Sarah Lavender Smith is a running coach, trail-running specialist and the author of The Trail Runner’s Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Trail Running and Racing, from 5Ks to Ultras.
Basically, if there's someone out there who knows more about trail running in the Bay Area, we have yet to meet them.
Below, she gives us her opinion on the roughest, toughest trail runs in our neighborhoods, from a 10-miler through a redwood grove to the ultimate challenge: the double Dipsea.
“As a resident of the East Bay, I’m partial to Oakland’s Redwood Regional Park, and my go-to favorite trail route of approximately 10 miles that combines the French and Stream trails. You’ll find yourself in dense redwood groves and streamside, on trails that challenge you to vary your pace and occasionally downshift to power-hiking.
“Variability of terrain is at the heart of trail running, challenging the runner to be flexible and adaptable to whatever the trail presents, be it mud, rocks, steep vertical, or smooth, soft and runnable.
“For the ultimate Bay Area trail run, you should make a pilgrimage to the North Bay to do the Dipsea, twice.
“The iconic 7.4-mile trail from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach — site of the Dipsea race that dates back to 1905 — covers the best of the Bay Area in terms of terrain and views, from ferny redwood groves with gnarly, rooted footing, to open ridgetop summits with ocean views and buffed-out singletrack. But instead running or hiking it point-to-point, which is complicated logistically (How do you get back to your car at the start?), do a double Dipsea so you begin and end at Mill Valley’s Old Mill Park on Throckmorton.
“At the turnaround point in Stinson Beach, stop for a snack at Stinson Beach’s Parkside Cafe. You’ll need the calories to power through some 15 miles that include numerous stairways built into the hillsides, plus a climb to the 1360-foot high point known as Cardiac.
“Once you do the double, you might consider signing up for the annual 28-mile Quad Dipsea race held the Saturday after Thanksgiving — one of my favorite local trail races.”