Peak of the Month Club: Tourists on Mt Tamalpais

11 Jul

It’s July now, which in San Francisco means two things: hoards of tourists and rolling banks of fog. That is, shivering tourists spilling over from Fisherman’s Wharf across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin to visit the quaint town of Sausalito, the tall trees of Muir Woods and mighty Pacific Coast at Stinson Beach.

If we had thought harder about it, we might have chosen another month to tackle Mt Tamalpais, but we were already behind in our Peak of the Month Challenge and Mt Tam is a popular destination climb. And as Bay Area suburbanites we are tourists too, albeit better prepared for the fog than visitors from back East or overseas.

In an attempt to get out ahead of said tourists, who have the natural advantage of jet lag, we drove up to the city and rolled out before 9am, the time that weather report said the fog would lift. It didn’t. The fog didn’t clear until as we dropped down into the town of Sausalito, but it stayed clear for our 10 mile climb up Mt Tam.

In contrast, the tourist traffic didn’t clear until we were near the top, making the ride more hectic than usual. Cars and shuttle buses filled with tourists bound for Muir Woods and Stinson Beach roared past, leaving scant space on the edge of the road for us. I worried that my friends doubted my route choice.

But we did meet a tourist that wasn’t whizzing by in a vehicle, a man from Copenhagen riding up the mountain on a time trial bike. He stopped to chat us up and expressed his appreciation for American women riding the backroads. “Not so many women on the road in Denmark,” he said. “It’s great!”

As the traffic petered out and our legs tired, the road kicked up for the final steep assault between the twin peaks of Mt Tamalpais. From the top, the view of San Francisco Bay below was much appreciated, even if it was obscured by a marshmallow blanket of fog. We had conquered our second peak, we were sitting in the warm sun, and we had cold drinks and junk food from the snack bar. A heavenly reward.

After that it was (almost) all downhill, which means some sweet twisty descending and less concern about car traffic since we were moving at their speed. Strong and buffeting winds on the Golden Gate Bridge made the final few miles back more intense than expected, but it didn’t spoil our excitement. We celebrated in the parking lot with the most important question: “Mission accomplished on Mt Tam. What’s next?”

What’s next on your challenge list for the summer? Are you on target or are vacations getting in the way?

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Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Backroads


13 responses to “Peak of the Month Club: Tourists on Mt Tamalpais

  1. Ken

    July 12, 2012 at 2:01 am

    We were in San Francisco last March, no fog, one day of rain, not a lot of tourists in Sausalito, but we didn’t fancy straying too far on tourist hire bikes. Nice cool cycling weather. I was actually disappointed not to see the famous fog!

    • ladyfleur

      July 12, 2012 at 7:20 am

      Yes, it’s not San Francisco without the fog. My favorite is a day where it’s sunny and clear all day then the fog rolls in and envelopes the bridge in the evening. Really cool to see.

  2. djconnel

    July 12, 2012 at 6:21 am

    Nice! Alpine Dam via Fairfax, or “4 corners” via the maze of roads which rise from Mill Valley, are less trafficked if longer routes to the peak: Hwy 1 uphill is disconcerting. But Panoramic from Hwy 1 is the most direct uphill route, and the one in John Summerson. The big Bay area peaks are Tam, Diablo, Hamilton, and Uminhum, although the last involves certain issues…

    • ladyfleur

      July 12, 2012 at 7:09 am

      I’ve done the peak ascent from Faifax too and it is a beautiful route. I considered it but didn’t particularly want to deal with the tourist traffic while in car. While it wasn’t great on the bike, the car is worse.

      Plus I thought my friends might not have ridden across the bridge before. Turns out the already had and they weren’t fans of the wind on the bridge.

  3. Rachel Unger

    July 12, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Well done! I’m envious. šŸ™‚ I still haven’t managed my Mt. Hamilton climb (2 weeks in Canada did interfere, why yes!), so I might be stuck waiting for fall.
    Or starting at 5am.
    The photos are lovely – it looks like a great route.

    • ladyfleur

      July 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      Our route was good except for Hwy 1 between Sausalito and the turnoff for Muir Woods. The route Dan mentions above is also very nice, but requires a longer drive. As for Hamilton, if you get rolling before 7am you’ll probably be OK in terms of heat.

  4. ktschoeben

    July 18, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Thanks for posting our journey – I loved it. The wind sucked on the way back over the bridge but that was the only thing that sucked. How do those tourists keep a smile on their face on those rental bikes with wind and fog whipping at them – god bless ’em.

  5. georgie o

    August 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks for the route link. We’re visiting The City next month & hiring bikes. I’ve always wanted to get up Mt Tam. I’m busy practicing my hill climbing here in The Pennines at the moment for it. But I know I need more practice!!!

    • ladyfleur

      August 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      Next month should be beautiful on Mt Tam. The least foggy months are late Aug-mid Oct. You might even find it hot, being from the UK. Be sure to get an early start to avoid the crowds. You can also ride from the North starting in Fairfax, but you’d need to drive. Have fun, and let me know how it turns out!

      • georgie o

        August 20, 2012 at 10:01 am

        Thanks for the tip. I’m hoping to ride up to Samuel P Taylor so could maybe combine the two. Will see how energetic we’re feeling!! Cant wait to get up there and see the views.


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