Tie your trail shoes tight, and set out for Northern California’s most classic trail run on the Dipsea. Resting in the quiet town of Mill Valley, you can experience the trail in all its glory on the second Sunday of June for it’s annual exclusive race, or any other day for a heart racing endurance run that finishes right on the coast. It’s challenging and has tricks up its sleeve, but once you finish you’ll come back again, and again, and again. Then you’ll tell your friends, and they’ll run it too. It’s the most contagious and popular trail run out there.
What Makes It Great
The Dipsea trail is legendary. People travel across the world to run its 7.5-mile course. World-class athletes, 11-year-olds and a lot of people in between have successfully run it in record-breaking time. The narrow trail guides you through the best of coastal Northern California—giant redwoods in Muir Woods, mansions of Mill Valley, infamous fog and microclimates, and panoramic views of the Pacific coast from the edge of Mt. Tamalpais.
The Dipsea is incredibly challenging—the start alone is 700 stairs—but those who finish, get respect from the community and the greatest sense of accomplishment. It’s something everyone should at least try to start even if that means most don’t finish the first time around. Hiking it can be very peaceful and fun, but I challenge you to try running it. Trail signs are plentiful so you're sure not to lose your way, and the sights alone are distracting enough to get you through the toughest of climbs. The trail dodges sun at times, but wind and fog are just as challenging to get through. Pace yourself, watch for protruding tree trunks and low-hanging branches, and the finish at Stinson Beach will come soon enough.
Who is Going to Love It
Runners are going to love it. Hardcore runners who love to climb and descend difficult terrain and unpredictable (often foggy!) weather will also love it. Historians like it, too. It’s the oldest cross-country trail running event, this year celebrated 105 annual races. But good luck trying to get in, only 1500 runners can enter, and it sells out in minutes. Those that do well are automatically asked back for the following year. It’s a great intense run anytime of the year, showcasing beautiful coastal and redwood scenery along the way.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Start in historic downtown Mill Valley, take a left on Throckmorton Road, and another left on Old Mill Drive, pass Old Mill Park. Look for the first of four steep staircases. The trail rollercoasters its way up Mill Valley, down to Muir Woods, back up again on Mt. Tamalpais, and down to the finish at Stinson Beach on the Pacific. If you want to race on the Dipsea, there are three options—the historic Dipsea Race (happens the second Sunday of June each year) the Double Dipsea (13.7 miles, happens the third Sunday of June each year) and the Quad Dipsea (an ultra marathon, just over 27 miles, usually happens sometime in November).