How Long Does It Take To Hike The Dipsea Trail?

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The Dipsea Trail is the oldest trail race in the United States. This beautiful and scenic trail is home to a yearly trail run that traditionally takes place on the second Sunday of June. Don’t worry if you aren’t much of a trail runner; this route is also great for hiking!

It takes, on average, between 3 to 4 hours to hike the Dipsea Trail – depending on one’s pace. This route is often used for trail running and is completed in around 1 to 2 hours. The Dipsea Trail is 7.5 miles long and is considered quite difficult. It should only be attempted by fit individuals.

The Dipsea Trail is a must-do when staying in California. However, this trail is not a leisurely Sunday stroll but rather a pretty intense 7.5 miles. Lucky for you, we have outlined some of the must-knows about the Dipsea Trail. Read on to find out more!

How Long Does It Take To Hike The Dipsea Trail?

Depending on how fast you walk, it takes around 3 to 4 hours to hike the Dipsea Trail. If you’re a fit trail runner, you could manage to complete it in about 1 to 2 hours.

The Dipsea Trail is rated as a difficult hike so ensure that you are fit enough to hike this trail. Even the fittest of the fittest says that this hike is nothing to be taken lightly.

This scenic hike may seem relatively short with only 7.5 miles – so why does it take that long to complete it? The answer is (as mentioned previously) this hike is not easy and will take time with the frequent breaks you may need.

The Dipsea Trail starts with a grueling 688 steps in Old Mill Park. At this point, your muscles have not even had a chance to warm up yet, let alone climb up what seems like an endless number of stairs. These 688 steps are broken into only three flights. Therefore, the beginning can be tricky if you are not fit enough.

Another challenge with this hike is that, after that crazy amount of steps, the upwards climb is not over. The rest of this hike comprises intense ups and downs, so expect more climbing to come.

Aside from the various challenges of hiking the trail, there is a lot of foot traffic. The Dipsea Trail is very popular and notoriously known for being frequently overcrowded. Getting stuck behind slow walkers is a common complaint made by avid hikers who just want to get going. Be mindful of this and overtake only when safe to do so!

Where Does The Dipsea Trail Start and End?

The Dipsea Trail is situated in California. It starts in Old Mill Park and ends on Stinson Beach.

This trail starts with the famous 688 steps in Old Mill Park. These steps lead to Panoramic Highway in a segment nicknamed as Windy gap. Panoramic Highway is the first hike peak, so now would be the time to take in the scenery!

After Panoramic Highway, the trail goes 400 feet downwards into Muir Woods. At this point, you will cross both a road and Redwood Creek. This is a typical time for people to take a moment to breathe and rehydrate as the next part consists of another lengthy uphill.

Now that you’ve crossed Redwood Creek, 1200 feet uphill awaits you as you make your way up to Cardiac hill (yes, it’s been given that name for a reason). Thankfully, after this tiring stretch of what may seem like an endless trail, you will be rewarded by reaching the highest point of the hike. At 1360 feet, Cardiac hill is quite a view.

After Cardiac hill, your legs will enjoy a bit of a break as you head onto a downhill part of the trail through the beautiful Steep Ravine. This part of the hike is often referred to as The Swoop.

One last short (but intense) uphill, called Insult Hill, follows on after Steep Ravine. After this, you have completed all the steep uphills and can enjoy a gentle slope downwards towards Stinson Beach. This is where the hiking trail will end.

Congratulations, you have just completed the famous Dipsea Trail!

The Dipsea Race

Majority of the people who visit the Dipsea Trail come for one purpose only – to run! This trail is famously known for its daily trail runners but also for being the oldest cross-country trail race in the United States!

If you are in California on the second Sunday of June, you might want to consider joining the race instead of going for a hike!

Why the specific date of the “second Sunday of June”? Since 1985, that has been the tradition for this famous race. Although the race is much older than that, it started way back in 1905.

If you’re thinking about joining but are a bit worried about coming last, don’t fret. The Dipsea Race has a handy cap system where certain groups of people will be allowed a head start. A 25-minute head start is given to the oldest and the youngest runners. This handy cap system has been in place for many years to ensure that anyone has a chance of winning!

Please note that getting a spot to run in the Dipsea Race is extremely hard. The race is highly popular and restricted to only 1500 runners. Furthermore, the entire 1500 is not open to absolutely everyone. It is split up into various categories. Take the time to check out the Dipsea Trails official website for a guideline on entering the race!

Aside from the famous Dipsea Race, two other races happen on the Dipsea trail:

  • Double Dipsea (13,7 miles)
  • Quad Dipsea (28.4 miles)


In conclusion, the Dipsea Trail takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete depending on your pace. It is a rather tiring hike and, therefore, you should be in relatively good shape before getting started. The trail is 7.5 miles long and is a gorgeous scenic hike.

If you are more of a trail runner than a hiker, I would suggest looking into joining the famous Dipsea race. The spaces are limited, so ensure that you get your name in there as soon as possible!