What’s Best: Historic trails those of the hiking clubs and tourist railroad of the early 1900s lead up to the sunny shoulders of Tamalpais.
The Mountain Home Inn has been offering libation to hikers since 1912, from a dining area hanging off a ridge of Tam that overlooks Mill Valley. For both the Gravity Car Grade and Old Railroad Grade hikes, walk up the highway a short distance to a right-hand turnoff. For the Gravity Car Grade loop veer right on an unpaved road and, after a short distance, continue through a MMWD gate. You begin a pleasant contour on Gravity Car Grade, in the shade of Douglas fir, madrone, and young redwoods, with a San Francisco view beyond Richardson Bay. After .75-mile you pass remnants of the Mesa Station railroad platform, and a right-hand junction of the Old Railroad Grade that heads down to Mill Valley. Stay left, now on the Old Railroad Grade, as it switchbacks upward over the next .25-mile. You’ll pass the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Road beginning its long contour toward Blithedale Ridge, and the Vic Haun Trail beginning its ascent of Tam. Continue west on Old Railroad Grade, climbing another 250 feet over about .5-mile. You reach the Hogback Road, down which you walk to the Mountain Home trailhead .5-mile away.
MOUNTAIN HOME INN MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
The West Point Inn via Old Railroad Grade loop takes you to the historic hiker’s retreat built in 1904. Veer left, up toward the fire station, as you leave Panoramic Highway just up from the Mountain Home Inn. Head up the Hogback Road, the reddish scar of a trail that can be seen from the highway, rising more than 500 feet to Old Railroad Grade. Turn left on the grade, and continue for 1.5 miles, dipping into Fern Canyon before reaching West Point. The inn is perched at nearly 1,800 feet, on the most westerly bend of the former railroad route. From below the inn, take a short connector, the Nora Trail, which descends a quick 400 feet and joins the Matt Davis Trail. Go left on the Matt Davis, which contours around for .75-mile, well below the Old Railroad Grade, and rejoins the Hogback Road.
Parking: From Hwy. 101 north of Sausalito, take Hwy. 1-Shoreline Hwy. exit toward Stinson Beach. Follow up and turn right on Panoramic Hwy. Continue 2 ml. past junction with Muir Beach Rd. and park across from Mountain Home Inn. Agency: Marin Municipal Water District; Mount Tamalpais State Park
Bike: Cyclists can take an 8-mile West Point loop, through chaparral, conifers and oak forests. The last 3 miles of the loop are on Panoramic Highway. Start up Old Gravity Car Grade, as per hiking directions, and continue left on Old Railroad Grade to West Point Inn; this first 3-mile leg of the ride takes you up 900 feet. From West Point Inn, go west on Old Stage Road, which takes you on a twisting descent of about 300 feet over 2 miles, coming out at Pantoll Ranger Station on Panoramic Highway. If you start early in the day, you’ll have less traffic when heading east on the mild climb back to Mountain Home Inn.