Hiking the Dipsea Trail with kids

The Dipsea trail is the oldest trail race in America.  This path is beautiful.  It starts in downtown Mill Valley at Old Mill Park where runners must ascend hundreds of stairs.  You wind through the Marin Headlands, down through parts of Muir Woods and end at Stinson Beach.  This seven mile hike is historic.  It’s famous.  It feels like you are doing something important when you walk it, probably even more substantial if you run it.

I love this hike, but hadn’t tried to do it since having my youngest son Ben five years ago.  I thought it was finally time.  We parked downtown near the Mill Valley library, as close to the start of the stairs as possible.   I had three teenagers and brought the Ergo carrier just in case Ben had a meltdown.To buy the Ergo Carrier at Amazon click here We set off through the park and hit the stairs without difficulty.  So far, so good.

I had brought water and snacks and “specialty” bread crumbs if the going really got rough.  The bribes consisted of mints, M&Ms, and fruit snacks.  We peppered the walk with songs, jokes and games.  (I Spy was difficult when Ben spied something “green.”)  It wasn’t until mile five that Ben started to drag his feet.  I gave him a landmark to reach, like a telephone poll, where he would receive a treat.  Amazingly we only needed to part with one mint and two M&Ms.  Ben never knew I had brought the carrier, that was kept in my backpack for emergencies only.

We stayed on the Dipsea trail the whole way. We didn’t take any of the shortcuts known to race runners.  (We had done that last time, when Asher was small and that had turned into a minor crisis.  He had run ahead, hit the main path and gone left rather than right, taking him back toward Muir Woods, instead of Stinson beach.  When we arrived at that same intersection, we turned right toward Stinson.  That had been a stressful hour until we got a call from some hikers who had found him sitting in the middle of the path waiting for us to catch up.)

The hike took us a little more than three hours.   When we got to Stinson Beach the kids were rewarded with ice cream from The Parkside.  We were planning on riding the Stagecoach shuttle back over the hill and so we had a couple of hours to play at the beach.  The Stagecoach stopped both in the Stinson Beach parking lot and near the park in town.  It was right on time and the price could not be beat with adult fares at $2 and teenagers at $1.   We got off at the top of the hill by the Mountain Home Inn and then took the stairs back down the hill.  This worked out to be easier than taking the shuttle all the way to Tam High and having to walk along Miller to retrieve the car.