Gravity Wheel

Mountain Bike Mount Tams Old Railroad Grade

Ready to tackle the tallest mountain in Marin? Mountain bikers who want to put their fitness to the test without too much technical stuff can retrace the “Crookedest Railroad in the World” on Mount Tam, today known as Old Railroad Grade Trail. Start this 16-mile (round-trip) ride at The Depot Bookstore and Cafe in downtown Mill Valley, the train’s original starting point when the railroad was in operation from 1896 to 1930. Old Railroad Grade is an official gated dirt fire road that winds past shaded creeks and redwood trees for the first few miles and reaches amazing views of San Francisco Bay. Along the way you’ll pass the famous Double Bow Knot section, where the trail takes a few long gradual switchbacks (an innovative technique to get railroad cars up a steep portion of the mountain). At 1,785 feet up, take a break at the historic West Point Inn, once a stopping point on the railroad and accessible today only by trails. Simple snacks are available here, or break out your own trail mix and enjoy the sweeping views of the Pacific and the bay. Afterwards, stay on Old Railroad a couple of miles and continue climbing above the coastal fog line to more views of the ocean. You’re making your final push! After 8 miles you reach Tam’s East Peak summit and the Gravity Car Barn museum, staffed by a docent on weekend afternoons. In addition to old photographs and historical info on the railway, it houses a replica of an original Gravity Car, which once served as Tam’s version of an amusement park ride. Operated by a lone brakeman, only the most daring passengers would take these carts back down the mountain. Speaking of back down …

GRAND OPENING: Celebrate where it all started! The grand opening of the Marin Museum of Bicycling is this Saturday, June 6 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Fairfax. There will be ribbon cutting, live music, trick riders, BBQ, and face painting. Ride on!

From the clock tower outside The Depot Bookstore and Cafe in downtown Mill Valley, turn NE onto Throckmorton Ave. and then turn left onto W. Blithedale Ave. Go about 1.3 miles until reaching the Old Railroad Grade trailhead. The Gravity Car Barn is typically staffed by docents from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. on weekends. Dog-friendly!

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