We are three women planning to hike from the Marin Headlands to Olema at the end of September. We are between 63-63, in good shape and experienced hikers, but our knees are the same age that we are, so very steep or strenuous downhill stretches can pose a problem. 

From our reading, it looks like the hike from Stinson to Bolinas will be the most challenging -- particularly the Willow Camp Trail to the Coast Trail. Our question: how steep and strenuous is this section of the hike? And how much of the Stinson-to-Bolinas route is climbing or descending, as opposed to being on more flat terrain?

I realize that the question "how steep and strenuous" can be hard to answer, so as a point of comparison: last year I hiked the Matt Davis Trail out of Stinson to the Pantoll Station, then back down the Dipsea back into Stinson. It was challenging but not beyond what was manageable. I just wonder how the Stinson to Bolinas compares.

Thank you so much for any input you might have.

Elizabeth, Danielle, and Cindy

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  • Elizabeth, Danielle, and Cindy,

    I think you will love the Marin Coast Walkabout from the Marin Headlands to Olema.  It is such a beautiful stretch of the coast.  The scenery is spectacular, and you'll be hiking through open grassland hillsides and dense forests of redwoods, madrone, and pines.  Plus, you'll enjoy fun seaside villages, interesting inns, and fine dining.

    The ascent on Willow Camp Trail from Stinson Beach to Bolinas Ridge is challenging, but it sounds like its well within your capabilities.  It climbs 1,900 feet over 2.5 miles, but it is a series of long switchbacks, which makes the ascent more gradual.  It climbs through open grassland, so the views of the Pacific, Golden Gate, and on a clear day the Farallon Islands are wonderful.  The Willow Camp is comparable to the Matt Davis Trail or the Dipsea to Pantoll in elevation gain, but I find it much easier and more gradual.  The Matt Davis and Dipsea have long stretches of steep stairsteps, which I think are the hardest kind of hiking.

    The route then hikes the Coastal Trail along the Bolinas Ridge.  The descent on the McCurdy Trail is a bit steep, and the trail is not well maintained.  I can relate to your cranky knees on a long downhill, but this trail is very doable if you take it slow. 

    The hike from Bolinas to Olema has some ups and downs, but nothing too serious.

    September should be a wonderful time to hike the Marin Coast Walkabout.  Have a great time.

    Tom Courtney

    • Thank you, Tom! This is very helpful. We are looking forward to it.


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