Hiking the Matt Davis Trail

I’ve lived in the Bay Area for 98% of my life (I did the math) and am realizing just how much of it I haven’t explored yet. Until this past weekend, I have never been to Muir Woods/Mt. Tamalpais area. In fact, I rarely venture north of SF due to a crippling case of  high inertia and laziness. With summer approaching, my goal is to get outside more and be willing to make the drive to beautiful places like this one.

Hike overview: ~7 mile loop, 1900 ft elevation gain, 4-5 hours including breaks
Trails: Dipsea Trail, Steep Ravine Trail, Matt Davis Trail


We were lucky to pick a really clear and warm day for the hike. There was shockingly no fog, and it had just rained so the hills were lush and green. We left the south bay around 8am and drove through the city, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, and took the very windy but scenic drive to Stinson Beach where the trail starts and ends. When we arrived at 9:30 there was still street parking close to the trailhead (see map for parking options).

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Heading into the woods

Navigating the trails is easy, the trailhead for Dipsea trail is right across Hwy 1 from the beach parking areas. Follow Dipsea straight for some rolling hills and continue into the redwoods. When you see a sign for Steep Ravine Trail, turn left and follow the sign directing towards the ladder.

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A sturdy ladder for the steepest part of the ravine, surrounded by redwoods

Once you’ve reached the ladder, you’ve done most of the uphill for the hike! Follow the trail until it opens out into the Pan Toll Ranger station, which will have a parking lot, bathrooms, and campsites. This is a good spot for a snack break, and you’ll see lots of cyclists, campers, and hikers here.

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On the Matt Davis Trail among hills full of poppies

From the parking lot, cross the highway to get to the Matt Davis trailhead, and follow the Matt Davis trail for about 4 miles all the way down back to the beach. Here you’ll be walking among hills of California poppies and have great views of the coast. On a clear day we were able to see all the way to the top of the Golden Gate. The last mile or two are a lot of switchbacks downhill through the woods. The majority of the hike was not crowded at all, but there were quite a few hikers coming up Matt Davis.

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View of Stinson beach and the coast

The trail will eventually end at Belvedere Ave, which you can follow down to Hwy 1, leaving you just down the road from where you started. From here, we walked just a few blocks more to check out the beach and grab some well-earned burgers and burritos at The Siren Canteen, which is a cute cafe right on the beach.

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ABC (Avocado Bacon Cheese) Burger + Fries + Frozen Lemonade!

All in all, this is one of my favorite hikes now and was definitely worth the drive. To top it off, we took a detour to Humphrey Slocombe in SF on the way back for delicious delicious ice cream (Peanerbut Fudge Rippie [sic] is the best flavor), but one tip is to check the Giant’s game schedule before trying to drive near AT&T Park.

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Peanut butter deliciousness at Humphrey Slocombe in the Ferry Building



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