Hiking with Kids in Marin: Tennessee Valley Trail
December 31, 2011Posted by pamela |
Tennessee Valley near Mill Valley is one of the most popular hiking and outdoor recreation spots in all of Marin County, and when you visit it, the reasons for this popularity become readily apparent. Tennessee Valley Trail, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is a perfect trail for families, and can be easily navigated using a jogging or offroad-capable stroller. With few hills, the 3.4-mile round trip hike out to the beach at Tennessee Cove and back is easily managable by hikers and mountain bikers of all ages.
Tennessee Valley Trail is also quit popular with equestrians. Miwok Livery Stables is actually located on-site, so expect to see horses pretty often.
Tennessee Valley Trail winds through the coastal hills to the beach at Tennessee Cove, and offers spectacular scenery along the way. At the end of the trail is a sandy beach where you can relax, have a picnic, and let the kids play in the sand. Like many beaches on the Northern California coast, this one is unsafe for swimming and wading with rough surf and dangerous rip currents, so heed the posted warnings and keep clear of the water.
Tennessee Valley is named not for the state, but for the Pacific Mail steamship Tennessee that ran aground and wrecked here in 1853. All passengers and crew and most of the cargo made it off safely, but the ship was a total loss. Low tide often reveals wreckage on the beach, including the ship's anchor and parts of her steam engine.
Start your hike on the paved path at the Tennessee Valley trailhead. After about a half mile the pavement ends and the trail turns into a wide dirt path. Look for wildflowers and wildlife along the way. We've seen deer, hawks, bobcats, and great horned owls on our hikes there.
About a mile out you'll come to a fork in the trail. Bear right to continue on the main Tennessee Valley Trail. Taking the left fork will put you on the Lower Tennessee Valley trail, which has few hills and a slightly shorter distance. Lower Tennessee Valley Trail can get muddy during the rainy season, though.
When you're through playing or relaxing at the beach, retrace your steps back to the trailhead. Taking Lower Tennessee Valley Trail back allows you to avoid the one large hill on the primary Tennessee Valley Trail, so we definitely recommend that families use that route on the return trip.
If You Go
Tennessee Valley Trail is only a few minutes away from Highway 101, and owes much of its popularity to this proximity to civilization. It can get very crowded here, especially on weekends, so visit during the week or try to get there before 9 am on weekends and holidays.
To get to Tennessee Valley, take the Highway 1 exit from US 101 and take Highway 1 toward Tam Valley. Turn left onto Tennessee Valley Road and follow about a mile and a half to the parking lot at the Tennessee Valley Ttrailhead. On busy days the lot fills up rapidly, and cars are often parked along the road for some distance.
Pit toilets are available at the trailhead, and there's a port-a-potty at about the half-way point on the main Tennessee Valley Trail. No drinking water or food is available, so make sure to pack in your own.
As with other places on the Marin County coast, weather here can be unpredictable. On our last trip conditions varied from sunny near the trailhead to dense fog at the beach. Dress in layers and bring along a windproof shell or parka. Hiking boots and sturdy walking or athletic shoes are recommended for this hike. There's little shade along the way, so hats and sunscreen are a must, too.