Mill Valley offers visitors and residents a variety of things to do. The beautiful scenery in the city and idyllic surroundings at the foot of Mount Tamalpais makes it a lovely retreat from the busy streets of San Francisco. Although San Francisco is less than 15 miles away, Mill Valley is a different world making it so easy to take a short (or long) break to enjoy the sights and pleasures of this charming small city.
There are several must see sights and activities where you can find many things you can do depending on your interests and time.
Mount Tamalpais is an imposing presence that presides over Mill Valley. You can see the mountain from anywhere in Mill Valley, so some say it is the heart and soul of Mill Valley. Proud, tall and untouched, the East Peak of Mount Tamalpais (called Mt. Tam affectionately by residents) rises 2,571 feet above sea level. It is the highest point in Marin County and offers a stunning 360-degree view of the surrounding hills and up to Farallon Islands on a clear day.
Coastal Miwok Indians who lived in the area for centuries before European settlers arrived called the mountain, Tamalpais. In 1770, two explorers named the mountain La Sierra de Nuestro Padre de San Francisco, it was later changed back to the Miwok name.
Mt. Tamalpais covers about 25,000 acres covered in redwood groves and oak woodlands. There’s a network of nearly 200 miles of trails in the mountain. Bicyclists may ride only on fire trails, while horses are permitted on fire trails and other designated trails which are indicated by signs. Some of the popular hiking trail loops begin at Pantoll Ranger Station, Rock Spring and Bootjack. You can go to Muir Woods from Pantoll or Bootjack and Muir Woods has a wheelchair-accessible path through the redwood groves.
Campers may stay in the Pantoll, Steep Ravine and Alice Eastwood Campgrounds. There is a day-use picnic area at Bootjack, and simple rooms and cabins for overnight stays at West Point Inn, a century-old getaway.
Mt. Tamalpais State Park, 801 Panoramic Highway, Mill Valley, CA 94941; 415-388-2070
Tennessee Valley Trail
Mill Valley is blessed with a grand view of Mount Tamalpais and beautiful natural surroundings. A close and easy, gentle trail is the Tennessee Valley Trail in Tamalpais Valley. Tennessee Valley got its name from the steamship Tennessee which hit a reef near the Golden Gate before the first Point Bonita Lighthouse was built in 1855. All aboard the Tennessee survived the 1853 accident but the ship was destroyed.
To get to Tennessee Valley Trail, turn off Shoreline Highway to Tennessee Valley Road, and continue for about 1½ where the road stops. This is the parking lot of the trailhead. Walk to the trail’s endpoint and, if the tide is low, you can see the Tennessee's anchor and part of its engine on the beach.
The trail is a little more than two miles in each direction. The first half-mile of the trail is paved and then turns into a dirt path. The trail is also open to pedestrians and bicyclists. Past the halfway mark, the trail slopes but it is gentle enough for even pushing a stroller.
At the end of the trail you can see the lagoon and the Pacific Ocean. If you want to test the waters, you’ll find it cold through the year. Allow for 45 minutes to an hour in each direction to walk the Tennessee Valley Trail.
Mill Valley Film Festival
The Mill Valley Film Festival is a showcase for independent and world cinema. Over the years Mill Valley Film Festival has had such critical success that filmmakers and film lovers converge in Mill Valley to enjoy the international features, documentaries, shorts and children's films at this prestigious and noncompetitive event. As they say there’s something for everyone who loves film.
The Mill Valley Film Festival was founded in 1978 by California Film Institute Director Mark Fishkin. The films shown at the Festival are hand-picked. Up and coming filmmakers want to be seen here as the Festival has launched new films and new filmmakers.
This year the Mill Valley Film Festival will be held October 4-14. It is presented by the California Film Institute at the CinéArts@Sequoia and 142 Throckmorton Theatre (Mill Valley), Century Cinema (Corte Madera) and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (San Rafael)
Angel Island is one of the many islands in San Francisco Bay that stands out as a historical venue for many cultures. It was the first place where immigrants from Asia landed when they immigrated to the United States.
Starkly beautiful and wind-swept, the island is now a historic landmark with activities for visitors to enjoy. Plan at least a half day at Angel Island to catch the ferry and tour the island leisurely.
Dining and Activities
The Cove Cafe open seven days a week offers fresh made-to-order items including soups, sandwiches, salads, snacks, drinks, beer and wine.
Cove Cantina Oyster Bar serves oysters and beer overlooking a beautiful view of Ayla Cove and the Tiburon coast. Enjoy live music from local bands every Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Cove Cantina's deck during the summer.
A one-hour tram tour is a great way to see the island and take in the spectacular views of the Bay Area.
Bike rentals for men's and women's mountain bikes are available for $10 an hour or $35 for a full day. The paved five-mile road circling the island is an easy ride with plenty of places to stop and take in views of the entire Bay Area.
There are two-hour guided segway tours of Angel Island. Segways are personal electric transportation devices. Training is provided, and this tour is great for anyone 16 years or older.
Take two-hour guided tours on electric mountain scooters. Training is provided, and this tour is great for anyone 16 years or older.
Angel Island offers a variety of hikes at various skill levels, and the beaches are secluded, sheltered and absolutely beautiful.
Angel Island has a variety of native flora and fauna. Sometimes seals and sea lions visit the island, thousands of migrating birds roost here on their way north or south, and shoals of fish navigate the Raccoon Strait, the channel of water between Tiburon and Angel Island. Aside from park vehicles and touring trams, no motor vehicles can be found on the island. Hiking trails circle Angel Island and climb to the peak of 781-foot Mt Livermore, which gives you a breathtaking 360-degree view of the Bay and the surrounding area.
From Mill Valley it is a 15 minute drive to Tiburon where you can catch the Ferry to Angel Island.
Other places if you are looking for things to do:
Mill Valley Air Force Station