Point Reyes National Seashore

Hiking Trails
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Drakes Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore
Drakes Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore (Willard Clay/Photographer's Choice/Getty)

Earthquake Trail (0.6 mile) A short paved loop explores the San Andreas Fault Zone. Interpretive signs describe the geology of the area. (Begins in the Bear Valley Picnic Area, just across the street from the Bear Valley Visitor Center.)

Kule Loklo Trail (1 mile) A short path leads up to a replica of a Coast Miwok Indian Village. Interpretive signs briefly describe Coast Miwok culture and history, and the structures in the village. From Kule Loklo, return on the same trail, or continue around the horse pasture to return via Morgan Horse Ranch. (Begins at the base of the Bear Valley Parking Lot, just outside the front doors of the Bear Valley Visitor Center.)

Woodpecker Trail (0.7 mile) A beautiful loop explores local forest and meadows, with interpretive signs describing some plants and animals you may see. (Begins at the Bear Valley Trailhead, at the end of the Bear Valley Parking Lot.)

Chimney Rock Trail (1.2 miles) A spectacular hike with views of Drakes Bay and the Pacific Ocean, great for spring wildflowers! Rocky cliffs drop off steeply to the water; there is no beach access. From January through May, look for migrating whales from the point. Fog and winds can make this hike challenging. For tidepooling, at a good low tide, walk down the paved road to the right past the parking lot and past the Life Boat Station, and continue along the rocky beach. (Begins at the Chimney Rock Trailhead, near the Lighthouse, a 40-minute drive from Bear Valley Visitor Center.)

Palomarin Beach Trail (1.5 miles) A steep trail down to a rocky beach with excellent tidepooling when the tide is low. Very little beach remains at high tide. Beware of slippery rocks and rough surf. (Begins at the Palomarin Beach Trailhead on Mesa Rd., a 30-minute drive south of Bear Valley Visitor Center.)

Kehoe Beach Trail (1.2 miles) A flat trail through Kehoe Marsh and out to Kehoe Beach. The only trail at Point Reyes where dogs are permitted, on a leash. You may encounter cows on this trail. Also look for elusive brush rabbits, bobcats, and mountain lions, which are occasionally sighted in this area. (Begins on Pierce Point Rd., a 30-minute drive from Bear Valley Visitor Center.)

McClures Beach Trail (1.2 miles) A rugged trail descends 300' down a ravine to the ocean. A beautiful cove backed by rocky cliffs, but watch for tidal fluctuations and dangerous surf! At low tide, enjoy the tidepools. (Begins at the end of Pierce Point Rd., below Pierce Point Ranch, a 40-minute drive from Bear Valley Visitor Center.)

One- to Three-Hour Hikes

Divide Meadow via Bear Valley Trail (3.2 miles) A casual stroll through mixed Douglas fir forest and along Bear Valley Creek to an open grassy meadow. Several benches along the way offer great resting spots in the shade, and Divide Meadow is a nice picnic area in the sun. (Begins at the Bear Valley Trailhead, at the end of the Bear Valley Parking Lot.)

Mt. Wittenberg loop (approx. 5 miles) A steep 1300' climb to the highest point in the park (1407'), with panoramic views of the seashore and Olema Valley. The loop passes through mixed Douglas fir and oak forest and several open meadows. Climb the Wittenberg Trail all the way to the top, then return to Bear Valley via Z Ranch and Horse Trails, or via Meadow Trail. (Wittenberg Trail begins 0.2 mile up Bear Valley Trail, from the end of Bear Valley Parking Lot.)

Coast-Laguna Loop (5 miles) An easy walk through coastal scrub and grassland, exposed to sun, fog, and/or wind. Breathtaking ocean views! Keep your eves open for hawks and shorebirds. Begin on Laguna Trail with a slight climb, then descend to Coast Camp on Fire 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, through a riparian zone, and then back to the Youth Hostel. (Begins 15 minutes driving time from Bear Valley Visitor Center off Limantour Rd. Turn off at the Hostel, but continue past the Hostel to Laguna Parking Lot, on the right.)

Muddy Hollow to the Beach (4 miles) An easy stroll through riparian woods (willow and alder) to Limantour Estero and Limantour Beach. Great bird-watching opportunities, and a sheltered approach to the beach. Return via the same trail. (Begins 15 minutes driving time from Bear Valley Visitor Center, off Limantour Rd. Turn right at the Muddy Hollow Trailhead sign.)

Abbotts Lagoon (3 miles) An easy stroll through open grasslands and coastal scrub, with good spring wildflowers and excellent bird-watching, especially in fall and winter. Look for the elusive feral goats! If you wish, you can continue out to the Great Beach, an extra 1/2 mile, before returning via the same trail. (Begins 25 minutes driving time from Bear Valley Visitor Center. Take Bear Valley Rd. left from Bear Valley Visitor Center, turn left on Sir Francis Drake Blvd., and then right at Pierce Point Road. Abbotts Lagoon Trailhead is clearly marked on the left.)

Mt. Wittenberg and Sky Camp from Limantour Road (4.3 miles) An easier access to the highest point on the Point Reyes Peninsula, with a 750' 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 heavily eroded trail to the summit of Mt. Wittenberg. From the summit, enjoy panoramic views of the seashore and Olema Valley. Continue to the junction of Sky and Meadow Trails, and then back through Sky Camp, where you can refill your water bottle with delicious spring water before returning to the trailhead. (Begins 10 minutes driving time from Bear Valley Visitor Center, at Sky Trailhead, on Limantour Rd.)

Bolinas Ridge Trail (2-22 miles) The best trail in the area for walking a dog, with views of Olema Valley. On a sunny day or a moonlit night, enjoy the expansive feeling of this open space. If you choose to continue beyond the first few miles, you will enter the redwood forest and eventually the chaparral. Turn around and retrace your steps whenever you are ready. (Trail begins 5 minutes driving time from Bear Valley Visitor Center, above Olema on Sir Francis Drake Hwy.)

Three- to Six-Hour Hikes

Sky-Bear Valley Loop (10.5 miles) A nice varied hike through mixed Douglas fir forest and also open grassland, with coastal views and beach access. Begin by climbing the Mt. Wittenberg Trail (1350' elevation gain in 1.4 mile) and then continue through the forest all the way out Sky Trail to Coast Trail. A 10-minute detour to the right on Coast Trail will bring you to Kelham Beach. Then 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. (Begins at Bear Valley Trailhead, at the end of Bear Valley Parking Lot.)

Arch Rock via Bear Valley (8.2 miles) Probably the single most popular trail in the park, the Bear Valley Trail is the most direct walk to the ocean from Bear Valley Visitor Center. This pleasant stroll through mixed Douglas fir forest and along Bear Valley Creek is sheltered from sun, wind, and coastal fog. Arch Rock is an overlook point. Kelham Beach is accessible from the Kelham Beach Trail, 0.8 mile north on Coast Trail. (Begins at Bear Valley Trailhead, at the end of the Bear Valley Parking Lot.)

Bass Lake (6 miles) and Wildcat Beach (11 miles) The south end of Coast Trail begins with spectacular ocean views from far above. It can be windy and exposed, with only occasional canopy overhead. In the summer, look for salmon berries and thimble berries! Bass Lake is unofficially the best swimming at Point Reyes, but access can be challenging and there are no lifeguards—swim at your own risk! If you chose to continue to Wildcat, you'll be rewarded with ocean and lake views and a beautiful beach! Either way, return via Coast Trail. (Begins at Palomarin Trailhead, 40 minutes driving south of Bear Valley, at the end of Mesa Rd.)

Tomales Point Trail (approx. 10 miles) This 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, as it is remote and the tule elk are enclosed in this reserve. The first 3 miles to Lower Pierce Point Ranch are well marked and maintained, but the last stretch can be overgrown with bush lupine and other shrubs, so long pants and long sleeves are a good idea. The journey all the way to the Point is worth it for the unparalleled view. Beware of fog and wind, which can limit visibility and make this hike more challenging. (Begins at the end of Pierce Point Rd., 40 minutes driving time from Bear Valley.)

Estero Trail to Drakes Head (approx. 9 miles) This trail through open grassland offers outstanding views of Drakes and Limantour Esteros, and a rich assortment of bird life. The last section of the trail seems more like a cattle trail than a human trail, but persevere! A picnic on Drakes Head would be perfect! The view down into the Estero on a clear day is spectacular. (Begins at Estero Trailhead, off Sir Francis Drake Hwy., between Bear Valley and the Lighthouse. Allow 25 minutes driving time from Bear Valley.)

Woodward Valley Loop (approx. 12 miles) This trail includes beautiful forest and spectacular coastal hiking. Begin from Bear Valley Trail, climbing either Mt. Wittenberg or Meadow Trail to Sky Trail. Continue to Woodward Valley, one of the lushest, greenest trails in the park. Follow this all the way down to Coast Trail, where you'll enjoy open ocean views as you head south to Bear Valley. Beach access is marked, along your way, at both Sculptured Beach and Kelham Beach. Both are beautiful and remote beaches. From Arch Rock, follow Bear Valley Trail back to Bear Valley Visitor Center, a gentle grade through beautiful buckeyes, oaks, and Douglas Firs. (Begins at the Bear Valley Trailhead, at the end of the Bear Valley Parking Lot.)


Published: 15 Sep 2009 | Last Updated: 9 Jun 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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