Wildflowers on the Dias Ridge Trail

Looking for a gentle hike with spectacular views and a rewarding destination? The Dias Ridge Trail in Mount Tamalpais State Park, a few miles north of San Francisco, meanders just 3 miles from Panoramic Highway down to the Pelican Inn and Muir Beach.

As I hiked the trail last weekend, I discovered a few of the 20,000 or more coastal and grassland plants transplanted by volunteers before the trail opened in 2010.

Trail on hillside

Yellow and orange California poppies, pink wild geraniums, purple lupine, white iris, red Indian paintbrush, and even white wild strawberry blossoms brightened the trail.

I made way for the mountain bikers, runners, and faster hikers and dodged the abundant poison oak growing thickly among its look alike, the blackberry plant.

Shiny green leaves pf three

I stepped carefully to avoid a black beetle and watched him scurry across the dirt trail.

Black beetle near green sneaker

I listened to the sounds of rattlesnake grass when shaken by the wind and discovered that the blooming cow parsnip really does smell like warm corn tortillas.

After stunning sights of the Pacific Ocean and the ridge of Mount Tam on this warm April day, we stopped for lunch (fish and chips and a ploughman’s lunch) at the Pelican Inn.

View of Pacific Ocean in distance beyond green hills

White inn in distance at end of trail

Return to your car for a 6-mile (and more rigorous) round trip hike or send someone back up the trail to get the car, as we did. Muir Beach is only a short hike from the Pelican Inn.

If you go, follow Shoreline Highway from the Mill Valley/Stinson Beach exit off Highway 101. Turn right onto Panoramic Highway and park in one of the dirt pullouts just ahead. Follow the trailhead signs to reach Dias Ridge Trail.

Trip taken April 2013