Forests, beaches, waterfalls: 24 hours on Mount Tam

Beatrice Aronson/Staff

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In Marin County, just an hour away from UC Berkeley, lies the forested wonderland of Mount Tamalpais State Park. Pantoll Campground offers easy access to some of the best hiking trails this park has to offer. This walk-in campground requires no reservations, so for just $25 per night, you have yourself the perfect spontaneous 24-hour getaway.

Take a hike!

After arriving at the campground and registering, my friends and I set up our campsite. We then hit the trail that starts right from the campground parking lot. The Steep Ravine Trail follows a creek down the mountainside and is full of exciting twists, turns and waterfalls! Once you’ve neared the bottom of the mountain, the trail connects to the Dipsea Trail, which takes you down the rest of the way to Stinson Beach.

Refuel, relax and recharge

After trekking down the mountain, you’re sure to be ready for some lunch. The neighborhood surrounding the beach has several dining options if you didn’t pack your own food. The grilled cheeses at the Parkside Cafe may seem a tad expensive for a sandwich from a beachside shack, but they’re most definitely worth it. After enjoying your lunch on the beach and relaxing for a while, you’ll be ready to head up the mountain.

An evening under the stars

By the time you make it back to the campground, you’ll be happy you put in the hard work of setting up your campsite ahead of time. Now all you have to do is cook dinner and enjoy an evening under the stars. Though you can still faintly hear cars driving along the road that leads to the campground, you’ll definitely feel that you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of the city below. Make sure to pack layers — it can get pretty chilly at night — and be sure to bring a padlock to secure your food. We learned the hard way that the raccoons get hungry at night!

Views to take home

The East Peak of Mount Tam is just a 20-minute drive away and the perfect place to stop by and explore before heading home in the morning. The views of the Bay Area from here are a welcome change in perspective from our own Berkeley Hills. When you’re ready to head back, you’ll be surprised how quickly you return to Berkeley after a retreat in what feels like an alternate world from our busy campus. It definitely left me wondering why I don’t do this more often!

Contact Beatrice Aronson at [email protected].