistas, redwood, Douglas fir, grasslands, canyons, ocean, etc.

I learned a few things that day.

Dress accordingly. I wore non-breathable cotton that day and I was weighed down somewhat from getting sopping wet. At least I was smart enough to bring a change of clothes.

Always check the weather report.

Directions: From Highway 101, take the Highway 1 to the Stinson Beach exit and follow the signs up the mountain.

Park hours: 7 a.m. to sunset year round.