Mill Valley is a city in Marin County, in the North Bay region of the Bay Area of California. The city begins in the canyons and ridges at the base of Mount Tamalpais and extends into a broad valley that reaches the Richardson Bay portion of the San Francisco Bay.
Mill Valley, Mt Tam and the bay. (photo by Stephen Sommerhalter)
Mill Valley is easiest to see by car. From Highway 101 take the Mill Valley/Tiburon Blvd exit or the Mill Valley/Stinson Beach exit.
Buses from San Francisco drop off along the highway. Commuter buses run into downtown as well as to and from the ferry in nearby Tiburon.
The Golden Gate Transit District operates ferries between the Ferry Building in San Francisco and Sausalito. The ferry schedule is on the District's web site. These ferries accomodate bicyles, and many San Francisco visitors use the Sausalito ferry and rental bikes to visit Mill Valley, which is approximately 6 miles (nearly all flat) from the Sausalito ferry landing.
While downtown is nice to see on foot, the parks and woods are best reached by car. Mountain bikes were invented near here, and remain a popular way to get around.
Mill Valley Mill -- Not much remains of the original structure, but it's a pretty spot in a redwood lined riverbed. A railroad car from the Old Railroad Grade--the main route up Mt. Tamalpais for sightseers in the early-1900s--stands opposite the mill. This is the Old Mill Park on Throckmorton Avenue, about five minutes by foot from downtown Mill Valley. Although the redwoods here are not as large as the grove in Muir Woods, a visit to Old Mill Park can serve as a modest substitute to Muir Woods which can present parking problems and which is accessible by bicyle only via challenging hills.
Frank Valley (Muir Woods) Road (Golden Gate Transit #66), Phone: +1 415 388-2596, . 8AM-sunset every day. $3.
The Muir Woods National Monument. is home to 560 acres (2.2 km2) of unlogged stands of old-growth redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens), and is one of the few remaining places where these trees (the tallest living things on the planet) can be seen in their full glory. Many of the redwoods are over 300 (90 m) feet tall, 20 feet (6 m) in diameter and 2000 years old. The woodland is served by a number of board-walks and other walking trails where visitors can get a close look at the magnificent trees.
Hikes Mill Valley is the starting point for a number of long hikes in the redwood forests of Mount Tam and beyond to the coast. The most famous hike is the Dipsea Trail a challenging route beginning with three long, steep stairways leading up from Old Mill Park and ending at Stinson Beach 7.1 miles later. The annual Dipsea Race is in June, although the trail can be run or hiked any time. The West Marin Stagecoach is a bus that runs from Stinson Beach back to Mill Valley, stopping approximately one mile from downtown. The Dipsea Trail is not well marked, so first timers should consider carrying a guidebook.
Green Gulch Farms & Zen Center, 1601 Shoreline Highway, Phone: +1 415 383-3134, . Daily Meditation 8:30AM. Weekend and longer retreats and various workshops in Zen practice and organic farming.
Depot Bookstore A famously nice spot with a cafe and excellent selection of books.
For a small town, Mill Valley has a wide range of excellent restaurants from cozy local joints to upscale eateries.
Toast, 31 Sunnyside Ave. For great breakfast foods where the locals eat.
Small Shed Flatbreads, 17 Madrona St. Delicious local, organic artisan flatbread pizzas, fresh salads, and soul-warming comfort foods.
Piazza D'Angelo, 22 Miller Av. A Marin institution, D'Angelo's is no simple pizza place. Casual-dressy Italian food. Reservations recommended on weekends or holidays. $16-$20
La Ginestra, 127 Throckmorton Av. Great family-style Italian food including pizza and ravioli.
Joe's Taco Lounge, 382 Miller Av. Healthy Californian-Mexican. Seafood tacos and burritos are their specialty, but the decor is worth the trip. $5-$10
El Paseo Restaurant, 17 Throckmorton Ave. For a delicious, and rather expensive, dinner out, try this upscale Italian/California cuisine restaurant and Mill Valley institution.
Vasco Mill Valley, 106 Throckmorton Ave at Miller Ave. Casual, friendly, family-owned Italian that is popular with the locals. The menu includes meat, fish and pasta; and, they have a wood burning oven for the pizzas and other roasted items.
Sweetwater Saloon, 153 Throckmorton Av., Phone: +1 415 388-2820, . Local bar and music venue with a surprisingly Big Name shows. The Sweetwater has closed at this locaion and expects to re-open just around the corner soon.
The 2AM Club, 382 Miller Avenue. A local watering hole made famous when the interior was shown on a Huey Lewis album cover. The cover showed, behind the bar, a guitar made out of a wooden toilet seat, crafted by a local artisan. The guitar is still there.
Buckeye Roadhouse, 15 Shoreline Hwy, Mill Valley CA 94941 415.331.2600
Budget options (a relative word in Marin County) can be found along Highway 101 -- the further north you go, the more reasonable they will be. Other, more romantic options are scattered on the mountain behind town.
Alpine Lodge 730 Panoramic Hwy and Echo Summit Lodge. Located on Mt. Tamalpais are open to California Alpine Club Members and their guests, Alpine Lodge is open as a hostel-style B&B on some weekends in July and August.
Tam Valley Bed & Breakfast, 508 Shasta Way, Phone: +1 415 383-8716, . $170-$190.
Holiday Inn Express, 160 Shoreline Highway, +1 415 332-5700, .
Acqua Hotel, 555 Redwood Hwy, +1 415 380-0400, . Part of the Joie de Vivre Hotels collection of boutique hotels. Easy highway access and rooms with a view of Richardson Bay.
Mill Valley Inn, 165 Throckmorton Avenue, +1 415 389-6608, . An intimate, small hotel tucked away in a redwood grove at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais, just steps away from the bustling town plaza.
Mill Valley has a very low crime rate, thanks to high property values and insulation by other exclusive towns like Tuburon, Larkspur, and Corte Madera. Prevalance of dangerous crimes is low enough to actually induce stricter enforcement of traffic infractions, since the police would not have much to do otherwise.
Common sense should prevail, though. Do not hike alone when rambling across the trails in Mill Valley and Mt. Tamalpais. The likelihood of having a negative encounter during a hike is minimal, but you will benefit greatly with the aid of another person should you meet an unsavory character--animal or human--along the way.
Poison Oak. Poison oak thrives along the trails of Mill Valley and in Marin County generally. This is just one more reason to stay on the trail.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!