#6 Dipsea Trail via Pantoll Station

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I am on a 1 year challenge to take a hike every month and I am taking you with me via this blog about all the beautiful places that I am visiting and posting pictures on my Instagram site of the same name @projecttrailmix. I am so excited to share it with you!

This brings us to Hike #6. So this one had to be epic…and I have always had the Dipsea on my mind. There is so much talk about this trail and its race history, at least in this neck of the woods. There is a race titled The Dipsea Race, it is a 7.4 mile trail race that has been going on since 1905! It is one of the oldest trail races in the United States.

Amazing, right?!

I head out the door at 6:30 am on Saturday 6/16 ready to pick up my hiking buddy for the day. Actually, Maribel is the friend I have with me most of the time and takes as many photos as I do on the trail. Especially, the ones I can’t take of myself 🙂  We made our traditional Starbucks run to grab some coffee and a snack before hitting the road.

The weather is nearly unpredictable near the ocean so dressing in layers is essential. It was really cloudy and in the low 60s with a pretty good breeze. We got to the Mount Tamalpais State park and parked at the Pantoll Station parking lot. The fact that I have found a parking lot with a bathroom and an actual parking space is a miracle itself. It costs $8.00 😉 Mount Tam and Muir Woods are neighbors and sometimes its confusing to me to know what park I am even in. The Dipsea Trail runs thru Mount Tamalpais National Park, it is a beautiful place and with that popularity comes crowds of people. Take this advice and get there early.

We got started by 8:30 and made our way through the Redwood forest down the hill and it was literally raining on us. So many trees with all the fog made rain come down to us from the branches. All the roots coming into the trail was crazy.

Along the way we saw very few people out hiking. It was nice. We stopped to check out giant trees that had fallen and climbed aboard. I told Mari that I realized we have a great hike when there is water, climbing or balancing, and stairs. It makes it fun!

The plan is a loop trail of 3.6 miles that starts at the Pantoll Ranger Station go along Steep Ravine Trail and to up to Dipsea Trail then back along Old Mine Trail and leads back to the Pantoll Ranger Station. It doesn’t sound very far at all but usually we like to take the time to enjoy the scenery. Plus I was on the hunt for this awesome ladder I was hearing about.

Hiking along, the creek was with us the whole way on Steep Ravine. It was very peaceful with the sound of birds and running water around us.

We found the ladder in the middle of the trail, better hope you don’t mind heights because there is not any other way down. But it was very sturdy so I wouldn’t worry about that…. and on the way down you can see the water right next to you. I am sure during rainy seasons the water is really flowing.

We made it to this cute bridge and I stopped to check our map, this must be our half way point. I saw a rock with a metal plate in it that said Dipsea 6 and I saw the wooden/ dirt stairs heading up the steep hill. I was so excited we made it to the Dipsea and its so cool it even has a rock to mark it! (insert jumping little kid).

Then we saw it! A group of guys running down the stairs, sweating, breathing hard, in T-shirts with numbers attached to them. We looked around and yes there were ribbons attached to trees, yes there were more people now running down trying not to kill anyone headed up the same stairs, yes they had race shirts on that said “Double Dipsea”. There was ONLY one conclusion, we were gonna be part of a race!

The stairs up this part of the trail I would guess are about 2 feet wide and most are in bad condition breaking or broken. Its an accident waiting to happen. We waited a bit to let the runners pass and started to make our way up the steep steps and tried to move to the side when we saw them coming down.

We told runners as they passed good job and good luck cheering them on, I think we said something to everyone we passed. Everyone was very appreciative that we actually moved out of their way. So many people seemed oblivious. Soon we had a scary point of the trail that was super steep and narrow and we weren’t able to see around the next corner. The steps were surrounded by bushes, low trees and vines. (see pic above). I was really hoping I wasn’t getting into poison oak. So we played chicken with runners speeding down the path, running ourselves as far as we could up the steep steps before getting to a space and jump to the side to let them pass. All the hikers were piling up behind us so we would be yelling back “runners” or “clear”. It was pretty hilarious now that I think about it. Although that did add about 45 minutes to an hour to our hike. Finally we made it to the top and the trail widened. The view was covered in fog, when the wind stopped blowing you could catch glimpses of the ocean. Im sure on a clear day it was a sight. Since we had cell service I took the moment to a live video clip and grab a snack.

We were still on the Dipsea Trail but this was not forest anymore it was dirt and shrubs with some beautiful flowers blooming along the trail. We still saw runners but they were definitely thinning out.

Making a good pace now we made our loop back into the rainy forest via the Old Mine Trail. Back to the Ranger Station, we finished our hike.

Time for some real food!

I say: Go!

This trail had everything I could want in a hike. Water, fallen trees, rocks, dirt, ocean and the famous ladder! Despite the extra time spent in race traffic, we had a great time cheering on fellow trail mates. Im sure it would be faster if not for that reason and that we stopped to take a lot of pictures. But definitely worth it.

Tips:

  • As always, get there early.
  • Pay to park in the lot.
  • Bring snacks and water
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Dress in layers

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