Mt. Tam via Alpine Dam Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

7.9 mi
2,053 ft
4.5 %



This climb is one of the five primary climb routes to the top of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, and may be the most scenic of them all.  The climb begins at Alpine Dam in western Marin County and climbs up Fairfax-Bolinas Road for 2.5 miles before turning into Ridgeview Boulevard which we climb for 5.5 miles before finishing at the West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais.  West Peak is the highest mountain peak in the Marin Hills and has the best view of San Francisco Bay and San Francisco than any other point in Marin. 
The 2.5 mile climb on Fairfax-Bolinas Road is a fairly steady and healthy ascent averaging 6.8%.  The next four miles to on Ridgecrest Boulevard to its junction with Pantoll Road is south along a nice ridge line and over rollers averaging 2.3%.  The final 1.2 miles to West Peak average 7.2%.  The climb's steepest quarter-mile is 9.6% and begins about a quarter-mile into the climb, while the 8.1% steepest mile begins at mile 1.2. 11% of the climb is at 10%+. 
Roadway:  Excellent.

Traffic:  Minimal and slow moving.

Provisions:  There are no stores or facilities with water or food on this route. 
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
We have documented the five primary routes to the West Peak of Mt. Tam - find those routes and other Marin County bike climbs here: Marin County. Also consider riding across the Golden Gate and up to the top of Mt. Tam and back - Golden Gate - Mt. Tam  

Mt. Tam's East Peak we can see the Farallon Islands, Marin County hills, San Francisco Bay and City, Angel Island, the Bay Bridge, East Bay, Mt. Diablo and on a rare crystal clear day the snow capped Sierra Mountains 150 miles east. - Google Street View. There is also a Visitor Center and Gravity Barn at the East Peak. You can get information, history, water and snacks at the East Peak Visitor Center. Also visit the Gravity Barn Museum which is a tribute to the old railway that climbed Mt. Tam. 



Difficulty: Challenging



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Apr 4, 2021
difficulty: Challenging
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 2
Apr 4, 2021
scenery: 4
traffic: 5
road: 2
First segment (1.5 miles) in the woods has by far the worst pavement and pretty consistently steep but super relaxing and feeling good with nature. Manageable to get through all the potholes and cracks in the road to go up but a brutal arm/ braking workout to descend. Next section on 2.5% grade with rolling hills is super misleading. This is a series of kicker after kicker. Each uphill is 10%+ and then you get downhill. This repeats for about 5 miles. Albeit the beautiful views if you have the chance to enjoy. Then once you turn left the final stretch has beautiful views and is a consistent grade on the climb. Pavement is good for the last two segments with light traffic the entire time. I would argue this is both the most scenic and most difficult way up to the peak of Mt. Tam.

Climb Profile Not Found

Cycling Mt. Tamalpais (Mt. Tam), Marin County from Alpine Dam

View of San Francisco from Mt. Tam’s West Peak

California Top 10 Most Scenic Bike Climb

Climb summary by PJAMM’s John Johnson.

This climb is one of the five primary climb routes to the top of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, and may be the most scenic of them all.  The climb is mild throughout, and as with most Marin roads, it is in great shape.  There is no shoulder to speak of, but motor vehicle traffic is light and not a real issue during this climb, you will likely encounter at least twice the number of cyclists as motorists in this part of Marin.  

Before heading to the bay area on your cycling adventure, be sure to rely on our list of Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip, and use our interactive checklist to ensure you don't forget anything.

We believe that this bike climb is one of the most scenic in California and the US. There are three segments to Alpine Dam to Mt. Tam road bike climb.


The first 2.5 miles to the intersection of Bolinas Fairfax Road and Ridgecrest Boulevard are at a 6% average grade, gaining 867' and along a narrow roadway bordered by redwood trees with minimal traffic.  This is a very pleasant climb segment.  

Bike climb Mt. Tamalpais from Alpine Dam - sign at Alpine Dam

Start of climb: Alpine Lake left, front of dam right.

Bike ride Mt. Tamalpais from Alpine Dam - aerial drone photo of ridgeline and Alpine Lake

Alpine Lake (dam is photo middle left) is created by Alpine Dam (built 1917).

The surface area is 224 acres, with water volume of 8,892 acre feet.

Bike climb Mt. Tamalpais from Alpine Dam - road surrounded by redwood trees

The steepest ½ mile (9%) is on this segment.

Right to Bolinas Bay/Stinson Beach,

Left to Mt. Tam.


Beginning of the second segment.

Ride four miles at 2.4%.

Views open up at mile three.

Ride atop a true ridgeline for 2½ miles at 3% average grade.

Riding the Ridge.

Mt. St. Helena, Napa County to the north

Some stunning views on this segment (Bolinas Bay to the left).

Alpine Dam as seen from 1600’ above the ridgeline.

View north: photo left center is where the views open up.

Aerial view of the southern portion of the three mile ridgeline ride.


The final leg up to the top of Mt. Tam West Peak is 1.5 miles at 6.5%, with a gain of 517'.  The views of San Francisco and the Bay along this segment are absolutely spectacular -- the best anywhere, in our opinion.

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”).

San Francisco is left center of photo.


Segment on Ridgecrest between Pantoll and West Peak. 

Finish at West Peak.


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.”

“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.”

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

Summit views.

Views of Mt. St. Helena to the north (left) and Mt. Diablo to the east (right)

That’s a wrap . . . for Mt. Tam anyway . . .

Drone aerial photo above the Golden Gate Bridge

And we are just a stone’s throw from the Golden Gate and San Francisco.

Drone aerial photo above the Golden Gate Bridge

Drone aerial photo above the Golden Gate Bridge

Visit the Marin Museum of Bicycling in Fairfax on your way to the start of the climb.

Drone aerial photo above the Golden Gate Bridge

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