Saturday, April 30, 2016

Pantoll to Stinson Beach Loop Via Matt Davis, Dipsea, and Steep Ravine Trails - Mount Tamalpais State Park, California

We recently did the popular Matt Davis, Steep Ravine loop connecting Pantoll Campground to Stinson Beach. We chose to start at Pantoll and take a food break at Stinson Beach, but it also makes sense to start at Stinson if you want to get the hard part out of the way first (and claim a coveted parking spot at the beach which become scarce after 11 most weekends).

The parking lot at Pantoll is located off of Panoramic Highway at Pantoll Rd. about 4.5 miles west of Mill Valley and 4 miles east of Stinson Beach. It costs $8 to park there, but there are other parking options nearby (if you dislike the idea of supporting the conservation of incredible natural resources for future generations).

Named after a man who helped build many of the trails in the area back in the 1910's & 1920's, the Matt Davis Trail is about 4.2 miles long and starts across the road from the Pantoll parking lot and kiosk. This route is longer than the way back but has a nicer grade for trail running. It starts out somewhat level for the first mile or two before heading downhill via numerous switchbacks into Stinson Beach. The views along the way are stunning as the hillside alternates between being grassy and wooded with the ocean in the background.

At Stinson Beach we hit the famous Siren Canteen on the beach for some great food (nachos) and drinks (options include a variety of shakes, mimosas, kombucha, beer, wine, etc).
After that we relaxed on the beach for a bit before starting back up the hill. Going back we took the Dipsea and Steep Ravine route which was shorter at about 3 miles, but steeper (including lots of steps and a 10' wooden ladder). The redwoods and low branching oaks along the later part of this trail give the area a magical feel.

For info on more hikes in the area, explore the labels on the left or click some of the links below:
North Bay Trails
California Trails 

Matt Davis Trail Heading Towards Stinson Beach

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Things to Do This Summer When Biking, Walking, or Hiking Around Sausalito, Tiburon, & Mill Valley

Every summer, as soon as the rain stops, tons of people make their way to Sausalito and Tiburon usually through some combination of biking and ferry riding. Here are some ideas for things to checkout while you are in the area!

Marin Headlands, Rodeo Beach Area: After biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, instead of cruising down the hill into Sausalito, you can turn left and go through a tunnel into the Marin Headlands. Bicyclists love biking on the roads and trails in this incredibly scenic area.

Stairs of Belvedere

Belvedere (once an island) is a beautiful town (more like a nice neighborhood) next to downtown Tiburon. Its small winding streets offer spectacular views of Tiburon, Sausalito, Angel Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, and incredible homes. On a recent stroll, we discovered that the island also has lots of steep pedestrian pathways, each with its own painted sign! If you are looking for something a bit different to do in the area, see how many of these you can do before your legs or lungs give out!

I've provided step counts, but keep in mind that not all steps are created equal. Some are steep and others are less so. Some paths had sloped sections with no steps. Also, I was walking Buddy, taking photos, and checking two mapping apps so some counts could be off by 10-20 or so. Let me know if you count a different number and I'll post averages!

The main thing to focus on here is that each route had beautiful hand-painted signs at each end. The map below shows a 2.25 mile, 1,600+ step route that takes you to most of the pedestrian paths on the island (you can zoom in or open as a larger map to get a better idea of the route). Clicking any of the photos below should open larger versions in a slideshow format.

Woodwardia - Lower 61 Steps, Upper 131 Steps

Rodeo Beach to Muir Beach, Marin Headlands

JC & JK3 recently got together in California and hiked from Rodeo Beach to Muir Beach, ate brunch at the Pelican Inn, and then hiked back.

This incredibly scenic hike in the Marin Headlands has two big ups and downs with 600-800 feet of elevation change. You can eliminate the biggest one by starting at the Tennessee Valley Trailhead instead.

As you can see on the map below, our route out varied a bit from the route we took back and each way had its pros and cons. The way out was a little longer and had more elevation change, while the way back involved a steep, challenging section that I don't recommend for inexperienced hikers or people with kids.

Going out: There is a big uphill from Rodeo Beach to Battery Townsley and beyond. We followed signs for the Coastal Trail, which is wide and even paved in places here, and then turned left onto the Wolf Ridge Trail which is dirt, single track, somewhat steep and can be slick due to loose grit, fine gravel. After a big downhill into Tennessee Valley, we crossed a small stream and a trail to the beach and then took a left followed quickly by a right to get back on the Coastal Trail.

From here, the trail heads up another big hill and then back down around Pirate Cove. The last stretch into the Muir Beach area is somewhat level before heading down. You can go left to the beach or right to go more directly to the Pelican Inn, which is a fantastic place to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner or grab a beer before turning around.

On the way back: After checking out Muir Beach and later along the trail accepting plastic eggs with candy from an adult wearing large bunny ears, we took a trail down to Tennessee Valley Beach, crossed the stream, and took a somewhat difficult to follow, incredibly steep and windy section of the Coastal Trail to get back up to Battery Townsley. This area has a maze of trails that wind through interesting old military buildings and tunnels. After doing some exploring, we headed down the hill to the parking area feeling tired, but accomplished.

Rodeo Beach

Monday, April 11, 2016

Iron Ranger Challenge: Miles 10-20 (Buffalo River Trail - Maumee to Highway 14 Bridge)

Greetings my friends!

For my second leg of the Iron Ranger Challenge, I retraced my footsteps back to a hike along the Buffalo River Trail I first traversed in February of 2013. The trail section from Highway 14 to Maumee offers scenic views and a dynamic terrain, from open vistas of the river to crossing through giant river cane fields. I used Johnnie's previous post on this blog for reminders of the trail. It was a special memory for me because I was in my second year living in Arkansas and was still getting settled in. For my and Johnnie's basically shared birthday, February 1st and 2nd respectively, we celebrated with friends by spending the weekend in Gilbert, Arkansas. We traveled to the Buffalo River for hiking and the list of trail participants went Johnnie, Angela, Justin, Laura, and Michael. All of these people are some of my favorite friends and we had an amazing time exploring the Buffalo River Trail that weekend. I have known Justin and Laura since 2005 and shared lots of good times in college and on the baseball field with Justin. And you know Johnnie, he is cool. Angela is another wonderful friend who is passionate about sustainability. And my main bro Michael Eastham is doing big things in DC, and I will be seeing him soon. They all are amazing people.

This time around I wanted to make sure to hike with friends again and not just solo like my first Iron Ranger trek. I plan to mix it up throughout the Iron Ranger Challenge between solo and shared experiences. Because of springing forward for daylight savings, there were not too many up to the morning hike, but my good friend Nick was willing and eager to join. It was his first time on this part of the Buffalo River Trail and since we didn't have the shuttling option with two cars we chose to do an out and back starting at the Maumee trailhead. This trailhead can be a bit difficult to find and I suggest using the following marker to get directions to this point, whether you are starting here or shuttling from the location.

36°01'22.7"N 92°36'59.5"W

The hike started out in a heavily wooded area and it took about a mile to get to some waterfall action. I have always found it special to hike after a heavy rainfall because you find falling water where it only happens every once and awhile. Nick and I often stopped to listen to passing water, one of my favorite sounds in the world. Any babbling brook has my attention. When you get to Mile 3 be on the lookout for a river crossing. No matter what time of year, you will be wading through water. Just to note, if your shoes get wet, you can use them again. At around Mile 3.9 you are treated to one of the best of vistas of the Buffalo River (see picture 3 below). After we took a break here, we continued to mile 5.5 where there is clear marker (see picture 5) and is when we chose to turn around. The weather could not have been better for an early spring hike and I was so happy to be outside for trek on the Iron Ranger Challenge.

Sharing the trails with my friends makes me smile inside and out. Johnnie and I also had a chance to hike this past weekend along the infamous pacific coast and we look forward to sharing that experience with you soon!

I'll be back on the Buffalo River Trail later this month. Let me know any of your favorite sections, I may just check them out and am always open to suggestions. Happy trails to you, until we meet again!

*All pictures below taken by my friend Nick*

1. Waterfall

2. Be on the Lookout for White Blazes

Bufalo River Trail

3. Buffalo River Vista

4. Trail Marker

5. Friendly PSA: Gilbert is the Coolest Town in Arkansas

6. JK3, Mark Eastham - future Iron Ranger Trek friend, Nick (from left to right)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Eagle Rock Loop - Ouachita National Forest

As a lover and avid-explorer of the Ozark mountains, I was surprised to find myself in personally-uncharted Arkansas territory. Just four hours south of northwest Arkansas sit the Ouachita mountains, a must-experience for outdoor enthusiasts. Distinct from the Ozarks in their shaping through plate collision rather than water carving, the Ouachitas offer a unique magic and array of trails of their own.

The first time I visited the Ouachitas was last summer for a leisurely weekend of camping. While heading to swim in the river we bumped into a couple, carrying hefty packs on their back. They were in the middle of backpacking a 26.8 mile loop. Inspired, we vowed to make it back during the colder months.

A weekend trip in late January finally brought myself and two others back to tackle the multi-day hike we’d been dreaming of. The Eagle Rock Loop is a connection of three trails-- Little Missouri, Athens-Big Fork, and Viles Branch Trail-- each with its own unique challenges and jewels. For those looking for an alternative to the Buffalo River Valley, or other Ozark Mountain classics, I’d highly recommend this trek. Close enough for a weekend trip, this mountainous loop offers a fresh perspective on our state, closely resembling the ecosystem of the lower Rockies.

The Eagle Rock Loop is one of thick evergreens and recurrent river crossings. It is one of steep climbs and spacious views, of physical challenge yet mental freedom, and offers those who take on the feat a rich reward around every corner. Trails carved into the faces of six different mountains, the loop leads its visitors to six unique panoramic views...

Click here to read the rest of the article over at the Fayetteville Flyer!

-Ashleigh Rose (@aroseprice) is an Arkansas native, yoga instructor, adventure-addict, and blog producer for Fayettechill Outdoors Co.

Sunrise at Eagle Rock Vista. Photo by Rush Urschel

Map and additional details  at: