If you wake up on a clear day itching for a hike that provides challenge, historical context and views, put paws to the path on a 6.6-mile trek along the Old Railroad Grade trail in Blithedale Summit Open Space Preserve on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais.
The Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods Scenic Railway, once touted as the “crookedest railway in the world,” from 1896 to 1930 hauled tourists from Mill Valley to the summit of Mount Tam and sent them whizzing back down in four-wheeled “gravity cars.” Today you and Rover can follow the route and be rewarded by the same lofty views enjoyed by 19th-century sightseers. On the way, you’ll pass the 108-year-old, hike-in-only West Point Inn (sorry, it’s not dog-friendly), only surviving building from the railroad era.
The rail trail’s smooth footing is easy on the feet, but don’t be deceived: it’s a 1,300-foot elevation gain and steady climb at an 8.2 percent grade all the way up to the East Peak Visitor Center at 2,571 feet—and there are no gravity cars for a quick ride down. Don’t worry if fog begins to roll in as you start the hike; it seems to often stop and hang in the canyon just south of the trails up Mount Tam.
For a shorter hike, branch off on a fire road or trail (such as the Fern Creek trail) and wander back down through cool canyons and majestic stands of redwoods. From exposed vantage points on a clear day, you and your paw-trotter will be able to see Mount Diablo, the Bay and Golden Gate bridges, downtown San Francisco and big swaths of the royal-blue Pacific. Check out more pictures of the mountain and some of its furry visitors in Kayla’s Korner on DogTrekker.com.