A classic hike to the West Point Inn is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. There’s horseshoe set up for the gamers, picnic tables for the traditionalists, and on the occasional summer Sunday, there are pancake breakfasts for the adventurous. From the Mountain Home Inn on Panoramic Highway, there are a number of different gentle trails that can get you to the secluded, 1900s rustic inn, and then there is Hogback Trail. It’s a step up from the easy-going zigzag trails, and cuts your total hike time in half. For about a mile, it is straight up (think 15% grade on a rocky fire road) along Mt. Tam’s eastern ridge. If you want a good heart racing, leg-burning hike, or need to train for your next mountaineering climb, this is the perfect option for you.
What Makes It Great
Hogback Trail is good for the venturesome with not a lot of time for a hike. It’s all in the sun, (and on a hot day, the sun bakes the trail, so wear light colors and bring water) and as you climb the crumbling red rocks, the view continues to gets better and better— near the top to your right you can see the whole Bay, from the Richmond Bridge to the San Francisco skyline, and to the left, glace at the open sea of Redwoods, the ocean just barely peeking out behind them. After a mile, Hogback flattens out, morphing into the gradually climbing Old Railroad Grade fire road the rest of the way to West Point Inn.
Hogback is a great short cut up the otherwise long and winding Railroad Grade. You enjoy the same sweeping panoramic views, just having to work a little harder for them.
Who is Going to Love It
Adventure-types who are curious and up for a challenge. This is not a Sunday stroll, and young kids will be miserable (save the frustration and take them on Railroad Grade). Instead it’s an intense ascent that requires some concentration to avoid slipping on the rocks. You’ll probably see one or two crazy people running up Hogback, but for the rest of us, a moderately paced walk up the ridge is enough for a good workout. When you get to the top, you’ll join the rest of the crowds hiking on Railroad Grade to West Point Inn, secretly proud of your short cut.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Traveling North on Highway 101, take the Stinson Beach exit. Turn left on Shoreline Highway and follow the signs to Mt. Tam (not Muir Beach). Shoreline turns into Panoramic Highway, following along the road for about 2 miles, stopping at the Mountain Home Inn. Turn left in the parking lot and hopefully one of the 26 spots will be open (not likely on weekend afternoons). Park your car and cross the street, veering left past the Fire Station and up Hogback. Take the same route back down for a good quad challenge, but use caution because it's easy to fall.
As tempting as it is, mountain biking is strictly prohibited, don’t even try, you’ll get fined.
Weekdays are quiet and empty, weekends are energetic with all types of people hiking to the Inn.