Dipsea, Steep Ravine and Matt Davis Trail Loop

A good friend of ours is moving back to the East Coast this week. She wanted to spend one of her last few weekends in California seeing some sights. It’s a long drive to Stinson Beach (from almost anywhere), but this hike was a great choice. It has redwoods, waterfalls and ocean views. All very California.

Hike Basics
Distance: 7 miles
Elevation: 1600 ft
Red Tape: Free parking in Stinson Beach. No quotas or permits for day hiking. No overnight camping allowed on this trail.
Other Notes: This popular (crowded) loop is a shorter and easier version of our Stinson Beach to Mount Tamalpais summit hike. The trail is fairly well graded.

Directions to Trailhead: From Highway 101 in Mill Valley, drive north on Highway 1 for 12 miles, following signs to Stinson Beach. Parking for this trail is available near the Stinson Beach fire station on Belvedere Avenue, or at the intersection of Panoramic Highway and Highway 1 (the first right turn when you reach the town of Stinson Beach). Google Map link to trailhead.

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Trail Description: I was surprised to find plenty of parking when we reached the trailhead in Stinson Beach. Perhaps the holiday season and the somewhat gloomy weather kept a lot of people indoors for the weekend.

The first part of this loop follows the Dipsea Trail. We climbed, never too steeply, through some dense forest and into open coastal scrub.

Looking back to Stinson Beach.

After only about a mile on the Dipsea Trail, the Steep Ravine Trail split off to our left.  We were soon hiking amongst the redwoods in a deep canyon, following the cascades of Webb Creek.

We climbed over 1000-ft, but the trail didn’t feel too terribly steep in any one section… aside from the one ladder.

Before we knew it, we reached the Pantoll Ranger Station.  We sat and ate some food while watching road cyclists slowly make their way up to the summit.

From the Pantoll Ranger Station we followed the Matt Davis Trail back to Stinson Beach.  This well graded trail alternates between forest and wide open areas with views to the Pacific Ocean.  Despite the somewhat hazy weather, we could see the Farallon Islands in the distance.

The entire hike took just a few hours.  We made it back to Stinson Beach in time for a late lunch at the Breakers Café.

More Info: This great Tom Harrison map includes these trails, as well as many others around Mt Tam:

4 thoughts on “Dipsea, Steep Ravine and Matt Davis Trail Loop”

  1. Ah, you’re blogging again I find! Really enjoyed following your PCT trip last summer (I was inspired to get out and do my first two sections about the time you two were finishing up). Steep Ravine has been a family favorite for two generations. We usually walk from Mill Valley up to Mt. Tam, over to Pan Toll, then Stinson for a picnic. Nice Pics! I’ll have to go back when it dries up just a little…

    1. Yes! Finally back out hiking again, but it’s been a little tough with all the rain. 🙂 Mill Valley to Stinson is a tough hike! Definitely one of my favorite areas.

  2. talked about this loop with a park ranger at John Muir last week– she suggested we park at the pantoll and then hike to stinson, grab lunch, take a break, and hike back. Thoughts?? Thanks!

    1. Stinson has a couple cute little restaurants, so that’s not a bad plan! I prefer to hike up, then down, rather than down followed by up, but if you end with the Steep Ravine Trail, you are saving the best for last.

Any thoughts?