Travel Tuesday: hike Steep Ravine trail and dig your own hot springs

Katherine Velicki/File

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As any Berkeley veteran can tell you, remaining exclusively within the bounds of this city for even a month can make you crazy. After a few semesters, virtually every building you pass on campus arouses memories of a dreaded physics final or reminds you of that class from freshman year. You’ve taken at least six girls on dates to Cheese Board by now, and you’ve toiled for hours in almost every library over the years. You could probably walk home from campus with your eyes closed.

Dedicated to our studies, our friends and our commitments at this university, most of us forget to allot some energy to exploring the unmatched beauty of the Bay Area. While last year’s series of Travel Tuesday posts focused on our favorite adventure spots within the Berkeley microcosm, we’ll be branching out a bit this spring. Whether you’ve got a bike, BART ticket or a car full of friends, we hope these suggestions make your semester especially memorable.

This week, we take you to the unparalleled ocean views and jaw-dropping redwood groves of Marin County on the Dipsea and Steep Ravine Trails. Within an hour of Berkeley, this nature hot spot can rejuvenate even the most exhausted Berkeley student.

The Reward:

If you can’t decide whether you want to be surrounded by staggering redwoods, rushing waterfalls or sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, the Steep Ravine and Dipsea trails are guaranteed to satisfy your craving for adventure. With well-maintained pathways winding through Mount Tamalpais State Park, these trails are perfect for a hilly morning run, a peaceful day hike or even a picnic under the redwoods. Still teeming with green lichen and a lingering stream, this rare gem will help you forget about California’s drought for a day!

After you’ve finished your hike, Stinson Beach is a tempting destination for tired legs. Lounging on the beach adjacent to the Steep Ravine Campground, we even stumbled on some steaming, sulfurous sand and dug our own footbaths. Rumor has it there’s a large bath submerged under the sea, but we’ll give you the scoop on that mystery when the tide is optimal.

The Trek:

Winding under leafy canopies and towering over breathtaking views, the scenic drive leading to the Steep Ravine trail is a treat in itself. Although parking is flexible, we recommend leaving your car at one of the two dirt lots on the shoulder of Panoramic Way, about 200 yards from its intersection with Highway 1. This spot puts you across the street from the Dipsea trailhead. A little under a mile into your journey on this trail, veer left at the fork labelled “Steep Ravine Trail” for a tour of redwoods, rushing streams and even a few waterfalls. We promise that this trail’s challenging incline will entitle you to a gluttonous share of Valentine’s Day candy.

To build your own hot springs, drive south on Highway 1 for about half a mile. When you see a prominent white fence to your right, park on the side of the road and follow the gated path down towards the beach. As you approach the northern end of the sandy cove, start searching for hot streams. We recommend bringing a friend with especially gifted olfactory senses to sniff out the sulfur. Whether or not you find our foot spas, this secluded beach is a perfect end to a day of adventures.

Contact Katherine Velicki at [email protected]