Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Mill Valley, CA

  • Published 2023/04/06

Mill Valley, located in Marin County, is roughly 14 miles north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Since its incorporation in 1900, Mill Valley’s population has grown to 14,231.

Mill Valley is known as one of Marin County’s most pedestrian-friendly communities.

Mill Valley seems like a quaint European village since it is perched at the base of beautiful Mount Tamalpais.

The city boasts many natural and historical attractions, including parks, trails, and water features.

Mill Valley is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, including hikers, mountain bikers, and runners.

Here are the best things to do in Mill Valley, California:

Take a Hike at Muir Woods National Monument

Entrance arch of Muir Woods National Monument

James Kirkikis /

The stunning Muir Woods National Monument is just a short drive north of San Francisco in Marin County.

The 558-acre monument protects a rare remnant of the Bay Area’s historic redwood forest.

The tallest redwoods stand over 250 feet, some of which are about a thousand years old.

There are three main loops that visitors can follow to explore the forest, and all of them are flat and paved.

The park is also linked to trails on nearby Mount Tamalpais.

It was the tenth national monument named as such by the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Boardwalk at Muir Woods National Monument

Willowtreehouse /

The monument was named after the well-known environmentalist John Muir.

Over 380 plant and animal species live at Muir Woods National Monument.

Behind the massive trees is Redwood Creek which flows fresh and refreshing water.

Coho salmon and steelhead trout are just two of the many fish species that make their homes in the Pacific Ocean and contribute significantly to the health of ecosystems around the area.

Commune with nature at Muri Woods at 1 Muir Woods Road, Mill Valley, California.

People at Muir Woods National Monument

Sundry Photography /

Watch the Mountain Play at Cushing Memorial Amphitheater

Since 1913, Mountain Play has entertained Bay Area residents at Cushing Memorial Amphitheater.

The annual Mountain Play is an outdoor theatrical extravaganza by the Mountain Play Association to promote a sense of community and appreciation for Mt. Tamalpais.

The Mountain Play was started as a tradition in 1913 when the people of San Francisco flocked to Mount Tamalpais to take in the beauty of nature and the magic of live theater.

The Cushing Memorial Amphitheater, or the Mountain Theater, is at 801 Panoramic.

Enjoy breathtaking views of the Bay Area from this historic amphitheater on top of Mount Tamalpais.

The Mountain Play offers more than just great theater and fresh air; it also serves delicious meals.

Many bring gourmet picnics to enjoy the beautiful scenery, top-notch performances, and delicious meal.

The Memorial Amphitheater, built of stone in a Greek style and capable of holding 4,000 spectators, is well worth the trip.

There are free shuttles that will take you up the mountain.

Drive in Mill Valley’s Mt. Tamalpais State Park.

Enjoy a Picnic at Old Mill Park

Daytime view of Old Mill Park

Fabrice Florin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Old Mill Park is an excellent location for youngsters to run around and burn off energy.

You can reach Mill Valley’s Old Mill Park at the intersection of Throckmorton and Cascade.

Old Mill Park features an amphitheater, a children’s playground, picnic tables, a BBQ pit, restrooms, and the historic Reed Mill, all nestled inside a redwood grove.

Surrounded by beautiful, tall redwood trees, this playground is entertaining and educational for kids.

Let them cool off in a nearby creek.

Then, put some sandwiches together for a quick and easy lunch.

The park also has a playground in the heart of a redwood forest, perfect for kids.

There is also a historic railroad stop by the creek, complete with public art benches, perfect for parents to relax while watching their children play.

Catch Contemporary Plays at the Marin Theater Company

The illustrious Marin Theater Company stages six thought-provoking plays written by today’s leading playwrights each season.

In addition, the 99-seat studio theater hosts a four-performance Family Series for Young Audiences.

Marin Theatre Company, which has been around since 1966, is the preeminent professional theater in the North Bay and one of the best in the Bay Area overall.

To cement its status as a legitimate theatrical company, MTC opened its theater complex in 1987.

It is complete with administrative offices on site, and collaborated with other Bay Area theaters to draft the first regional equity contract.

Each year, their many educational programs help more than 8,500 students from over 40 schools in the Bay Area.

Bring your pals to watch outstanding performances at Miller Ave, Mill Valley, California.

Join a Footrace at the Dipsea Trail

Stairs of Dipsea Trail

LPS.1, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Dipsea Trail stretches over seven miles from a residential area of Mill Valley to Stinson Beach.

It follows what historians believe to be the path the Coast Miwok took when they descended the western slope of Mount Tamalpais to reach the ocean.

Taking this trail from its beginnings in downtown Mill Valley to its end in Stinson Beach is more than a seven-mile trip.

The road gained fame as the site of the Dipsea Race, the second-oldest footrace in the United States.

The Dipsea is the oldest trail event in the United States, debuting in 1905.

The event is held annually on the second Sunday of June.

The 7.4-mile path from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach is often considered one of the world’s most beautiful trails.

However, it is a challenging and risky course due to the stairs and steep trails.

The trailhead may be found in Mill Valley, California, near the crossroads of Cascade Drive, Cascade Way, and Molino Avenue.

On your way up Cascade Way, you should see signs leading to the Dipsea Trail.

Hike along the Cascade Falls Trail

The Cascade Falls Trail is a 1.1-mile loop that leads to Cascade Falls and other exciting attractions, like Cascade Falls and Three Wells, a popular swimming area.

The water that pours over the falls comes from Navajo Lake, draining out of the lake through a series of sinkholes at the eastern end of the lake.

You’ll also walk through a historic area where the first sawmill in the Bay Area was constructed in the 1830s, supplying most of the lumber used to build San Francisco.

Additionally, you can still see the remains of the summer cottages that used to dot the canyon floor.

However, most cottages have been extensively renovated and expanded into grand mansions.

The trailhead is located at Cascade Dr, Mill Valley, California.

Walk Down Throckmorton Avenue

A theatre at Throckmorton Avenue

Frank Schulenburg, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mill Valley’s downtown is one of the nicest in the Bay Area, and strolling around Throckmorton Avenue is a must.

There are many great places to shop and view art on Throckmorton Avenue and the world-famous Throckmorton Theater.

Check out the sights and eat at one of the many restaurants.

There is still a lot of the area’s historic railroad-era beauty.

Don’t miss Arte Sempre, Zio Ziegler’s exhibition, and his mural on the Throckmorton Theater’s side.

Ziegler was born and raised in Mill Valley and now lives and works in San Francisco.

Throckmorton Avenue is also home to several art galleries, such as Desta Gallery, Seager Grey Gallery, and Robert Green Fine Arts.

Visit the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts

The O’Hanlon Center for the Arts sits on two acres of magnificent woodland just one mile from the heart of Mill Valley.

It is a nonprofit art institution with a focus on the local community.

The O’Hanlon Gallery provides over 2,000 square feet of display area with two levels.

Their exhibitions represent their values of artistic inquiry, experimentation, and development.

The main goal of the O’Hanlon Center is to carry on Ann and Dick’s cultural legacy.

However, the center is always looking for new and creative ways to give back to the artists, art enthusiasts, writers, and performers who have helped it grow and thrive.

Visit O’Hanlon Center for the Arts and see their various art displays and exhibits.

They are located at Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley, California.

Enjoy Reading at Mill Valley Public Library

Interior of Mill Valley Public Library

Frank Schulenburg, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Mill Valley Public Library to learn more about the town’s history and culture.

Mill Valley Public Library is a white building surrounded by redwoods containing two bookshelves that reach from floor to ceiling.

The 27,000-square-foot Mill Valley Public Library building was constructed in 1966.

It features hand-crafted walnut furniture by Art and Tripp Carpenter and numerous oil-on-canvas works of art by artists such as Ray Strong and Ludmilla Welch.

In addition, the Lucretia Little History Room has source materials on various elements of Mill Valley life.

Enjoy peace in their outdoor reading room, where you can read or browse the internet at one of the outdoor tables.

It is located at Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley, California.

Catch Local Performances at Sweetwater Music Hall

The Sweetwater Music Hall is a modern local hangout spot with first-rate refreshments, musical performances, and other attractions.

On November 17, 1972, the first Sweetwater opened to the public and rapidly became a famous musical landmark.

This club’s modest stage has hosted a veritable who’s who of the roots and rock music world.

Unfortunately, the first Sweetwater restaurant closed in September 2007.

However, the historic brand reopened in January 2012.

While still boasting the best acoustics in the Bay Area, Sweetwater Music Hall has expanded its offerings to include various musical acts and delicious cuisine.

They are located at Corte Madera Ave, Mill Valley, California.

Take a Stroll at Tennessee Valley Trail

A beach at Tennessee Valley Trail

Erika Cuacuas /

The 1.7-mile trek to Tennessee Beach via the mostly level Tennessee Valley Trail provides spectacular views of the Pacific and surrounding areas.

More daring hikers can take one of several alternative trails into the slopes above Tennessee Valley.

Various other routes lead into the hills above Tennessee Valley, where hikers can get great views.

Enjoy a picnic on the beach with the family while exploring the unspoiled wilderness of the Tennessee Valley Trail, but leave nothing but footprints.

Wildflower lined trail at Tennessee Valley Trail

Tada Images /

See the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline from its rolling hills and rugged bluffs.

You can ride your horse, walk, or ride a bike along the trail or take a more exciting detour into the Marin Headlands.

However, keep your eyes peeled for wild animals that call this area home, such as deer, eagles, foxes, and bobcats.

You can access the Tennessee Valley Rd, Mill Valley, California area.

Go Kayaking at Bayfront Park Boat Launch

The Bayfront Park boat launch quickly became a favorite among paddlers with its convenient location and first-rate facilities.

Visitors can explore Richardson Bay and its ecosystems with the help of the park’s newly renovated public boat launch and other amenities.

The main parking lot is about a mile away from the launch facilities.

Due to its remote location from the parking lot, most visitors to Richardson Bay will likely employ watercraft like kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs).

Heron rookeries are within two miles of the takeoff, close to the mouth of Pickleweed Inlet.

Also, rafting birds rely heavily on Richardson Bay, especially in the winter.

A no-boating zone takes effect from October to March to protect migrating birds east of Strawberry Point and along Richardson’s Bay Park.

The Bayfront Park boat launch is at Sycamore Ave, Mill Valley, California.

Ride a Mountain Bike at Mount Tamalpais State Park

Scenic view of Mount Tamalpais State Park

leisina /

Mount Tamalpais State Park climbs from the middle of Marin County to the north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

Redwood and oak woods, grassy meadows, and thick chaparral cover its steep canyon walls and rolling hillsides.

Mount Tamalpais, California, stands 2,571 feet tall and is a prominent landmark in Marin County.

Redwood and oak groves predominate in the park’s landscape.

Around 25,000 acres make up the mountain’s total area.

A creek at Mount Tamalpais State Park

© Frank Schulenburg

There are various references to Mt. Tamalpais in popular culture, from songs to movies.

Mt. Tamalpais is frequently included in paintings of California landscapes due to its scenic location and towering peak.

Around 100 miles of hiking trails and hang gliding, equestrian riding, and mountain biking are available.

The Mount Tamalpais State Park also features a Greek-style amphitheater used to stage Broadway shows every spring.

The park is located at Panoramic Hwy, Mill Valley, California.

Take a Hike at Camino Alto Open Space Preserve

Located at the base of Mount Tamalpais, the Camino Alto Open Space Preserve is home to three separate moderate-to-easy treks along the area’s many fire roads.

The 170 acres of Camino Alto Open Space Preserve is home to many ecosystems, from grasslands to bay/oak forests to redwood and Douglas fir groves.

Hikers, cyclists, and equestrians enjoy the preserve’s fire roads because they provide relatively flat pathways up a ridge with vistas of San Francisco and Mount Tam.

You can also take a break to watch the horses graze on Horse Hill.

You can park at the intersection of Overhill Road and Escalon Drive and then walk onto Escalon Fire Road to enter the preserve.

Spend a few hours with your friends and enjoy the magnificent vistas and fresh air.

The park is located at Sandy Ln, Mill Valley, California.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take a Refreshing Swim at Muir Beach Overlook

Trail of Muir Beach Overlook

PhotoFires /

The Muir Beach Overlook offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, including the Point Reyes Peninsula.

Muir Beach is accessible through a 450-foot-long pedestrian bridge that links the parking lot to the beach, the Coastal Path, and the multi-use and wheelchair-accessible Kaashi Way.

Locals love the peace of Muir Beach’s lagoon, beach, and cove.

Historic base-end stations and lookout posts from the San Francisco Bay coastal defense system are also open to the public.

Since Muir Beach lacks lifeguards, visitors should exercise caution around the water.

The waters of Muir Beach

U. Eisenlohr /

Clothing-optional sunbathers congregate at the northernmost end of the beach.

Some of the historic base-end stations and observation posts of the San Francisco Bay coastal defense system are open to the public.

Wade along its shores or take a dip in its refreshing water.

The beach has no lifeguards, so visitors should exercise caution around the water.

Muir Beach Overlook is located at Muir Beach, California, 19 minutes from Mill Valley.

Picnic table along Muir Beach Overlook

Alisa_Ch /

Final Thoughts

Mill Valley offers visitors a scenic natural landscape.

There are various opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking, boating, and swimming, thanks to the area’s proximity to several national parks, such as Muir Woods.

Mill Valley also boasts a thriving arts community and a variety of successful homegrown productions, including the original Mountain Plays and Marin Theater Company.

Enjoy the best things to do in Mill Valley, California.

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