Mount Tam's Magic Hour

The East Peak of Mount Tamalpais couldn’t be more accommodating: it’s reached via a short hike and easily…

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The East Peak of Mount Tamalpais couldn’t be more accommodating: it’s reached via a short hike and easily gives visitors one of the best views in the Bay Area. Yet, like visiting Alcatraz, many of us just haven’t done it. Maybe it’s the crowds; summer brings slews of people clamoring for a photo opp.

But plan your arrival an hour before sunset, and it’s as if someone waved a wand: you’ll have the place nearly all to yourself. Take the quarter-mile (one-way) walk up the Plank Trail to the 2,571-foot East Peak fire lookout and summit. On clear nights, it’s nothing but pure panoramic perfection. Mount Tam’s northern lakes wink like polished diamonds in the distance, and Mount Diablo and Mount St. Helena help complete a peak trifecta.

Whatever you do, don’t just cast your eyes west or you might miss a chance opportunity to catch Mount Tam’s giant pyramid-shaped shadow to the east. As the sun sets, the landscape is splashed in a tangerine shade, deepening into golden hues over the horizon. If it’s foggy? Even better. The coast exudes calmness, looking cozily covered by a fluffy blanket. Tam magical!

From Hwy. 101 in Marin, take the Stinson Beach/Hwy. 1 exit and go 1 mile to the stoplight at Hwy. 1. Turn left and go 2.5 miles to Panoramic Hwy. Turn right and stay on Panoramic Highway for 5 miles. Turn right on Pantoll Road and go 1.5 miles to Ridgecrest Blvd. Turn right and go 3 miles to the East Peak parking area. Dogs are OK in the parking lot. NOTE: Be sure to return to your car very shortly after sunset if you stay that long. Park Rangers will lock the gate to the parking area shortly after sunset. Do not stay past dark.

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