The Town With the Mountain in the Backyard

Exploring Mill Valley and Mount Tam

From the numbers, you wouldn’t expect much from Mount Tamalpais, Mount Tam to the locals of Mill Valley. Mount Tam is not the tallest mountain around. It lacks the technical allure of the crags in nearby Yosemite. Mill Valley, nestled below the majestic Mount Tam, by the numbers is just another beautiful, charming, small Northern California town. But, once you have actually seen Mount Tam and Mill Valley you understand that they both have something special that cold numbers could never convey.


Spectacular Views

If you look away from  the sunset and turn toward Mount Tam to the northeast, you are faced with a gorgeous scene; the mountain seems to sparkle in the early evening rays, as if possessed by some inner glow. Unlike some of its brethren, Mount Tam is approachable by almost anyone. You don’t need any special training or equipment to conquer this gentle mountain.

One favorite path is the Verna Dunshee Trail. As this lovely trail works it way around the mountain you are constantly presented with new vistas, each one more amazing than the last. You can see the dense Redwood forest below, often covered in an ethereal layer of fog, San Pablo Bay, the rolling hills of the Sonoma wine country, and most breathtaking of all, San Francisco and the sparkling Pacific.


From many vantage points on Mount Tam you can also see the alluring, storybook  town of Mill Valley.

The Little Town that Draws Big City Comparisons

Mill Valley has some of the best boutiques and restaurants anywhere in Marin County. People often travel here from the big cities of the Bay Area to get a taste of the good life. Many of the local favorites also have international reputations.


If you want some good music with your meal, you should head over to the Sweetwater Music Hall, a Mill Valley treasure for years. Here you can eat delicious food and watch a variety of talented musicians. It feels a little bit like a college bar with an ever revolving roster of local musical acts, except at Sweetwater you are just as likely to hear a world famous act like Santana as you are a local garage band.

Every October,  in addition to the juried Fall Arts Festival in the redwood park downtown, Mill Valley hosts the acclaimed Mill Valley International Film Festival. The beautiful and ornate Sequoia Theater and the Bernard Maybeck designed The Outdoor Art Club host many of the festival events.


Real Estate

Mill Valley real estate is in high demand. The active, engaged community, is rich in beautiful surroundings, and perfect climate so close to San Francisco. The wine country, abundant local, state, and national parks and the gorgeous Pacific  Ocean coastline attract people from all over the world. The most expensive recent home sales have sold for between $4.9 and $5.2 million. While nature is never far away, Mill Valley is also a community with a strong mix of homeowners and renters. People love the three-acre dog park on the Bayfront, and fans of live music and stand-up comedy are often surprised by world-famous guest musicians and comedians who drop-by to improvise at local venues and events. If you want a small town where you can enjoy world-class food and entertainment while being close to both the beach and the mountains, Mill Valley may just be perfect for you.

Mill Valley mainstay, the best selling author, Dr. Gayle Delaney who has appeared on Oprah many times, pioneered the use of dreams for problem solving, and has helped thousands of people literally follow their own dreams, has placed her beautiful Mill Valley home for sale planning to move north close to her favorite ice skating rink, Snoopy’s Home Ice.


She has listed her hilltop dream home in Mill Valley with its commanding views of San Francisco, its fog and glistening lights. The listing price is $3.2 million. The 3,400 square foot home has four bedrooms and two and half bathrooms. The rooms have floor to ceiling windows and glass doors. The more than half acre plot is beautifully landscaped and includes a hot tub and swimming pool that gracefully blend into the surroundings. The elegant living room has a vaulted ceiling that opens to the huge, ever-changing view of San Francisco and the Redwood forest-like valley that is lush and green all year round.

The overwhelming attraction is the magnificent, ever-present view. Every room in the house is permeated by bigger-than-life breathtaking San Francisco views that treat one to an unbelievable variety of sunrise, sunset skies, fog, mist, and rainbows. From the outside decks you can watch the fog slowly roll into the City and Bay from the  ocean. After dark, you can toast to the sparkle of the San Francisco skyline or watch as the moon and stars slink up through the redwood trees, over the mountain ridge, and into your big sky.


When you come to Mill Valley you never quite know what you are going to see. Between the majestic Mount Tam and the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, there is always something interesting on the horizon.  Perhaps you will come across the famous library deep in a redwood park and connected to a powerful lending network where you can read by the fire place, or outdoors on the redwood deck, or attend creatively designed lectures offering everyone a glass of wine and time to mingle. In the center of town you may be treated to an impromptu performance by a multi Grammy winning artist, or discover a new slice of dining heaven.  Or you might meander by waterfalls and streams and delight in the songs of birds— so near and yet so far from the big city by the bay. The best thing to do is let go of your expectations and just come and see what you find.  Perhaps you too, will find your home here!


A version of this article was published on Inman.Com: Exploring Mill Valley and Mount Tam, a tight-knit community with plenty of opportunity

Behzad Zandinejad

Broker Associate

Decker Bullock Sotheby’s International Realty


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