Trail of the Week 35: Tamalpais to Arlington Path (#9)

mch and environs mapYou could be forgiven for not having noticed this week’s trail. One end is on a sharp curve on the hillside’s busiest street; the other is on a steep and narrow section of a one-block-long residential road. On one side you might speed past, on the other you’re probably watching the crest of the hill for the possibility of oncoming traffic. Either way the narrow entrances to this path and stairway are easy to miss. But the Tamalpais to Arlington Path is a useful shortcut for those in the area on foot.

Tamalpais Avenue nearly forms a tangent line to the sharpest part of the curve of Arlington Boulevard as it approaches Cutting Blvd.  from the south. At their closest approach they are less than 20 feet apart, separated only by two sidewalks, a railing and a concrete retaining wall. Why the city didn’t build a stairway there we may never know. But 250 feet south on Tamalpais is the hedge-lined entrance to the trail they did build.
Waiting by the path
The path starts straight east, up 9 small flights of four stairs each. The path is concrete and there are railings on both sides of the stairs. All told this section of the trail is about 100 feet long and rises about 25 feet. Near the middle of the path it curves slightly south, before turning in a north-easterly direction. The last section of the trail is no more than 50 feet long and rises 15 feet via a single flight of stairs. These are steeper than the stairs below, but are shaded by a stand of young redwoods on the southeast side of the steps. At the top of the stairway the railings continue as a fence beside the sidewalk on Arlington. The sidewalk is concrete at the top, but in either direction there are short stretches of wooden walkway. The roadway is curved here and traffic tends to be fast, especially on the opposite, down hill side, but the trail entrance is on the outside of the curve so visibility is good.

Traffic passes the redwood shaded top

Traffic passes the redwood shaded top

Once you’ve reached Arlington there are several possible attractions to visit in the area. Almost directly across the Arlington is Murietta Rock.  This rock is on private property, but is apparently it gets some public use. The best views are from Arlington on the other side of Cutting. The closest nearby trail on our list is Highland Walk, but there is no direct access to the nearest end, so the easiest way to get there is to go south and east on Arlington to the next intersection, at Scenic. If you continue farther along the Arlington you’ll come to the end of Potrero. Starting down Potrero will take you to the entrance of Motorcycle Hill trail on one side of the street and the Julian Steps on the other. If you continue further down you can see the Madera Open Space behind the houses on the south side of the street and further down is Douglas Drive, which has an entrance to the southern portion of the Hillside Natural Area.

Save this space

Space worth saving?

If instead you go down the path to Tamalpais Ave., a left turn will take you down hill to the intersection of Tamapais and Fairview. Looking south and east you can see the largest remaining privately owned open space left in the city. A large creek forms the southern edge of the property, and it is most easily reached from this side. Beyond it is the northern part of the Hillside Natural Area, but there is no easy trail connection to either the top of Motorcycle Hill or Snowdon complex of trails. This open space is now i danger of being developed, filling it with houses, potentially blocking creek access and depriving the city of a natural extension of the Hillside Natural Area. Keep on eye on this site in the coming months for updates as more information becomes available.


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