I finally did the daytrip to Marin with a hike-in for pancakes that I've been fantasizing about for so long. Somehow, it was both everything I expected and a complete surprise at the same time. I want to share my hard-won lessons learned before they fade away into fuzzy memories.
What happened: We did a Mother's Day hike. I started out with my husband and our two-year old, seven-year old, and nine-year old; I packed water and a few little snacks just in case. We had a light breakfast before setting off from Berkeley at 8am. We returned from our breakfast outing at 3pm.
Expectation: There is a parking lot and a quarter-mile hike in that smaller people can handle. No big whoop.
Reality: Oh crap. The parking lots at Pan Toll Road and Panoramic Highway were both full when we got there at 9am. My husband dropped me and three children off at what we thought was the “short route” and went to look for an alternate parking place and trail into the restaurant. Worst case scenario, he'd meet us back at that drop-off point in two hours. Luckily, he discovered the Rock Springs lot, which was empty, after a few miles of driving.
Both of the trails we followed were about 2 miles long. The slow hike up to West Point Inn took me and my children one hour fifteen minutes and I carried the two year old for the last 30 of those. It is a gradual uphill.
Meanwhile, Alec ran the mostly-downhill narrow path from Mountain Theater / Rock Springs (where there is a lovely bathroom BTW) in about 20 minutes and was seriously wondering if we were lost. A valid concern. On the return hike from West Point Inn, it took our party of five an hour and forty-five minutes. Yes, it was uphill both ways.
Lesson Learned: The wider route (from Pan Toll lot) is fine for off-road strollers but the Mountain Theater / Rock Springs path is better for independent walkers or baby/child carriers. Lack of parking is a big risk to your plans, at least on Mother's Day.
Expectation: A nice hike rewarded with pancakes and a view.
Reality: Holy cats, you guys! The view, OMG.
The menu is pancakes, sausage links, coffee, orange juice, and cantaloupe priced at $10 for adults and $5 for children. Though it is not “all you can eat” we had plenty. Guests wait in line to order and sit at communal tables. We waited 20 minutes to order and about 20 again for the food. Tables are situated on the covered patio and on the larger grounds overlooking the Bay and ocean. Friendly servers wander around calling out your order number to find you.
Also, CASH ONLY.
Kids can roll in dirt, climb trees, be scared of dogs, or play horseshoes while they wait.
What parents should know about hiking to West Point Inn for pancakes:
- Cash only. Don't put in the effort and be caught without money. $10 for adults and $5 for children.
- Long and winding road. My children whined about the twisting roads through the Marin headlands (60 to 90 minutes each way) to the trailhead. We should have left home by 7am to make this more of a breakfast outing, but the children still would have hated the roads.
- It takes longer than you think. I fielded many Are we there yet?s during the hike itself (1:15 to 1:45 each way).
- Limited menu. At least two of my people complained that there should be more food than just pancakes. Not me, I was happy with the food. But don't be surprised.
- The great outdoors. At one point, two of our plates and two of our drinks blew away ON ME during a gust. That doesn't happen so much in a restaurant.
Bottom line: Totally worth it! Each moment, I tried to savor the perfect weather, these sweet children, and the epic view because — if they have their way — I may never get to do that again.
See the directions and the schedule of breakfasts before you set off.