Mt. Tam: Coastal to …

Trail Run


<1000 ft. +/-

(Pantoll)/Matt Davis/Coastal/Ridgecrest Blvd./Bolias Ridge Fire Road/Ridgecrest Blvd./Coastal/Matt Davis/(Pantoll)

This was the obvious choice after having such an incredible time last weekend on the first few miles of Coastal Trail out of Pantoll.

Our day started by looking for parking at Pantoll Ranger Station on a Sunday… at 10:30 am. Parking secured (.5 mile away) we were on our way.

Everything about this was just as great as I remembered it last weekend – better, even, given that we got to start out fresh on the flats this time.

Matt Davis trail is a such a fun stretch of improved trail, following along the wooded hillsides, that you don’t realize how fast you’re going until you hit the major landmark of this piece: the large stump/rock formation. There’s no way to run straight through/over this, so you do have to come to your senses, but it does let you know that you’re about to break in to the open and get the views.

Matt Davis Trail Running

Breaking out in to the open on the Matt Davis trail is one of the coolest turns you can take in California (and maybe the world). The trail goes from dense forest to a panoramic pacific view and full NorCal sun in an instant. If you don’t smile or thank whatever/whoever you thank for having a life this good (this was easter, after all) when you round that turn, you’d better reevaluate why you’re out doing this stuff.

The wildflowers have started to hit. Since I’m not much on flower knowledge, I can just tell you that they’re quite pretty, and blue. Sorry, nothing more specific than that

.Costal Trail Wildflowers

It bears repeating: this is the flattest, fastest stretch of running you are going to do on Mt. Tam (sez I). That is, of course, unless you somehow come across a group of (I could not make this up) 40-50 almost-elderly asian hikers.

I thought this was a phenomenon unique to Japan (everybody there hikes in groups, all kitted out with bear bells and engraved walking sticks, etc.), but this group was speaking Mandarin. Coastal is a SUPER narrow piece of singletrack, and passing was damn near impossible for 5-6 minutes, and then only after the people in back yelled in a mix of Mandarin and English:

Guy yelling: TO THE LEFT, TO THE LEFT!


This made for an interesting situation, but we swam through the sea of humanity, and got far more smiles than smirks. Upside? This was not a bad place in the world to have to walk for a few minutes. The scenery (and I hope I never tire of saying this) is off the charts.

Wildflowers on the Costal Trail, Mt. Tamalpais

Successfully having navigated the Easter Sunday Chinese Gauntlet, we were back at it, making our way out to Ridgecrest Blvd. I thought it better to get some road miles in – just at feeble attempt to convince myself I was actually ready to run 26.2 on pavement – and took the road towards Bolinas-Fairfax Road instead of continuing on Coastal.

Somehow I was convinced that I had never been here before, even though I’ve ridden this stretch (Seven Sisters, to you road bikers out there) many times on two wheels. Have I mentioned that this is without question one of the most beautiful runs you could ever hope to do in your life? I think I have. Good.

Ridgecrest Blvd. Mt. Tamalpais

This run was like a greatest hits of places I’d seen while riding and never actually “seen”, so we continued up on Bolinas Fire road, which I’ve seen more times than I can count, though often while panting for breath after making the climb up from Alpine Lake on the Alpine Dam cycling Loop. Bolinas Ridge fire road cuts through Audubon Canyon Ranch on Bolinas Ridge. This is a real fire road, rough hewn and obviously utilitarian. I’d love to park at the Fairfax-Bolinas pulloff and hook this up to some of the Point Reyes trails someday.

Took in this view towards San Francisco and turned back.

Bolinas Ridge looking towards San Francisco

Oh yeah, and then we had views like this on the way back:

Trail Running Costal Trail, Mt. Tamalpais

We were like packhorses turned to the stables. I’ve been so focused on building distance that speedwork has faded like a distant memory. Cranking up our turnover and footspeed felt incredible – the feeling of moving at your body’s limit and damn near flying is what hooked me on running in the first place. The last stretch of Coastal through Matt Davis has to be one of the most uplifting 3 miles one can run: good footing, net downhill, and pure enjoyment. My GPS tells me I hit a 5:30 pace, and let me tell you, I am no 5:30 runner in most 15 mile jaunts. This trail will take you as fast as your feet, lungs, and head will take you.

When this marathon is over I can’t imagine a better 10 mile Saturday fun run than Pantoll to the Ridgecrest gate; this is close to perfection as far as I’m concerned. Just watch out for well-meaning but slothlike groups…



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