It once served as a lodging station along a serpentine tourist railroad that steamed from Mill Valley to the east peak of Mount Tamalpais. Today, the West Point Inn is accessible only by hikers -- and not just the seasoned ones. The two-mile trek (in each direction) takes place along relatively flat fire road, and the awe-inpiring views make it worth every step of the short commute to the most enviably situated porch (above) in all of California. Pull up a chair and share a lemonade with the innkeeper.
There are no rainforests on the U.S. mainland, but if there were. they'd look like the lower half of Mount Tamalpais, where a thick band of redwoods lines Steep Ravine from Stinson Beach to Pan Toll station. Under the towering canopy you'll find primordial ferns, dancing waterfalls, criss-crossing bridges and steps carved into majestic granite cliffsides -- stairways to heaven. The Dipsea Trail-Steep Ravine-Matt Davis loop is often cited as the best of all Bay Area day hikes.
For ambitious hikers, the full breadth of Mount Tamal is a bucket-list trek, from the picturesque seaside town of Stinston Beach to the birdseye view at the peak. Steep Ravine Trail ascends through a redwood-studded forest of primordial ferns and sublime waterfalls. Each of the mountain's myriad microclimates presents a different hiking experience, from a lush redwood belt and thick stands of Douglas fir to a sandstone ridge patrolled by eagles and redtail hawks.
Your Trail (& Tap) Guide
Brian Patrick Higgins, author of a 2016 trail-themed humor memoir, A Good Look Before Dark, has guided thousands on California trails since 1999. But Mount Tamalpais is his home.
Brian founded Hills & Hops on the proposition that local craft beers taste best after an infusion of the rare air on Mount Tamalpais, where ocean-driven air currents collide with San Francisco Bay gusts that set the year-round fog to dancing, often under bright blue skies.
Then it's off to sacrifice all those burned calories to the beer gods at one of Hills & Hops' partner brewpubs throughout Marin County.
Brian, whose guided treks were described by the San Francisco Examiner as "a rollicking tour de force of history, geography and belly laughs," spins his tales from the trail for wider audiences, as well; he's a regular contributor to magazines, newspapers and outdoor websites from coast-to-coast.
To get yourself in the mood, be sure to subscribe to Brian's Mountain Porch Blog, published on the first of each month.