The Dipsea Step by Step

Ever wanted to hike the 7.5-mile Dipea Trail, but weren’t quite sure how? Here are east-to-west directions unofficially sanctioned by Dave Albee of the Dipsea Race Committee, an avid hiker, a former racer and a constant fixture at the race’s finish line since 1986. As you will see, the trail weaves on and off fire roads, highways and staircases. If in doubt, head west.

• Start at Old Mill Park, in Mill Valley. Cross the footbridge and follow the crosswalk up narrow Cascade Way. Take the main staircase to the top, and turn right.

• At the intersection of Millside Lane and Marion Avenue, make a sharp left turn up the hill and continue up the second flight of Dipea steps. At the top of the steps, turn left onto Hazel Avenue; continue to the third flight of stairs.

• The top of the third flight is at the intersection of Edgewood Avenue and Sequoia Valley Road. Cross the road, veer right and take the path on the hill above the road to Walsh Drive; continue up this residential road to the cul-de-sac.

• Walk past the wooden gate with a “Dipsea Trail” sign, mile marker 1.

• The trail emerges onto Bayview Drive. Follow Bayview to Panoramic Highway, carefully cross the road, turn right and continue 150 feet to the Dipsea trailhead.

• You’ll now encounter the first downhill stretch. Note the Sun Trail splits off from the Dipsea Trail here. Stay on the Dipsea Trail, to the left.

• Take the stairs to Muir Woods Road, turn right and stay on the left side of the road; use caution and look out for oncoming cars. (You’ll see another trail option here, but it is not always open, due to ongoing maintenance work.)

• The trail and road spill out at a driveway with mailboxes on your left. Veer right and continue down the trail.

• The trail splits here. The “Suicide” shortcut is to the left, and the official trail is to the right. Stay on the official trail past mile marker 2.

• Continue to Muir Woods Road, carefully cross the parking lot, past the signs and drinking fountain, then turn left.

• Cross the plank footbridge over the creek. This footbridge is often removed in the winter and spring; you may need to take a detour at those times.

• Take it slow as you head up this series of steep switchbacks, aka “Dynamite,” to a fire road. Cross the road and the trail continues to the right. It eventually rejoins the fire road, where you will turn right, back again onto the fire road. • Look for signs as the trail again splits off to the left from the fire road. As before, you can take either route, but the trail is more direct.

• The 3-mile marker is at the intersection where the trail again rejoins the fire road. Turn left, onto the fire road. Soon after that last intersection, you will pass “Halfway Rock” — it’s not quite the halfway point, but since most of what’s left is downhill, you’re roughly halfway done, timewise.

• Continue through the section dubbed “the Rainforest.” At the intersection with the Ben Johnson Trail, stay to the left to continue on the Dipsea Trail. Again, you will reach the fire road. Turn left.

• At the intersection with the TCC Trail (named for the Tamalpais Conservation Club), continue straight on the Dipsea Trail. When you emerge from the trees, you’re at “Cardiac Hill,” the highest point on the course.

• Continue straight on the Dipsea Trail, where you will encounter an uncommon stretch of flat trail until you hit Steep Ravine.

• The steps of Steep Ravine are notorious for injuries; be careful. You will reach a footbridge at mile 6; cross the bridge and turn left.

• Stay on the Dipsea Trail, to the right, up the hill. This is the beginning of “Insult Hill” — so named because it is the last hill. Stay on the Dipsea Trail, to the right. Cross the fire road to stay on the trail until you cross Panoramic Highway. Watch for cars when crossing, and make sure they see you doing a celebratory fist pump. You’ve conquered the Dipsea Trail.

Warning: this is not a loop trail, so plan ahead by parking a car on the other side, or check the West Marin Stagecoach bus schedule (route 61 or 68) — or, if you are really adventurous, hike it back.