Explore California: Mount Tamalpais State Park | Cal Parks

Explore California: Mount Tamalpais State Park

Published: February 3, 2020

A Coastal Mountain Overlooking the Bay

Mount Tamalpais State Park, located in Marin County, is a cherished destination of many Bay Area locals. With panoramic views, expansive hillsides, and coastal redwoods, visitors affectionately refer to this park as Mount Tam. The native people who first inhabited this area were the Coast Miwok, and “Tamalpais” is derived from their word for “bay mountain” or “coast mountain.”

The “Crookedest Railroad in the World”

In the late 1800s, the park became a huge tourist attraction due to the construction of the Mount Tamalpais Scenic Railway. The train carted visitors up the mountain, where they could explore the pastoral surroundings or indulge at the Summit Tavern (a hotel and restaurant). The route to the summit was incredibly steep and winding, earning the railway its nickname of the “Crookedest Railroad in the World.”

In 1907, the “gravity car” became a new addition to Mount Tamalpais State Park. This mode of transport was designed to take visitors from the top of the mountain down to Muir Woods. With only the force of gravity and a brake, people likened the open-air experience to a roller coaster. The gravity car attracted visitors from across the country because of the majestic views and sheer fun they had while aboard.

The Mountain Theater

Within Mount Tamalpais State Park, you’ll also find a 3,750-seat theater built of natural stone. The Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1900s, and every spring the Mountain Play Association puts on outdoor productions of Broadway musicals. This spring, Hello, Dolly! will open in May.

Hiking and Camping

Trekking on a clear day will yield sweeping views of the ocean, San Francisco, Mount Diablo State Park, and more of the surrounding Bay Area. If the weather gets foggy, you’re situated high enough that you’re above the fog – and it’s quite a sight to see it roll in! Apart from coastal hikes, the park also has trails through forests brimming with redwoods, ferns, and streams. Camping is available as well, and there are ample campgrounds to choose from. The Steep Ravine Environmental Campground is a particularly captivating place to reside, as it’s perched on a cliff next to the ocean and has both rustic cabins and primitive campsites.