Mt. Tam via Alpine Dam
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Cycling Mt. Tamalpais (Mt. Tam), Marin County from Alpine Dam
View of San Francisco from Mt. Tam’s West Peak
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.
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.
SEGMENT ONE: DAM TO INTERSECTION OF BOLINAS FAIRFAX AND RIDGECREST
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.
Start of climb: Alpine Lake left, front of dam right.
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.
The steepest ½ mile (9%) is on this segment.
Right to Bolinas Bay/Stinson Beach,
Left to Mt. Tam.
SEGMENT TWO: RIDGECREST TO PANTOLL
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.
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.
SEGMENT THREE: EAST RIDGECREST BOULEVARD TO WEST PEAK
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.” 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 . . .
And we are just a stone’s throw from the Golden Gate and San Francisco.
Visit the Marin Museum of Bicycling in Fairfax on your way to the start of the climb.