Point Reyes National Seashore, about 30 miles north of San Francisco on Highway 1 through Marin County, offers several excellent hiking trails to enjoy during the summer and fall. The temperature varies throughout the 71,028-acre reserve, but it is likely to be in the 60 to 75-degree range most of the year. The area often has morning fog or light rain clearing in the late morning or afternoon. It is a good place to cool off during the heat of late summer and early fall.
The Point Reyes National Seashore is a reserve for more than 1500 species of plants and animals. It was home of the ancient Miwok people, and visitors can hike an easy trail to Kule Loklo, a recreated native village. Hikers can also follow a trail to an overlook of Drake’s Bay where Sir Francis Drake landed and left a plaque in 1579.
This is a peninsula of rolling hills and grasslands on a bluff overlooking the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. Hikers can visit secluded McClure’s Beach reached on a moderately steep trail to a rocky cove or take a short, easy trail to examine the San Andreas fault. The Ranger Station posts advisories on the conditions of the various paths.
This short .07-mile trail with information on the San Andreas Fault Zone is popular with visitors to Point Reyes. The peninsula is actually on a different tectonic plate from the rest of Northern California. Hikers exploring this trail are on the rift zone or fault line that can shift at any time. The fault line also lies beneath Tomales Bay that borders the northeast side of the point.
The geological information explains how the coastline developed and what the future may hold for the millions of people living on or near the San Andreas Fault and fault lines that branch from it. The easy loop trail begins at the Bear Valley Visitor’s Center. This is a good trail for people of all ability levels.
Chimney Rock Trail
This 1.6-mile trail along the ridge crest offers spectacular views of Drake’s Bay and the ocean. There is no beach access from the steep rocky cliffs. The trailhead is a 45-minute drive from the Visitor’s Center to the area near the lighthouse that is being restored. The point can be windy or misty, yet hikers take the trail to the bluff to search for migrating whales during the winter, spring, and early fall. Elephant-seals may also be seen along with many shorebirds.
This is an exciting hike, often into the wind, to experience the wild beauty of this headland. It is best on a clear day with the wind blowing off of the sea. The view of the peninsula from Chimney Rock is spectacular with Tomales Bay in the distance.
Hikers are advised to stay away from the edges of the bluff due to rock fissures and slides. Although the trail is not long, there are no facilities. Hikers should bring water and dress in layers.
Tomales Point Trail
This easy two-mile trail to Windy Gap leads through the Tule Elk reserve. The trail extends from Windy Gap another 3.7 miles to the end of the Tomales Point. This is a moderate trail for hikers who want to take the time to enjoy the area and photograph the elk herd. Hikers are advised not to go all the way to the end of the point but to take photos of the area from a safe distance. This trail is best during the summer and fall in mild weather.
McClure Beach Trail
This is a 1.3-mile moderate trail popular with most hikers. It leads down a slope to a beautiful, secluded beach and it is best at low tide. The trail passes through wildflower fields, and it is popular with bird watchers.
Point Reyes National Seashore has several short and longer hiking trails along with four hike-in campsites. The Bear Creek and Wildcat areas have campgrounds with facilities accessible to vehicles. Hikers are advised to dress in layers and wear proper hiking boots or shoes. Summer hikers in this area can wear shorts and light shirts along with a windbreaker. The temperature drops at night so overnight campers will need warmer clothes.
Point Reyes offers a different view of California only an hour’s drive north of San Francisco on a panoramic highway along the state’s dramatic coastline. Enjoy this magnificent area safely!
Feature Image by Joseph Barrientos.