Top Bay Area California Hike: Dipsea Trail, Steep Ravine, Matt Davis Loop
Top Bay Area California Hikes: The Dipsea Trail, Steep Ravine, Matt Davis Loop
Looking for the top Bay Area California hikes? The Dipsea trails on Mt. Tamalpais are among the most spectacular in all of Northern California. I love the Dipsea, Steep Ravine, Matt Davis Loop hike because you get the best of everything – ancient redwood forest, creeks, waterfalls, canyons, grasslands, wooden bridges, and views, views, views. Begin your day at the Pacific Ocean and loop into a magical forest, only to emerge to breathtaking hillsides that roll back down to the beach. This is a top Bay Area California hike because it combines some moderate to heavy climbing with relaxed and easy trails. The trails are meticulously groomed, safe, and well marked. Whether visiting from afar, or living locally, put this hike on your list as a regular go-to.
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Know before you go
When to Go
The Bay Area and its micro climates are, at best, unpredictable. The Stinson Beach and Mt. Tam area can get pretty windy at times and super sunny at others, so just wear layers! Shop my favorite hiking gear here. I recommend the winter and spring months for this top Bay Area California hike if you want to see more water flowing and spring for wildflower season. The summer and fall months are likely to be more busy and, depending on our drought status, you may not see as much water in the falls.
The Dipsea trail to Steep Ravine trail to Matt Davis trail loop is a 7.5 mile hike. It takes approximately 4 hours to hike. I suggest you go counter clockwise. This direction will take you climbing through the forest, alongside the Webb Creek and its waterfalls, and then descending back to Stinson Beach. You want those views on your descent! The hike is billed as Moderate level, which I agree with. However, if you are not in strong shape, you may find the duration of the climb challenging. Just take your time and you will be fine.
Get to the parking lot no later than 7:30 AM – 8:00 AM on the weekend if you want to be guaranteed a spot. Tell your GPS to bring you to the Dipsea Trailhead on Panoramic Highway. At the intersection of Panoramic Highway and Highway 1 is a parking area on the side of the road. There is space for approximately 15 cars to park perpendicular. If that area is full, then turn right onto Highway 1 and at Belvedere Avenue, by the Stinson Beach Fire Station, you will see some more parking.
The trailhead is the one behind you, (not the one in front of you as you park). Cross the Panoramic Highway to find the sign that says “Dipsea Trail Steep Ravine Trail 1.2 mile”
There is a toilet facility in the Pantoll parking and camping area which is about 3 miles into the hike.
Take a photo of the trail map in case you lose wifi.
Bring plenty of water and snacks.
Wear hiking boots or sneakers with some tread. Be prepared for some mud.
Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Dogs are not allowed.
Some of the trails are narrow, so be mindful of Covid precautions as people pass.
Please be respectful and follow all the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace!© Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
Top Bay Area California Hike: The Dipsea Trail, Steep Ravine, Matt Davis Loop Details
- Dipsea Trail- Start the hike on the Dipsea Trail through a lovely canyon and into the expanse with gorgeous ocean views.
- Steep Ravine Trail- A dirt road intersects, but continue straight up the hill onto Steep Ravine Trail.
- Webb Creek- You will be hiking alongside Webb Creek through a very lush redwood forest. You will see waterfalls, climb hundreds of stairs, and cross many wooden bridges.
- Wooden Ladder- When you get to the famous wooden ladder, you are about halfway to the Pantoll Ranger Station and campground.
- Pantoll Ranger Station and campground- At the Pantoll Ranger Station, take a restroom break because they are actual toilets, not port-a-potty!
- Cross the Panoramic Highway and turn left up the hill. You will see the Mt.Tamalpais State Park sign.
- Matt Davis Trail – find the Matt Davis Trail sign on your left.
- Stinson Beach- The trail will descend through open fields, more forests and waterfalls, and eventually deposit you at the Stinson Beach Community Center on the corner of the Fire Station. Turn left, pass the fire station, and look for the Dipsea Trail sign on your left and walk the short distance back to your car.
- You did it! Another top Bay Area California hike adventure!
The Famous Dipsea Trail Fun Facts:
- The Dipsea Trail Run is the oldest trail race in America, started in 1905.
- The trail is 7.4 miles of stairs and steep trails making it one of the most beautiful and treacherous races in the world.
- It is limited to 1500 runners.
- It is always the second Sunday in June but was cancelled in 2020 and postponed in 2021 due to the pandemic.
Have great hike and let me know how you like it!