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Adventures: Hiking the Matt Davis & Steep Ravine Loop
by Ann Marie Brown

Mount Tamalpais State Park
The Matt Davis Trail curves a long, graceful arc from Mount Tam’s Pantoll Ranger Station to the sea at Stinson Beach. And the Steep Ravine Trail makes a dramatic ascent alongside a boisterous stream in a steep-sided redwood canyon. Combine these two trails with a brief stretch on the Dipsea Trail and you have one of the best loop hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Beginning from Pantoll, the Matt Davis Trail traverses across the slopes of Mount Tam some 1,500 feet above the ocean. After a long stint in a mossy oak and bay forest, the path breaks out onto grasslands, offering views of San Francisco to the south and Point Reyes to the north. The trail then descends along switchbacks to deposit you in the bustling seaside town of Stinson Beach, where a picnic lunch can be secured.

After refueling, pick up the Dipsea Trail near the junction of Highway 1 and Panoramic Highway. This trail's wide-open slopes and nonstop coastal views are great, but the best is yet to come -- the loop’s final leg is the Steep Ravine Trail, which ascends steadily alongside Webb Creek. You'll climb 1,000 feet in two miles, wandering amid giant redwoods that tower over the stream’s myriad crystal pools and tumbling cascades, crossing numerous footbridges, ducking and scrambling under fallen redwood trunks, and ascending a 10-foot ladder where Webb Creek plunges over large boulders. Too soon, the trail returns to Pantoll parking lot.

The Details
Length: 7-mile loop
Difficulty: Strenuous
Best Season: Best in winter and early spring for high water in Webb Creek, but good year-round
Highlights: Coastal views, grassland wildflowers, beach visit, redwood forest
Map: Mount Tamalpais State Park map (available for $1 at Pantoll Ranger Station)
Trail Guide: 101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area (Foghorn Outdoors)
Park Information: (415) 388-2070 or (415) 893-1580
Getting There: Take Golden Gate Transit bus #10, #20, or #50 to Marin City Transfer Center. Transfer to Golden Gate bus #63 to Pantoll parking lot. Cross Panoramic Highway to the start of Pantoll Road and pick up the Matt Davis Trail on the road’s west side.