Having arrived in San Francisco, we wanted to see and do so much more than the usual tourist attractions, though we had planned on covering a few of those too. After some research we came across Tam Hiking Tours and set about planning our urban adventure with a difference. We caught up with Mill Valley resident and lifetime hiker, Debra Schwartz, (founder of Tam Hiking Tours an outdoor recreational service on Mt. Tamalpais and surrounding areas) and set up plans for our hike – settling on a private tour for flexibility (Debra hosts private and group hiking tours for people of all ages).
Our journey started with some hired bicycles from Bay City Bikes, so we could cycle over the famous Golden Gate Bridge and tick off a must do tourist box en-route to Sausalito (a San Francisco Bay City in Marin County, California). From there Debra had advised us to get a taxi or uber to Mount Home Inn which is high atop a Mt. Tamalpais ridgeline, bordering Muir Woods – our starting point.
From there we moved slowly into Alice Eastwood Campground, stopping off to smell Yerba Santa Leaves and Bay Tree Leaves (taken from the ground as we were told by Debra they had a better scent than the ones on the trees). We continued our journey with a few stops here and there to admire the Douglas Fir trees and the abundant “Billy Cones” (which Debra affectionately named after Douglas’s hiking partner, dog Billy), found scattered around the base of the Fir trees.
Taking in nature and all it’s beautiful offerings we hiked the Fern Creek Trail stopping to admire the beautiful and lovely scented, Trillium Flowers and Redwood Sorrel Flowers, Western Sword Ferns. This trail lead us into Muir Woods Monument, where we learnt a little more about John Muir and even hugged the ancient Redwood Trees, wise and grand as they were to show them our appreciation for their home.
We then hiked over 900ft back up to the Panoramic Hwy, via Ocean View Trail (which ironically does not have any Ocean views – the Pacific Ocean is only visible at the very top). Though our hike was around 5 miles, it’s safe to say our legs felt it was much longer especially the last stretch which was mostly uphill, strangely though we were left feeling exhausted and invigorated at the same time.
Hiking with Debra, is a fantastic, fun and insightful experience – her knowledge of nature, history and San Francisco is second to none. We came away learning so much about Mt. Tamalpais, Mill Valley, San Francisco history, local Native American history, as well as Bay Area geology. When we go back we will most definitely be signing up for another, with Debra you’re in safe hands and her enthusiasm and passion is infectious!
Tours range from 1.5-4 hours long (ours was around 3 hours). Featured tours are scheduled Fri-Monday. (Times vary according to the season.) Personalized tours for groups and individuals are scheduled 7 days a week. Delicious organic box lunches are available on request. Tam Hiking Tours offers a unique opportunity to experience the spectacular natural beauty of the Bay Area without having to travel far from the city.
HIKING CHECK LIST
**Meet-up Please be courteous of your fellow hikers and try to arrive no later than 30 min before your tour @Illumigarden: 35 Corte Madera Ave, Mill Valley, Ca. 94941. Meet-up location can vary according to the tour. Please text or call 415-279-1280 if lost or running late.
**Water** Hikers are responsible for bringing their own water. We recommend bringing at least one full bottle of water
**Food** Please feel free to bring snacks, hiking and food are a complimentary combo! Delicious box lunches are available upon request.
**Other items to bring** (Optional) Sunscreen, sunglasses, hiking poles, camera (Hiking sticks and backpacks are available upon request for a nominal fee)
**Shoes** Hiking shoes or trail shoes are the best option for our hike.
**Bathrooms** Restrooms are available in Mill Valley and at trail heads, depending on the tour.
**Waivers** Please bring signed waivers for dogs and people. Waivers are available upon request.
**Tipping** Tips are optional, but always appreciated. You’re helping a lady entrepreneur keep her business running. The tip amount is at your discretion, but as a rough guide, consider giving 10-20%