What’s Best: Marin’s reigning capital of hip & cool always good for an entertaining evening stroll is also steeped in hiking tradition, with clubs and races that go back more than a century.
Parking: From Hwy. 101 take E. Blithedale-Tiburon Blvd. exit and drive about 2 ml. and park near the corner of Blithedale and Throckmorton Ave.; or, from south of Mill Valley on Hwy. 101, take Hwy. 1-Stinson Beach exit and turn right on Almonte Blvd. Almonte becomes Miller Ave.; continue to Mill Valley, turn right on Throckmorton and park at Blithedale.
Addtional directions follow. Agency: Mill Valley Parks & Recreation; Marin Municipal Water District.
The Old Railroad Grade loop begins at a 1,000-foot-high trailhead, from which you may also hike to Tam’s East Peak. Parking: Go down Throckmorton to Old Mill Park. Jog right on Old Mill Street, left on Lovell Avenue and then right on Summit Avenue. Follow winding, narrow Summit, to a junction with Fern Canyon; here, a gravel road to the right leads to Old Railroad Grade coming up from Blithedale Park, TH52. Continue driving left, now on Fern Canyon, another .25-mile to where the road ends. Park on street at one of 10 or 12 spots. Head through the MMWD gate, on this inviting redwood fringed portion of upper Old Railroad Grade.
In about .75-mile, keep right when passing the Gravity Car Grade road coming up from Mountain Home, TH56. Continue for another .25-mile and go right on Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Road. On your left at this junction, you’ll see the Vic Haun Trail; this trail makes a direct approach to the top of Tam, over about 1.25 miles and 1,400-feet of elevation. Meanwhile, back on Hoo-Koo-E-Koo, after .5-mile you’ll come to the Temelpa Trail, which you take down to your right; the Temelpa Trail also goes left, steeply and directly toward Tam, meeting the Vic Haun Trail. Taking the Temelpa Trail down, you hit pavement and need to go right about .25-mile to trailhead parking.
MILL VALLEY MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
Cascade Falls fueled Mill Valley’s historic mills. Parking: Drive up Throckmorton past Old Mill Park. Throckmorton ends and you veer right on Cascade Avenue. You’ll see the Cascade Falls trailhead sign on your right. The short, mossy trail leads up the creek to the falls, through a dark redwood forest. This is an easy hike to combine with a stroll of Mill Valley.
The Dipsea Trail Steps, some 675 of them, are at the beginning portion of the venerable 6.8-mile race from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. Parking: Start at Old Mill Park on Throckmorton. Walk through the park on Cascade Drive, across Molino Avenue, and continue up dead-end Cascade Way. You’ll see the first 330-plus flight of stairs that lead to little Millside Lane. Jog right on Millside to Marion Avenue, at the beginning of which you’ll see the second 200-plus staircase, this one leading up to Hazel Avenue. You go left on Hazel and then right up the remaining 140 steps that take you to busy Edgewood Avenue. The Dipsea Trail is really only a complete trail on race day, since it hits pavement at a number of places.
Dipsea greats include Sal Vasquez, Jack Mill Valley’s lands first were possessed by John Reed, courtesy of a Mexican land grant in 1834 acquired using the time-honored tradition of marrying the commandant’s daughter. Mill Valley was the first Marin grant. It was made by the Presidio’s Jose Antonio Sanchez in deference not only to daughter Hilaria’s hand in marriage, but also in exchange for many board-feet of redwood that were to help build the garrison, courtesy of Reed’s sawmills that gave the town its name. Logging was king here for the remainder of the century and into the next. But leisure, too, has always been a Mill Valley pursuit. Tourist railroads, resorts and taverns date from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Mill Valley’s Dipsea Race was begun in 1905, second in seniority only to the Boston Marathon. In more recent times the Mill Valley Film Festival has become the flagship among many events that bring tourists to a town where the barista who steams your cappuccino may well have penned the next hot screenplay.
Old Mill Park
Begin the Mill Valley stroll at the corner of Throckmorton and Blithedale.
Right there is the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club, designed in 1905 by Bernard Maybeck. Across the street is the Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, whose copper spire and 18-foot gold-leaf cross is the tallest in the country. Walk down Throckmorton the stroll takes you up one side of Throckmorton, to Old Mill Park and the library, and back down the other. On your left is El Paseo, with its winding brick passage and just beyond that is the Mill Valley Theater, the main venue during the film festival.
Opposite the redwoods in the center of town is Lytton Plaza. The plaza is the center of things: the starting point for the Dipsea Race, the former railroad and bus depot, and currently ground-zero for hanging out and hooking. Cross the street and keep heading up Throckmorton. You’ll leave the shops and eateries and come upon Old Mill Park, a few blocks up. The park is home to the remnants of Reed’s historic sawmill, and of one of the old railroad cars. Backtrack down Throckmorton, catching the stuff you missed while walking up the other side of the street.
Bike: For a mellow, neighborhood ride to Richardson Bayfront, TH2 with easy bike path links to Sausalito or north to Corte-Madera Larkspur take Miller Avenue from Mill Valley and turn left on Sunnyside. From Sunnyside, go right on Laurelwood and continue as that street blends with Presidio Avenue. Presidio takes you to Millwood, where you jog left out to E. Blithedale for a short distance, and then veer right on to Sycamore Avenue. Sycamore takes you to Bayfront, crossing busy Camino Alto very near the park. To ride Old Railroad Grade up toward Mt. Tam, see TH52, Blithedale Summit.