The Bay Area Ridge Trail from the Presidio in San Francisco to Bolinas Ridge includes fog-shrouded cityscapes, windswept passes, Tennessee Valley vistas, shady redwood groves and grassy hillsides baking in the sun. It crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands and Mount Tamalpais. We spread the eclectic journey across three days.
We are hiking the nearly 400-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail. Sign up to follow our progress here.
Trail Maps (Dates Hiked):
- Presidio to Marin Headlands (July 19, 2021)
- Golden Gate Bridge to Tennessee Valley (July 20, 2021)
- Tennessee Valley to Shoreline Highway (July 20, 2021)
- Mount Tamalpais State Park and Dias Ridge (July 21, 2021)
- Mount Tamalpais State Park and Bolinas Ridge (July 21, 2021)
Presidio to Marin Headlands:
Our late-afternoon “hike” across the Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio kicked off a three-day Ridge Trail binge that saw us trekking Marin County trails for the first time and retiring to the historic Mountain Home Inn above Mill Valley each evening.
Walking the bridge is less romantic than it seems. Our walk was typical – cool, breezy and foggy. The traffic is loud, and smash and grab thefts from parked cars are common. We hiked with our electronics strapped firmly to my back, checked the box on our itinerary and found some dinner.
Shoreline Highway to the Golden Gate Bridge:
The next morning, we combined segments by hiking south from the roadside trailhead on Shoreline Highway back to the bridge. Our hike through morning mist into the Tennessee Valley was uneventful. The trudge back into the headlands was a bit of a slog.
We had nearly given up finding a trailside lunch spot when our fortunes improved. A rocky outcropping yielded both a seat and an amazing view of the Tennessee Valley to enjoy while we noshed.
As we hiked on, the fog returned, blowing swiftly across the trail, obscuring the vistas on either side. Peering ahead, we could make out posts strung with cables lining both sides of the trail. Then the gale hit, tearing at the fog and tugging at our clothing as we leaned in to steady ourselves.
The last time we encountered wind this big was at Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, where Dawn was lifted off her feet as we crested the moraine field below Laguna Torre. This time Dawn managed to avoid going airborne, but we had to shout to hear each other as we juggled hats and equipment so Dawn could snap a picture or two.
We staggered forward, finally finding relief as we rounded a hillside that blocked the gale. The fog cleared and the sun game out for the final mile to the car parked at the foot of the bridge. Next stop? Dinner in Mill Valley.
Mount Tamalpais State Park, Bolinas Ridge and Dias Ridge
I chose to log the Mt. Tamalpais segment of our trip because it reminded me of the hike that started my lifelong love of walking in the mountains.
Many, many years ago when I was a young engineer, I took a two-week business trip to Silicon Valley. I purchased a guidebook that led me to several of the Bay Area open space trails during my free evenings. I enjoyed them so much that I decided to tackle Mt Tam on my weekend off. I started from Muir Woods as soon as the parking lot opened, with the goal of reaching east peak. The early morning brought a short blast of snow flurries (no kidding) and the afternoon treated me to 75-degree sunshine and beautiful ocean vistas. I spent the entire day hiking, and it was magical.
I marveled at the ecosystem changes along the 15-ish mile hike. Who knows how long my walk actually was. There were no cell phones or hiking apps back in the day, so I misread trail signs, took misguided “shortcuts”, ran out of trail at least once and almost ran out of water. Over dinner that night, I retraced my actual path on the park map. My planned 12 mile hike was at least 15 miles. It took me 10 hours to finish. I loved it and haven’t stopped hiking since.
Our experience on the Mt Tam segment of the Ridge Trail was better planned and much easier. We went 12 miles from Bolinas Ridge to Dias Ridge in one day. The Ridge Trail does not get you anywhere close to either Mt Tam peak, but the vistas are (as usual) stunning.
We started in a gorgeous stand of redwoods that ended sooner than we liked. We spent a good part of the hike traversing hot grasslands, wishing the trail went through any of the many stands of trees just off the path. A close encounter with a coyote provided the excitement for the day. He darted off the trail just as we approached, probably finding the shade we craved.
The last half of the hike started in more redwoods, but degraded to an endless gravel fire road so heartbreakingly ugly that I didn’t bother to take pictures. Dias Ridge redeemed the afternoon, with scrub-lands and the famous Bay Area Ridge Trail views.
Miles we hiked0
(with returns and connectors)
Our Progress Hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail – 130 out of 394 miles30.7%