Just north of San Franciso Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore covers over 70,000 acres of pristine coast land. With 147 miles of trails and four designated backcountry camping areas, weekend trips can put you close to anything from northern fur seal and California sea lion to a herd of Tule elk, a rare native species that is climbing back from the edge of extinction.
Given two days: From the Bear Valley Visitor Center, take the Bear Valley Trail south 4.3 miles to the coast. From here a short spur trail heads south to Arch Rock, a good spot for lunch. Continuing on, head 4.1 miles northwest along the coast trail, finishing the day at Coast Camp. The next day has fewer miles and more altitude. Head back south on the coast trail for a short stretch to Woodward Valley Trail. Follow this steep trail 1.8 miles up to Sky Trail; turn left. Sky Trail continues up for 1.3 miles to the summit of Mt. Wittenberg, the tallest peak in the seashore at 1,407 feet. From here, head down the Mt. Wittenberg trail back to the Bear Valley Trail, and return to the visitor center.
Given three days: Same trip, but extend your hike down Bear Valley with a night at Wildcat or Glen camp, then head north to Coast Camp.
Permits: Backcountry camping is limited to the four areas maintained by the park service: Coast, Sky, Glenn and Wildcat Camps. Reasonable fee scale covers the costs of 1-6 people, 8-14 people or 15-25 people. Reservations can be made up to three months in advance. Given the proximity of the park to San Franciso, and the limited number of sites (45), reservations are strongly recommended. Call (415) 663-8054 for reservations.
Recommended map: Point Reyes National Seashore pictorial landform map, by Dee Molenaar. While not a topo map, the graphic depiction of the landscape provides almost any information needed ... and it's darn pretty to boot. The map is also loaded with text on natural history and trail descriptions. It's a fine way to get acquainted with Point Reyes.
Getting there: From San Franciso, take 101 North to San Anselmo. Take Sir Francis Drake Blvd. west for about 21 miles until it dead-ends at California 1. Turn right. Travel 100 yards and turn left on Bear Valley Road. Travel a half mile to a large red barn and a sign for"Seashore Information." Turn left and drive up to the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Public Transit: Available from San Rafael on Saturdays and Sundays. Contact Golden Gate transit at (415) 923-2000, or check out their web page at www.goldengate.org. Bus route is #65.
National Park Service
Point Reyes, CA 94956
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication