The Point Reyes peninsula, Drake's Estero and Tomales and Drake's Bay provide a unique environment perfect for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and kayaking.
A vast network of trails to choose from, year-round accessibility, close proximity to San Francisco, beautiful scenery, and fresh air combine to make Point Reyes National Seashore and surrounding environs an ideal destination. Point Reyes is nationally recognized as a top hiking destination, too. The American Hiking Society, the national voice for hikers, recently named Point Reyes as one of the top ten most family-friendly trails in the country.
Whether you are veteran hiking enthusiast in search of a serious workout or a family of four simply wanting to enjoy the outdoors, Point Reyes has an activity for you.
The National Seashore has over 150 miles of hiking trails to explore. Trail maps for the north district trails (624K PDF*) and south district trails (735K PDF*) are available at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. There are many ways to customize your hike to accommodate your physical and time limitations. Stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center for current trail information and suggested hikes.
To keep your adventure safe and enjoyable, and to protect park resources, please observe the following:
Observe trails: Stay on trails to prevent erosion as well as to avoid poison oak, stinging nettles and ticks. Do not shortcut on switchbacks. Please do not enter closed areas. They are closed for your safety and resource protection.
Caution along cliffs: Stay away from cliff edges. Loose soil can give way suddenly and you may fall. Do not climb cliffs.
Clothing: Dress appropriately. Wear layered clothing and be prepared for changing conditions.
Food & water: Always carry food and water for longer hikes. Dehydration is a common cause of exhaustion, fatigue and headaches.
Drinking water: The protozoan Giardia lamblia may be present in natural sources of water and can cause severe illness. Do not drink water from streams and all other natural sources without treating. Water may be treated by boiling, filtering, or using iodine or other chemical water purifiers. Potable drinking water is available at visitor centers and in campgrounds. However, water at Wildcat Campground currently needs to be treated before drinking.
Point Reyes Outdoors rents bicycles: www.pointreyesoutdoors.com
Black Mountain Cycles is a bicycle retailer/repair shop in Point Reyes Station
Biking at Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore provides a variety of on and off-road biking opportunities traversing diverse habitats and terrains. You can explore trails through evergreen forests, coastal scrub, or along estuaries and beach bluffs or miles of scenic country roads.
Visitor Centers offer a free map (1 MB PDF) of the park's trails, indicating which trails are designated for bike travel. Point Reyes permits biking only outside of wilderness areas along emergency access/dirt fire roads, paved roads and a few single-track trails.
The Marin County Bicycle Coalition www.marinbike.org has a very good map that shows preferred bicycling routes throughout Marin County.
For off-road bicycling: Horseback riders have right-of-way on the trails with hikers coming second. Bicyclists must yield to both of these trail user groups. Be aware that many horses are easily spooked when approached from behind. Reduce your speed when approaching horses or hikers. When approaching from behind, announce your presence. Stop on the downhill side of the trail while horses pass. The speed limit on all trails, even when headed downhill, is 15 mph. Be courteous. If trails are dry and dusty, slow down even more so as not to leave hikers in a cloud of dust.
The maximum number of bicyclists in any one group is 10. Larger groups of cyclists will have to divide into groups no larger than 10. This size restriction is necessary for the safety of cyclists using public roadways and authorized trails within the Park. These roadways and trails are narrow and winding and will not safely accommodate large numbers of bicyclists.
Loose dirt and gravel cover many of the trails. This slick surface can be difficult to maneuver in and can make for easy slide outs. The loose dirt can also hide potholes. These technical riding surfaces challenge even the most experienced bikers. We recommend always wearing a helmet, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants.
For road bicycling: Marin County is a popular destination for bicycling. It is recommended that bicyclists dress in clothing that helps them be visible to motorists and be aware that many of the roads in West Marin are windy and have minimal shoulders.
Carry plenty of water and snacks. Eat before you are hungry and drink water before you are thirsty. Prepare for weather changes by wearing and bringing layers.
Point Reyes Lodging innkeepers have combined their collective years of knowledge and experience in the area and created a "Top 10" list of their favorite hikes. The following list of favorite hiking trails is a natural extension of the innkeepers' desire for providing personal attention to guests and sharing their knowledge of Point Reyes.
TOP 10 FAVORITE HIKES
1. ARCH ROCK VIA BEAR VALLEY. A popular trail in Point Reyes National Seashore, it is the most direct route to the ocean from the Bear Valley Visitor Center and an excellent trail for beginners and children. The trail is sheltered from sun, wind and coastal fog as it meanders through mixed Douglas fir forest and along Bear Valley Creek. Arch Rock is an overlook point. (Distance - 8.2 miles; Time - 4 hours; Level of Difficulty - Moderate)
2. TOMALES POINT TRAIL. Open trail through the Tule Elk Range offers spectacular views of Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. It is also a prime wildlife viewing trail. Fog and wind can limit visibility and make this hike more challenging. Trailhead is at the end of Pierce Point Road, about 40 minutes driving time from Bear Valley. (Distance - 9.5 miles; Time - 4 to 5 hours; Level of Difficulty - Moderate)
3. SKY - BEAR VALLEY LOOP. A varied hike that features mixed Douglas fir forest, open grassland, coastal views, and beach access. Climb Mt. Wittenberg Trail (1350' elevation gain in l.4 miles) and then continue out Sky Trail to Coast Trail. Continue south on Coast Trail to Arch Rock. Enjoy your last coastal view here, before returning via Bear Valley Trail, through beautiful buckeyes and mixed Douglas fir forest and along Coast Creek. (Distance - 10.5 miles; Time - 5 hours; Level of Difficulty - Moderate/Strenuous)
4. COAST - LAGUNA LOOP. An easy walk through coastal scrub and grassland offers breathtaking ocean views. Begin on Laguna Trail, a slight climb, then descend to Coast Camp on Fir Lane Trail (turn left on Coast Trail for beach access at Coast Camp). Complete the loop by following Coast Trail northwest, a flat, open stretch of trail along coastal bluffs and then through a riparian zone, and back to the Youth Hostel. (Distance - 5 miles; Time - 2 to 3 hours; Level of Difficulty - Easy)
5. MT. WITTENBERG AND SKY CAMP FROM LIMANTOUR ROAD. This route provides an easy access to the highest point on the Point Reyes Peninsula, with a 750-foot elevation gain. Climb Sky Trail, with views of the ocean, and continue through meadows and woods to Horse Trail. Follow Horse Trail to Z Ranch Trail, which brings you to the trail to the summit of Mt. Wittenberg. Views from the summit are limited due to thick regrowth of trees after the Mt. Vision Fire in l995. Continue to the junction of Sky and Meadow Trails, and then back through Sky Camp. Begin with l0 minute drive from Bear Valley Visitor Center, at Sky Trailhead on Limantour Road. (Distance - 4.3 miles; Time - 3 hours; Level of Difficulty - Moderate)
6. BOLINAS RIDGE TRAIL. The best trail with views of Olema Valley, especially on a sunny day or a night with a full moon. Enjoy the expansive feeling of this open space. If you choose to continue beyond the first few miles, you will enter a redwood forest and eventually chaparral. Trail begins after a 5 minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, above Olema on Sir Francis Drake Highway. (Distance - 2 to 22 miles; Time - 1 to 4 hours; Level of Difficulty - Moderate)
7. ABBOTTS LAGOON. The Abbotts Lagoon Trail, an easy stroll through open grasslands and coastal scrub, features a colorful display of spring wildflowers and excellent bird watching, especially in fall and winter. Continue on to the Great Beach, an additional .5 miles, before returning via the same trail. The trek begins with a 25 minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Take Bear Valley Road, left from the visitor center, turn left on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and then right at Pierce Point Road. Abbotts Lagoon Trailhead is clearly marked on the left. (Distance - 3 miles; Time - 2 to 3 hours; Level of Difficulty - Easy)
8. MT. WITTENBERG LOOP. The loop features a steep l,300-foot climb to the highest point in the park (l,407-feet), with panoramic views of the seashore and Olema Valley. The loop passes through mixed Douglas fir, oak forest and several open meadows. Climb Mt. Wittenberg Trail all the way to the top, then return to Bear Valley via Z Ranch and Horse Trails, or via Meadow Trail. The Mt. Wittenberg Loop begins 0.2 mi. up the Bear Valley Trail, from the end of Bear Valley parking Lot. (Distance - 5 miles; Time - 2 to 3 hours; Level of difficulty - Strenuous)
9. CHIMNEY ROCK TRAIL. A spectacular hike with views of Drakes Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Great for spring wildflowers. Rocky cliffs drop off steeply to the water and there is no beach access. From December through April, look for migrating gray whales from the point, and elephant seals from a spur trail and lookout point near the parking lot. Fog and winds can make this hike challenging. For tide pooling, at a minus low tide, walk down the paved road to the right past the parking lot, past the Life Boat Station, and continue along the rocky beach. Tide pools are inaccessible from December through April, while elephant seals are in the area. Trail begins at the Chimney Rock Trailhead, near the Lighthouse, a 40 minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. (Distance - 1.6 miles; Time - 1 hour; Level of Difficulty - Moderate)
10. LIMANTOUR SPIT - BEACH TRAIL. This hike provides spectacular views and lots of birds. Start at Limantour parking area and head down toward the ocean. Just after passing the marsh area, turn right and head north along the trail in the dunes. Look for egrets, herons, willets, and plovers especially in the winter. At the end of the road head across the dunes to the beach, then to left again. Option: To add to the hike, continue northwest l.8 miles to the end of the spit, where you will find colonies of harbor seal. Return via the same trail or along the beach. (Distance 2 - 4 miles; Time - 2 - 3 hours; Level - Moderate)
Point Reyes Outdoors - 415.663.8192
Blue Waters Kayaking - 415.669.2600
Kayaking Around Point Reyes National Seashore
The most popular area for kayaking at Point Reyes National Seashore is on Tomales Bay. Tomales Bay is a 15-mile long, 6780-acre tidal water body located in rural west Marin County, California. It is the largest unspoiled coastal embayment on the coast of California. The bay is bounded largely on the west by the Point Reyes National Seashore. Adjacent communities include Pt. Reyes Station, Inverness, Tomales, Marshall, and Dillon Beach in the north where Tomales Bay meets Bodega Bay.
Kayaking is also permitted on Drakes Estero and Limantour Estero from July 1 through February 28. To protect harbor seals from disturbance during the most crucial part of the pupping season, from March 1 through June 30 the National Park Service closes Drakes Estero and Limantour Estero to boating.
Recreational use of Tomales Bay has grown in recent years especially for camping, boating, and wildlife watching. The National Park Service at Point Reyes is concerned about the effects of the growth in recreational use.
The Seashore faces the challenge of not only preserving the pristine shorelines of Tomales Bay and assisting in protecting clean water, but also providing recreational opportunities for the public. Visitor use of national parklands must always be weighed against the responsibility to maintain natural and cultural resources for succeeding generations. As such, personal water craft (PWC) such as a Jetski or Waverunner are not permitted on Tomales Bay. (Note: please read A Guide to Low-Impact Boat Camping if you intend to participate in kayaking in and around Pt. Reyes National Seashore.).
There are four areas for launching on Tomales Bay
MILLER COUNTY PARK (415) 499-6387
Also known as Nick's Cove. It is located on the east side of Tomales Bay off Highway 1, north of the town of Marshall. This Marin County park has a public boat launch with cement grade into the water, restrooms, and a pier. There is a day use fee and overnight use fee. Overnight parking is in the upper lot, to the right as you pull in.
TOMALES BAY STATE PARK - (415) 669-1140
The state park provides two access areas to Tomales Bay, Millerton Point and Hearts Desire Beach.
Millerton Point is on the east side of Tomales Bay, three miles north of Point Reyes Station. No overnight parking is permitted. There is a pit toilet and you must carry your boat along a short trail approximately 100 yards to the water. It is very shallow and is best used at high tides.
Hearts Desire Beach is on the west side of Tomales Bay off Pierce Point Road. It is a day-use area (no overnight parking) and there is a day-use fee. You must carry your boat approximately 100 yards across a sandy beach. Water and restrooms are available at the beach. Orange floats are placed in the water in summer to indicate the swimming area. Boaters may land to the south of the orange floats. Motorized vessels are prohibited within 100' of the swim area markers.
Tomales Bay Resort and Restaurant - (415) 669-1389
The Reosrto and 62-boat marina are located on the west side of the bay. It is on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, one mile north of Inverness.
LAWSON'S LANDING - (707) 878-2443
The campground and boat launch are located in Dillon Beach with direct access to Tomales Bay. There is gas, dump station, and boat rentals. Restrooms and water available. There is a day-use and overnight fee charged.
If you plan to have a beach fire on national seashore beaches, stop by national park visitor centers for a free required permit. No beach fires are permitted on state park beaches.
Certain areas allow only day use
The island is in the northern section of Tomales Bay across from Whites Gulch on the west side and Nicks Cove on the east side. It is a critical wildlife habitat, a favorite haul-out for seals and roosting place for brown pelicans. The island is open on the west side only for day use.
HEARTS DESIRE BEACH
Orange floats are placed to mark the swimming area during the summer. Boaters may pull up on the southern edge of the beach to access the restrooms and drinking water. No overnight use or beach fires.
This beach is north of Hearts Desire and has a redwood kotca, a traditional Coast Miwok sleeping shelter on it. A pit toilet is available for use. No overnight use or beach fires.
Overnight and/or Day Use
There is a fee and permit system for overnight camping on the west side beaches of Tomales Bay (within Point Reyes National Seashore). Overnight beach camping is not permitted anywhere else on Tomales Bay or within Point Reyes National Seashore. Contact the National Seashore reservation office at (415) 663-8054 for reservations and to place your name on the mailing list for information.
Beach fire permits are required and may be obtained free at park visitor centers. No overnight parking for boat-in campers is allowed in Point Reyes National Seashore or Tomales Bay State Park.
Some of the Tomales Bay beaches that are open for overnight camping to those who have a current and valid permit are (listed from south to north):
- Kilkenny Beach
- Marshall Beach - On the west side of Tomales Bay across from the town of Marshall. Pit toilets are available, no water.
- Tomales Beach - Look for the pit toilet!
- Fruit Tree Beach
- Blue Gum Beach - There will be seasonal closures on this beach to protect harbor seal pupping. Check with the Seashore reservation office.
- Avalis Beach - The northernmost westside beach of the Point Reyes National Seashore. Watch especially for tides and currents in this area. No restrooms or water.
With so much beauty to see in the Point Reyes National Seashore why not cover some of it on horseback?
There are several options for those wanting to rent a horse or bring their own:
The Point Reyes Country Inn and Stables offers accommodation for you at the bed and breakfast and boarding for your horse on site. www.ptreyescountryinn.com
Five Brooks Stables is a public riding stables within the Point Reyes National Seashore on Highway One. They offer 1, 2, 3, & 6 hour guided trail rides. For family fun there are hay rides. for details visit www.fivebrooks.com or call 415.663.1570
If riding a horse along a sandy beach with waves crashing at your feet is your dream then try Chanslor Ranch. Located at Bodega Bay, this working horse ranch offers a variety of experiences fir individuals or groups. For details visit www.chanslor.com
For overnight stays Stewart Ranch Horse Camp is a privately owned and managed camp on Highwya One. Many bed and breakfasts are just 5-10 minutes away so both horse and rider can have a comfortable night. Call 415.663.1362 for reservations or visit www.nps.gov/pore/activ_horse.htm