Mark Stevens, November 2019
I took a few days off at the beginning of November to celebrate my wife’s birthday at a place that we both hold dear: West Point Inn on the wind-swept ridges of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. For three days we hiked the numerous trails surrounding the Inn, ate delicious meals, and enjoyed the company of our two grown daughters who made the trip up to join us from their busy lives in the Bay area. This was a rare treat!
For those who are unfamiliar with the story of West Point Inn, it was built in 1904 and was a brief stop on what was then known as the “crookedest railroad in the world” where passengers could meet a stage coach bound for the beach. The railroad is gone now but the West Point Inn remains as an “off the grid” haven for hikers and a monument to the rich historic heritage of our region. The Inn offers sweeping panoramic views of the East Bay, parts of San Francisco, the Marin Headlands, one tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Pacific Ocean.
Back in the day, it was a place where trains met a horse-drawn stagecoach from Willow Camp (today’s popular Stinson Beach) and it provided hospitality for visitors at the westernmost point of the railroad—hence the name “West Point Inn.” The stagecoach service ended in 1915; between 1918 and 1920 the Inn’s porch was enlarged and a dining room added. The West Point Inn and its cabins are the only things left of the railroad and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1930 the railroad abandoned operations and the Inn came under the jurisdiction of the Marin Municipal Water District. The Inn became popular with weekend hikers but was abandoned during WWII due to lack of profitability. In 1943 volunteers began running the Inn and their ideas are the basis of how the Inn is run today.
West Point Inn remains a unique destination for many and a rite of passage among serious mountain bikers, where it’s argued that Mount Tam was the birthplace for that sport. To get a reservation at the Inn, members pay a $20 fee and volunteer for three workdays or public pancake breakfasts and can reserve 120 days in advance. Non-members are limited to a 90-day reservation window. The Inn hosts seven rooms in the inn, and five cabins where you can bring your camping gear and meals.
This time around we spent three lovely days at the Inn, hiking, relaxing and spending time together as a family briefly reunited. It was a lovely and much appreciated pause from our everyday routine. West Point Inn is truly a unique gem in our region and if you’ve never been, be sure to put it on your bucket list.