Hikers have always striven to the peaks of mountains and Tamalpais is no exception.  Although most people who visit East Peak think that they are going to the highest point, this wasn't always the case. 

Originally, the Eldridge Grade fire road was the only way up to the top of the mountain.  John Oscar Eldridge was a San Francisco merchant and owner of the San Rafael Gas Works.  He bought the right of way to build a road from Ross to the top of Mt. Tamalpais for one dollar in 1884.  The road was built mostly by Chinese laborers and was originally designed to accommodate horse-drawn carriages.

Although it now appears that the Eldridge Grade road terminates at the base of the East Peak parking lot, that wasn't always the case.  In 1884 there was no fire lookout on East Peak.  The Tavern hadn't been built yet, and hikers were much more interested in climbing to the true summit on West Peak.  Because of that, John Eldridge continued his road all the way to the top of West Peak, following the route that Ridgecrest Blvd. currently takes.  In fact, if you slow down as you're driving east past the West Peak gate, you'll quickly see the vestigial remnants of the top of the Eldridge Grade road on your left, just as you pass underneath the FAA Radome.   

From the late 1800s through the beginning of the 20th century there was a stone pedestal on top of West Peak, very near to where the Alpine Club's WWI memorial cairn stood.  (This is just above the road after you pass the gate... approximately where the radio antennas at Building 402 are now.)   In a metal box on top of this pedestal was a log that hikers could sign upon summitting the mountain.

In this image, circa 1906, Henry Zog is seen signing the summit log.  You can see that the area of the summit was covered by dwarf Chinquiapin.

Posted
AuthorGary Yost