Mt. Tam via Panoramic Hwy North
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Cycling Mt. Tamalpais from Panoramic Highway North -- View from Mt. Tam’s West Peak.
Most difficult bike climb in Marin County.
Ride 6.6 miles gaining 2,378’ at 6.8% average grade.
Start of the climb.
This is the most challenging climb in Marin County and boasts an impressive 5.02 FIETS index, well above any other climb in the county. The climb begins in the popular coastal town of Stinson Beach. Provisions are available at the Stinson Beach Market about a half mile to the north on Highway 1 from the climb start point.
Mt. Tamalpais is the highest point in the Marin County and has two peaks: the East Peak (2,574'), and West Peak (2,563'). The white radar dome that sits upon Mt. Tam's slightly lower western peak is quite discernable from afar.
Top left: Dome as seen from Ridgecrest Blvd (from Alpine Dam and Fairfax-Bolinas routes
Bottom left: Dome as seen from Panoramic Highway (north/south) and Muir Woods routes.
The climb is divided into three segments:
1. Panoramic Highway from Stinson Beach: This portion has some great views of the Pacific Ocean to the west, giving way to redwood trees bordering the highway for several miles until near the top and just shy of Pantoll Campground and Mt. Tamalpais State Park. There is a Visitor Center here where maps and information about the area are gladly dispensed by Park Rangers. There is also water at this location. The statistics for this section of the climb are 3.6 miles / 1,375' gained / 7.3% average grade.
Hairpin 0.9 miles up from the start.
The road is surrounded and covered by forest from miles 1.7 to 3.2 (turnoff to Pantoll Road).
2. Pantoll Road: The second leg is up Pantoll Road from its intersection with Panoramic Highway, to Rock Springs Parking Area (a staging area for several truck television commercials). Along this route we have great views down to the Pacific Ocean and, as we climb higher, of Mt. Diablo, the San Francisco Bay, and San Francisco. This segment is 1.4 miles / 490' / 6.2% average grade.
Pantoll Road, miles 3.2 to 5.1.
3. Ridgecrest Boulevard: The final leg is along Ridgecrest Boulevard East. This portion is the easiest of the three, and gives us more spectacular views of Mt. Diablo, the San Francisco Bay, and San Francisco. This segment ends as Ridgecrest "crests" just east of the radio dome atop Mt. Tam’s West Peak, and is 1.5 miles / 510’ / 6.8% average grade.
Last 1.5 miles are on Ridgecrest Boulevard.
Spectacular views to the south (our right) on Ridgecrest.
Segment on Ridgecrest between Pantoll and West Peak.
We pass the entrance to the old Cold War Air Force Station ¼ mile from the top.
We took a detour to the old radar dome (note that the road is marked “no trespass”).
Come for the ride, stay for the views.
View from the summit of Mt. Tamalpais East Peak
Ride another 1.5 miles gaining 175’ (and losing 337’) to Mt. Tam’s East Peak.
Gravity Car Barn and Visitor Center at the finish of the East Peak route.
“At the top of Mt. Tamalpais is the modest East Peak Visitor Center. Hours of operation are between 11am to 4pm on weekends only. Note that the Visitor Center is staffed by volunteers and hours are subject to change. Here you’ll find:
Maps, books, apparel, and souvenirs for sale; a portion of all proceeds go to the park for maintenance and preservation.
Interpretive displays to help connect visitors with the natural and cultural resources found at the park.” FriendsofMtTam.org
“Those who live in the shadow of its majesty, who have climbed its many challenging trails, who have marveled at the 360 degree views from its summit, or have spent time pondering its impact on the skyline of the San Francisco Bay Area, cherish the power and natural beauty of Mt. Tamalpais. One hundred years ago, people as impressed and inspired by “The Sleeping Lady” came for a visit from the world over. Their goal — to steam up the mountain in what was affectionately called “The Crookedest Railroad in the World.” FriendsofMtTam.org
Water, bathrooms and bike rack at the finish
After hiking to the top, we suggest . . .
. . . bring a cable and lock and use the bike racks.
Mt. Tam Summit
Views of Mt. St. Helena to the north (left) and Mt. Diablo to the east (right)
That’s a wrap . . . for Mt. Tam anyway . . .
A very pleasant, and challenging, 46 mile route that captures the two top climbs in Marin County begins from the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, across the Bridge, through Sausalito and Mill Valley, down to Muir Woods, back up to Panoramic Highway (follow Panoramic Highway from its southern intersection, Muir Woods Road and Panoramic Highway, to its northern point at Stinson Beach on Highway 1, a total of 8.1 miles), up to the top of Mt. Tam and then follow the route back to San Francisco. See PJAMM Cycling’s Golden Gate Bridge Page and also its RideWithGPS map for more details.
This climb can be included in an out and back from San Francisco.