On Mount Tamalpais's eastern slopes, a five-mile loop on the Matt Davis and Troop 80 trails will take you across four small creeks and through stands of California bay, Douglas fir, and live oak. You'll dip into misty redwood valleys and get sweeping views past the Marin Headlands toward San Francisco, the East Bay, and even the San Mateo County coast. Go in winter, and you might even have the trails–and rain-swollen waterfalls–mostly to yourself.
Trail making has about as long a history here as in any local parkland. Native American Hoo-Koo-E-Koo tribe members were the first trail makers here, walking the deep canyons, shady forests, and open scrubland in pursuit of deer and other game, but these two trails were named for more contemporary trail builders. Matt Davis, who worked on this segment of trail through the 1920s, lived in a small cabin on the mountain and was paid to cut trails by the Tamalpais Conservation Club. San Francisco's Ingleside Boy Scout Troop 80 cleared and built its namesake trail in 1931, replacing the old Pipeline Trail (bits of old steel pipe are remnants of a water pipeline that once ran to Mill Valley).
Getting there Take Highway 1 to the Panoramic Highway and proceed until you see the Mountain Home Inn on the right. Park across from the inn and cross the road, heading up Hogback Fire Road past the green water tank. A sign marks the Matt Davis Trail on the left at a set of stairs. Bootjack Camp, a bit past the hike's halfway point, is a perfect spot for a picnic lunch, with water and bathrooms.
Hike by Jessica Taekman, originally published in the January 2008 issue of Bay Nature magazine