Verna Dunshee Trail - Mt Tamalpais Summit, Mt. Tamalpais State Park - East Peak Visitor Center, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California

Verna Dunshee Trail - Mt Tamalpais Summit - 0.7 miles

Mt. Tamalpais State Park - East Peak Visitor Center

North Bay views from the East Peak of Mt Tamalpais

North Bay views from the East Peak of Mt Tamalpais

Round-Trip Length: 0.7 miles (1.3 roundtrip if Plank Walk is hiked)
Start-End Elevation: 2,351' - 2,351 (2,571' max elevation at Gardner Lookout)
Elevation Change: 0' net elevation change (+240 total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Verna Dunshee Trail - Mt Tamalpais Summit - 0.7 Miles Round-Trip

The Verna Dunshee Trail is an easy, handicap accessible loop around the East Peak of Mt Tamalpais. The trail provides 360 degree views across the Bay Area including downtown San Francisco, Mt Tamalpais State Park, Point Reyes, the Farallon Islands and Mt Diablo.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The paved path leaves from the east end of the parking lot and is clearly marked by a sign for the Verna Dunshee Trail. It heads southeast with unabated views of the Pacific Ocean.

The trail rounds the summit through rocky outcrops and stands of manzanita and chamise. Rattlesnakes are known to inhabit this rocky area, so exercise caution when scrambling about (staying on the trail is highly recommended).

At .3 miles, the trail intersects with the Temelpa Trail, a well known route for those wishing to summit Mt Tamalpais on foot (as opposed to driving directly to the summit).

After the Temelpa Trail intersection, the Verna Dunshee Trail continues around the north side of the mountain with a revealing look at the Mt Tamalpais watershed. Four main lakes comprise the watershed: Alpine Lake, Bon Tempe Lake, Phoenix Lake and Lake Lagunitas.

Shortly before its terminus, the trail passes through an interpretive area that explains the history of the Mt Tamalpais Scenic Railway and arrives back at the parking area at .7 miles.

To reach the true summit, a separate trail named Plank Walk leads from the parking area to Gardner Lookout, a watch tower built to monitor forest fires. A short .3 mile walk up to the lookout is worthwhile - on a clear day you can see into nine different NorCal counties.

History of the Mt Tamalpais Scenic Railway

The Mt Tamalpais Scenic Railway was completed in 1896, designed to carry visitors from Mill Valley to the summit of Mt Tamalpais. Located atop the summit were a hotel, tavern and restaurant. A gravity car line was built in 1907 to take visitors down from the summit to Muir Woods.

These open- air gravity cars left from the summit requiring only 'gravity and a brake' to take people down to Muir Woods. The addition of the gravity line enabled visitors to easily travel from Mill Valley to Mt Tamalpais to Muir Woods and then back to Mill Valley.

This became a popular loop route for tourists and residents alike. A replica of a gravity car is located at the barn just before the end of the trail.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N37 55.645 W122 34.761 — 0.0 miles: Verna Dunshee Trailhead - 2,351'
  • N37 55.688 W122 34.597 — 0.3 miles: Temalpa Trail junction - 2,353'
  • N37 55.645 W122 34.761 — 0.7 miles: End of Verna Dunshee Trail - 2,351'

Worth Noting

  • There's a fee to park at the East Peak Summit. Credit cards are accepted.

  • The East Peak Summit area has picnic tables, restrooms and a Visitor Center, which is staffed only on weekends. A refreshment stand is located adjacent to the Visitor Center, but is staffed intermittently only during the summer.

  • Many believe that Mt Tamalpais was borne from a once active volcano. Geologists now believe that the mountain's creation is related to its proximity to the San Andreas Fault - one of the world's most active earthquake zones. Millions of years of geologic activity have pushed the mountain up and out of the Earth's crust, forming Mt Tamalpais.

  • Common types of rock in the Mt Tamalpais area include: sandstone, shale, chert, quartz tourlamine and greenstone. Also found is 'green serpentine' rock, the official state rock of California.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backcountry camping is not permitted within Mt Tamalpais State Park.

Pantoll Campground

  • The Pantoll Campground is located on Panoramic Highway adjacent to the Pantoll Ranger Station. It has 16 campsites, each with a table, rock barbecue, food locker and space for a tent. Phones, faucets, firewood and flush toilets are nearby. There are no showers. Sites are first-come, first-served.

Steep Ravine Environmental Campground

  • The Steep Ravine Environmental Campground is located on a coastal terrace off Highway 1, one mile south of Stinson Beach. It has nine rustic cabins and seven primitive campsites. Each cabin has a wood stove, picnic table, benches, sleeping platforms and outdoor bbq.
  • Cabins do not have running water or electricity. Primitive toilets, faucets, and firewood are nearby. Primitive campsites are located a few hundred yards from the parking area. Each site has a table, fire pit, food locker and space for a tent. Primitive toilets and water faucets are nearby. There are no showers at Steep Ravine Campground.

Alice Eastwood Group Camp

  • Alice Eastwood Group Camp is located off Panoramic Highway on Alice Eastwood Road. It has two campsites. Site A holds up to 50 people; Site B holds up to 25 people. Both sites have tables, flush toilets, water faucets with sinks, bbq grills and a large area for tents.

Frank Valley Group Horse Camp

  • Frank Valley Group Horse Camp is located 1.5 miles West of Muir Woods National Monument on Muir Woods Road. It has 12 pipe corrals, water faucets, watering troughs, picnic tables, fire rings and a pit toilet. The minimum group size is 2 horses; the maximum size is 12 horses.
  • To reserve a campground visit or call 800.444.7275. For specific camping and campground questions, call Pantoll Ranger Station at 415.388.2070.

Rules and Regulations

  • Bikes are not permitted on the Verna Dunshee Trail.

  • The park is generally open 7am - Sunset.

Directions to Trailhead

From US Highway 101 in Mill Valley, take the "CA 1 / Stinson Beach" exit and go about 1 mile to the Almonte Blvd intersection. Turn left on Shoreline Highway (CA 1). Take Shoreline Highway for 3 miles to Panoramic Highway and turn right. Take the Panoramic Highway for 6 miles to Pantoll Road and turn right. Take Pantoll Road to for 1 mile to East Ridgecrest Blvd and turn right. Follow East Ridgecrest Blvd for 3 miles until it dead ends into the parking area.

Contact Information

Mt. Tamalpais State Park
801 Panoramic Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941

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