First, let me welcome you back to Sausalito Waterfront! After a seven-month-or-so hiatus, the blog is back. With any luck, the posts will become regular for a while again, at least until school starts stealing all my time.

Second, the rebirth of the blog now includes a new section, Sausalito Hiking. While obviously still in it’s infancy, the ultimate goal of this section is to build up a post for as many of the hiking trails in and around Sausalito as I can. So, to the point then.

Tennessee Valley is “an amazing offshoot of the Marin,¬†with hiking trails to suit the whole family,” according to the National Park Service. The Tennessee Valley, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, stretches from Highway 1 and Tam Junction all the way to the Pacific Ocean. To get to the trailhead, turn West off of Highway 1 onto Tennessee Valley Road just South of Tam Junction. If you go on a weekend, you’ll probably be able to find it simply because the car ahead of you will be turning there too.

At the end of the road, there is a dirt and gravel parking lot as well as lots of stables. The parking lot seems enormous, but be warned, it fills up early on the weekends. Fortunately, there are lots of places to park off the side of Tennessee Valley Road as well.

The parking lot is to the left. Yes, that paved road is, in fact, the "trail."

The “trail” starts at the West end of the parking lot. But calling it a trail is a bit misleading. More correctly, it’s a road with a gate across it. It’s paved at first, turning to dirt after the first half mile or so. The Tennessee Valley Trail is the main artery along the valley floor. There are lots of other trails that cross the valley, but thank’s to the GGNRA’s excellent signage, you’d have to be very dull indeed to get lost.

The Upper Valley Trail allows for some views of the beach and the nearby wetlands of the valley floor.

About two thirds of the way to the coast, the trail splits into the Upper and Lower Valley Trails. They both go to the exact same place, so I opted to take the high road on the way out and the low road on the way back. And the verdict? It doesn’t really matter. The Upper trail (which isn’t really very “upper” at all) offers some nice views of the valley floor and the beach. The Lower trail does without the view, but is more like a trail than a road. Also, the lower trail is closed to bikers and horses, making it a more pleasant place to hike. No dogs are allowed anywhere in Tennessee Valley except on the Coastal Trail.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area has been around since 1972.....This photo, however, has been around since only this morning. Technology = Win

After 1.7 miles, the trail ends at Tennessee Beach, which could best be described as a miniature version of Muir Beach. Most of the valley was blanketed by coastal fog when I visited, but on a nice day it would be a great beach to enjoy. I’m from Hawaii, so I’m not one to ever use the blanket statement “No Swimming,” but the shore break is pretty rough. Use you’re judgement, and don’t go in the water if you’re helpless and going to drown.

Just like a miniature of Muir Beach, complete with a stream and everything.

Since the trail dead ends at the beach, the return route is the same, and flew by surprisingly quick. At about 3.5 miles round trip, a quick hiker can do the round trip in an hour, but an hour and a half of actual hiking is probably a better guess for the average person.

People with babies made up a sizable chunk of the trail users.

Thoughts? The valley and beach are both beautiful, and it’s cool to find a beach tucked so far away from roads–hiking to a beach gives a much greater sense of accomplishment than driving does. But that said, the mobs of hikers and bikers make this hike less than ideal if you hike to be left out in nature. This is definitely one to do on a weekday. It’s so short and so easy, you really have no excuse. So go do it!