The Way, Way Back — Matt Davis / Steep Ravine / Dipsea Trail Loop

Date Hiked: 3/8/13
Distance: 7 mile loop
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Best Season: Spring and Fall for good, clear views and less crowded trails. Summer is fine too, but the views may be obscured by fog, and there will likely be more hiking traffic as well.

Hi, friends! This weekend really feels like the beginning of Fall. After our Indian Summer here in the Bay, things have started to cool down just a bit. Sitting in my big, green chair in my living room, I can see the leaves of “my” giant oak tree beginning their colorful transformation. It’s comfortable outside, but there’s a deliberate breeze that adds a definite crispness to the air. It’s perfect tea-drinking, sweater-wearing, scarf-knitting, puzzling, blogging weather. If there was any question about my grandma-status, it should now be answered.

Matt Davis - Apartment Tree
I love being able to see this big oak tree right outside my window.

This weekend, Hiking Club is taking a hiatus because of our busy schedules, so I’m taking this opportunity to catch up on all the hikes we completed before this little blog came into existence. Recently, I’ve been posting a lot about shorter hikes we’ve taken lately since we’ve been so busy, but when we first started regularly hiking, we were definitely taking on longer, more challenging, treks.

The first Hiking Club excursion took place quite a while ago on Saturday, March 8, 2013. I suggested the Matt Davis – Steep Ravine Loop at the the recommendation of a coworker, and the results were fabulous and really set the tone and excitement for all hikes to come.

This fabulous, 7 mile loop in Mt. Tamalpais State Park begins in the little town of Stinson Beach and consists of the Matt Davis, Steep Ravine, and Dipsea Trails. You’ll experience a wide variety of scenery, including waterfalls, creeks, bodies of water (Fact: I love bodies of water), rolling hills, forests and, on clear days, awesome views of San Francisco. It remains one of our favorite hikes and really got everyone excited about making hiking a regular part of our lives.

Trail Summary: 1. Begin on Belvedere Ave near Stinson Beach (close to the Stinson Beach fire station), starting on the Matt Davis Trail. Shortly thereafter, there’s an unsigned intersection where you’ll stay left to stay on Matt Davis. At 2.5 miles you’ll meet the Coastal Trail, but stay to the right and remain on Matt Davis. 2. After 1.7 more miles, you’ll reach a large intersection near a little parking lot. Cross the highway and the lot, and look for the Steep Ravine junction where you’ll continue on Steep Ravine. 3. After another 1.8 miles, the Steep Ravine intersects with the Dipsea Trail twice (check out the close-up below). The first time, stay on Steep Ravine, then at the second intersection, head right onto Dipsea, which will take you for about another mile until it reconnects with the Panoramic Highway. 4. From there, you can head back to the trail head or wherever you parked the car.

Matt Davis - Map
Matt Davis - Steep Ravine - Dipsea Intersection
Close up of the double intersection from Steep Ravine to Dipsea.

Matt Davis, master trail builder, worked on his segment of this loop in the 1920s after being commissioned to do so by the Tamalpais Conservation Club. We were honestly and pleasantly surprised by how varied it was — one moment, we were hiking through cool, moist (see side note below) forests alongside a creek with bridges and staircases, and the next we were in exposed grassland amongst rolling hills a la The Sound of Music.

Side note: Am I allowed to use the word “moist” as a descriptor? I’ve had some strong reactions to it when used in the past. In fact, we discussed this during the hike, and I discovered most people have an aversion to the term. This discussion also brought to light our group’s particular word-aversions. Paul isn’t particularly fond of “serene,” and Lisa, “cyber,” so naturally, Jarrett and I peppered every sentence with as many instances of each word as I could. We are such great friends!

To summarize, the hike was pretty fantastic with, as I mentioned, varied scenery and landscapes and offered a great workout. Because of this, I think we all became excited about making hiking a regular part of our weekend schedules, and Hiking Club, as we informally/affectionately call it, was born!

I wish I had more photos to share, but since this was the first Hiking Club excursion, there is a dearth of photos. I guess that just means we’ll get to hike it again.

Matt Davis - Lookout
Jarrett snagged this seemingly posed but actually candid shot of Lisa, Paul, and me looking over the water at SF.

Alright, now sending this serene hiking post into cyber-space!