Top Marin Bike Rides:

Muir Woods Loop
Stinson Beach Loop
Alpine Dam Loop
Lucas Valley Loop
Marin Headlands Loop
Pt. Reyes Limantour Loop
Pt. Reyes Station Loop
Mt. Tam MTB Loop

Mount Tamalpais MTB Loop Stats

Total Elevation:
2,800 feet

18 miles

Approximate Time:
2.5-3.5 hours

Mt. Tam MTB Loop

While Mount Tamalpais is certainly not the highest peak in the Bay Area, but it’s perhaps the most visually dominating, presenting a graceful profile to San Francisco and the East Bay. Mt. Tam is also an iconic destination for hikers and cyclists, with numerous possibilities for making a memorable ascent. For today’s ride, we’ll climb on our mountain bikes and take a classic MTB climb up to East Peak via Old Railroad Grade and the return via the backside. Once the route of the "Crookedest Railroad in the World," the eight mile steam powered ride up was a popular pastime for tourists from the city. The rising popularity of the automobile hastened the railway's demise in 1930.

Our route today starts from the Studio Velo store and shop, in downtown Mill Valley. Ride though the plaza parking area and upon exiting turn right, then make a left at the Bank of America onto Corte Madera Ave., passing in front of the fire house, after which we’ll make a quick right at the shoe repair shop, then a left onto West Blithedale Ave. and head up the canyon through the towering redwoods. After 1.6 miles we’ll get off-road at the gated Old Railroad Grade fire road. The route can be busy on weekends, so keep right to avoid fast downhill riders. Bear  to the left when the road dips down to cross the creek and then resume climbing to arrive at another fire gate at Summit Ave. Turn right on Fern Canyon Rd. and take in some nice glimpses of what lies ahead; a half mile later we get back on the dirt. Soon excellent views of Mill Valley below, then southern Marin and the city begin to unfold as we roll into a series of switchbacks known as Double Bowknot.  Here we’ll bear hard to the right to continue up, and pass through the remnants of old station platforms.

At the third bow we’ll ride past the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo fire road on the right, then further along you'll see steep Hog Back Fire Rd. falling away on the left down to the Mountain Home Inn and Panoramic Hwy,. Unfortunately, this fire-road is closed to bikes. In front of us we’ll see the West Point Inn across the small canyon. There’s water available here, along with great views and some picnic tables for lounging. To complete our ascent, we continue to the right around the Inn for a last push up to the saddle between the Middle and East Peaks of Mt. Tam. After passing through the gate's turnstile, go right on the paved road (Ridgecrest Blvd.) and take your choice of routes up to the visitor’s area, where you’ll find restrooms, water, a snack bar on weekends and a small museum devoted to the trains that once arrived here. At 2400 feet the views are truly outstanding in every direction and if it’s your first trip to the top of Tam you’ll want to allot time to take them all in.

Exit via the parking lot, and take a right on Eldridge Grade just before rejoining the paved road. The upper portion is pretty rocky and makes for a very technical descent; you may want to stop if you find the seemingly infinite views over northern Marin are to distracting. As it descends road makes three distinct zigzags, after which, at 11 miles (2.5 after entering Eldridge), you’ll make a sharp right on Indian Fire Rd. (it’s not signed). We roll for another half mile and make another hard right on to the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo as the views to the east open up – it gets very steep here, so keep your speed in check and hold back on the temptation to cut loose as we’ll make another very 90 degree right in just a few yards. The Hoo-Koo-E-Koo makes a big dip before giving us our final climb of the day. We soon rejoin Old Railroad Grade at 13.5 miles, revisit Doublebow Knot and then enjoy a swift descent back down to Blithedale Canyon. After couple hundred yards of pavement, look for the Corte Madera Ave. on your right for a less trafficked return into town. You’ll rack about 18 miles and 2800' on your ride specs for this classic circumnavigation, and probably be making plans to ride it again.