Things To Do In Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes is a 100-square-mile peninsula of dark forests, wind-sculpted dunes, endless beaches, and plunging sea cliffs. Aside from its beautiful scenery, it boasts man-made historical treasures that offer a window into California’s coastal past, including lighthouses, turn-of-the-20th-century dairies and ranches, and the site of Sir Francis Drake’s 1579 landing, plus a complete replica of a Coast Miwok Indian village.
The national seashore system was created to protect rural and undeveloped stretches of America’s coast from the pressures of soaring real estate values and increasing population nowhere is the success of the system more evident than at Point Reyes. Layers of human history coexist here with one of the world’s most dramatic natural settings. Residents of the surrounding communities — Inverness, Point Reyes Station, and Olema — have resisted runaway development. You won’t find any strip malls or fast-food joints here, just laid-back coastal towns with cafes and country inns where gentle living prevails. The park, a 71,000-acre hammer-shaped peninsula jutting 10 miles into the Pacific and backed by Tomales Bay, abounds with wildlife, ranging from tule elk, birds, and bobcats to gray whales, sea lions, and great white sharks.
More Things To Do At Point Reyes
Kayaking:Blue Waters in Marshall offers classes and rentals. You can also kayak in Drakes and Limantour Esteros except March 1 through June 30, when they are closed to protect harbor seals during pupping season.
Animal Viewing: Once endangered, tule elk now number over 200 at Point Reyes. They are most common at Tomales Point. Other animals you may see include northern elephant seals, harbor seals, more than 80 kinds of mammals and 29 types of reptiles. Nearly half of all bird species in North America have been spotted at Point Reyes. That’s 490 different kinds of birds, in case you were counting.
Creative Workshops:Point Reyes National Seashore Association offers seminars and workshops for photographers, artists, and nature lovers.
Horseback Riding:Five Brooks Stables nearby offers guided trail rides
Laguna Trail Coast Trail Loop
The Laguna Trail Coast Trail Loop is a relatively easy 5-mile loop that features coastal scrub, pretty grasslands and epic coastal views. You can also continue your hike down to Limantour Beach very easily to get the best of everything! This trail can be quite exposed to the sun and wind so be sure to bring a hat and/or layers depending on the weather.
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Point Reyes In The Winter
From the end of December through mid-April, things get busy at Point Reyes and it’s all about the animals. Gray whales migrate past the shore, and elephant seals come onshore to have their babies.
So many people want to see them that the narrow roads could get choked with cars. To keep traffic flowing, individual vehicles are prohibited. The only way to get to the lighthouse or the Elephant Seal Overlook at Chimney Rock is by taking the winter shuttle bus from the visitor center at Drakes Beach. That’s the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center, not the one at Bear Valley. Find out more about the winter shuttle bus here
Other parts of the park are still accessible by car during that time, including most of the beaches and Pierce Ranch.
Take A Photo Of Tule Elk
The tule elk, native to California, and other wildlife can be seen in the area. The tule elk had been completely extirpated from Point Reyes in 1978 by hunting. But tule elk from San Luis National Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos were reintroduced to Point Reyes at that time. By 2009, the population had increased to over 440 elk at Tomales Point. Tule Elk Reserve, near Pierce Point Ranch, is now home to several hundred elk.
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Visit Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company is located a few miles out of town, but definitely worth the short drive if you like cheese! If farm tours are offered when you visit, join to learn more about how the cheeses are made: the original creamery is on the property.
The Fork, their kitchen, offers a menu based on their famous cheeses and other fresh local ingredients, which you can enjoy in the beautiful garden.
Planning to explore more of Californias natural beauty? Check out our articles on other national parks in California!
Kule Loklo Coast Miwok Indian Village
This structure, made of redwood bark is typical of those built by the Coastal Miwok people who lived in the Point Reyes area. Built as a cultural exhibit, Kule Loklo, which means Bear Valley shows modern visitors how the area’s earlier inhabitants lived.
Most of the time, it’s uninhabited, but it comes alive during the Big Time Festival held each July. The Roundhouse is also used for religious gatherings by the Coast Miwok people. Rangers offer free guided tours on the weekend in the summer. Check at the Visitor Center for a schedule.
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Walk The Cypress Tree Tunnel At Point Reyes
One of the best and most magical things to do in Point Reyes is to take a walk through the Cypress Tree Tunnel. At the end of the long tunnel is the historic KPH Maritime Radio Receiving Station. The best time to do this walk is early in the morning when there are no crowds yet. This place is also one of the best photo locations in the area.The Monterey cypress trees were planted in 1930.
To get to Cypress Tree Tunnel from Point Reyes Station, drive about 9.5 miles on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard toward Point Reyes Lighthouse. At the road, you will find the sign North District Operations Center.
Point Reyes National Seashore: The Gem Of West Marin County
Point Reyes National Seashore is a strip of land separated by water from Californias mainland and is a federally protected area comprising of thousands or acres of wilderness, protected wildlife sanctuaries, Californias jaw-dropping coastline, beautiful beaches and is of course the source of all of Northern Californias cheese and oysters. Point Reyes is one of the best winter getaways in California. and an easy weekend trip or even a day trip from San Francisco!
This post is about everything you need to know on what to do in Point Reyes for a weekend getaway from San Francisco. I have also tried to showcase how dog friendly Point Reyes is by pointing out all the places that allow dogs in Point Reyes, dog friendly dining and hotels.
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Walk The Cypress Tree Tunnel
For Bay Area landscape photographers, the cypress tree tunnel at Point Reyes is a beloved photo location. Dont miss a stop here, to snap your own photos and to enjoy a little bit of history.
The Monterey cypress trees that create the famous tunnel were planted in 1930. Walking the long driveway under the canopy of the trees is a beautiful experience, especially if you have it to yourself.
Walking under the cypress trees
At the end of the long driveway is the historic KPH Maritime Radio Receiving Station: you may be able to tour the facility if you visit on a Saturday afternoon and experience Morse code being sent or received.
For beautiful light for photos, arrive in the morning during golden hour on a clear day, when the suns rays stream through the trees. Foggy days, with fingers of mist swirling about the branches, also make for unique photo ops.
To arrive at the cypress tree tunnel from Point Reyes Station, drive along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard toward Point Reyes Lighthouse for about 9.5 miles and you will see the trees just after a sign that says North District Operations Center.
Hike To Alamere Falls
One of only two waterfalls along the California coast that are also tidefalls, Alamere Falls is located in the Phillip Burton Wilderness and requires a round-trip hike of 13 miles or more.
At low tide, Alamere Falls tumbles 40 feet onto Wildcat Beach. At moderate to high tide, when the waves kiss the bottom of the coastal bluffs, it falls right into the Pacific Ocean. Either way, Alamere Falls makes for a dramatic, and beautiful, sight!
Alamere Falls tumbles over the cliff
Despite the length of the hike, visiting Alamere Falls is one of the best things to do in Point Reyes. If you wish to do the hike, arrive prepared: its a commitment of several hours. Dogs are not allowed on the trails to Alamere Falls.
You will find trailheads for Alamere Falls at Bear Valley, Palomarin, and Five Brooks. The Palomarin Trailhead offers the shortest route, but parking is limited and the final stretch of the access road to the trailhead is extremely rough.
You can also hike to Wildcat Campground and walk south along Wildcat Beach to the falls at low tide. Check surf and beach conditions before you visit, especially in the winter and the spring.
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When To Visit Point Reyes
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If you want the best temperatures, the period between September October has for the warmest temperatures and the lowest chance of fog.
If youre keen to spot some whales offshore, visit between November May.
To spot the local elephant seals, you can come in winter when they are breeding, or in April July when they are molting. You an also find sea lions between May and July.
If you want to spot the local tule elk, youll have the best luck between August and October, which is rutting season.
But dont rule out a spring visit! Spring brings beautiful wildflowers at Chimney Rock and is one of the most lovely times to visit Point Reyes.
Where To Eat In Point Reyes Station California
Nicks Cove Restaurant
If theres one meal not to miss, its lunch or dinner at Nicks Cove located in Marshall. Come here for a fresh take on local seafood and garden-picked ingredients. I really love their fish and chips as well as their fresh oysters on the half-shell. They do not take reservations and it is good to note that weekends can be busy.
Address: 23240 CA-1, Marshall, CA 94940
I always stop for a coffee and baked good here. Bovine Bakery is located right in the heart of downtown Point Reyes Station.
Address: 11315 CA-1, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Station House Cafe
Come here for good food, a wonderful outdoor garden, and great cocktails. Their menu is really cozy food. This restaurant is offering to-go food, so you could pick up a meal and bring it back to your vacation rental.
Address: 11180 CA-1, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Side Street Kitchen
This cozy spot is like a diner-style restaurant with locally sourced ingredients. I loved sitting at the bar here. Their pate is also a favorite of mine.
Address: 60 4th St, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Saltwater Oyster Depot
Located in Inverness across the bay, Id stop here for lunch if youre headed to the national seashore. Their airy space is stunning and I love their brunch menu. Theyve done a great job of introducing a modern restaurant in this area.
Address: 12781 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Inverness, CA 94937
Address: 80 4th St, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
The Marshall Store
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Getting There Is Half The Fun
If you like winding roads, arent afraid of driving them with a lot of other cars, and dont get car sick then just follow the directions your computer navigator will give you. From San Francisco take Highway 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge until you reach Highway 1 at Mill Valley. Follow Highway 1 all the way to the park.
However let me emphasize the car sick statement above. The stretch of Highway 1 from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach is the most winding slow part of the entire Highway 1. It has curves marked with suggested speeds of 15 or 20 MPH in parts. There is no part of this that the word highway will seem appropriate. Whoever drew this road on a map followed a winding cow path and the cow was drunk.
If you love to take curves in your sportscar, this is your route. If that does not sound appealing then take the longer route through Navato or Petaluma on Point Reyes Petaluma Road. This route also has a bonus that you can stop at Marin French Cheese for some great cheese such as their award-winning triple crème brie specked with black truffles.
Visit The Point Reyes Lighthouse
Located at the western tip of the Point Reyes Headlands, the Point Reyes Lighthouse is one of the most scenic lighthouses in California and a popular Point Reyes attraction.
Built in 1870, the Point Reyes Lighthouse was a beacon of warning for over 100 years in an area prone to shipwrecks and heavy fog.
It takes a while to drive down to the Point Reyes Lighthouse from the entrance of the park but the view from the observation deck is well worth it.
This is also the windiest place on the US Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent, which is quite the feat with how foggy the West Coast can be.
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Perfect Things To Do In Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore is an amazing hidden gem in California located only one hour north of San Francisco. It is a vast area of gorgeous protected shorelines, coastal bluffs, fabulous hikes, and amazing wildflowers. I visited on a day trip from Sacramento, however, you could spend multiple days enjoying and relaxing in the gorgeous area.
One of the best things about Point Reyes National Seashore is finding a quiet place to be along a trail, a beach, or an overlook and soak in the Earths natural, quiet beauty. Even just driving in the park is lovely! I sometimes felt like we had been transported to Scotland or Ireland with how beautifully green areas were and how many majestic, rocky cliffs we passed. So here is everything you need to make sure you do and see while visiting Point Reyes National Seashore.
I visited Point Reyes National Seashore in December and experienced a clear, sunny, beautiful day and even ended up wearing a short-sleeve shirt. Winter is known as the high season for less fog, migrating whales, and elephant seals youll find in the park. This means you may need to take a shuttle bus from the visitor center to visit the lighthouse .
Surprisingly, summer is known for thick dense fog with cooler temperatures on the beaches and headlands. However, summer may be a good time to visit if you are looking to get those dreamy and moody fog photos.
Kayak Around Tomales Bay
If youre looking to experience Point Reyes from the water and youre up for a workout, renting kayaks or going on a kayaking tour can be an ideal way to spend an afternoon.
Tomales Bay is the best place to go kayaking in Point Reyes for its protected and scenic 15-miles of nature.
And for an even more unique way to experience the water, you can go on a nighttime kayaking tour to see the planktonic bioluminescence thats common in Tomales Bay.
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Discover All Marin County Has To Offer
From exploring unique attractions to trying out new things to do, the possibilities for adventure are endless during your Point Reyes vacation. After a day of exploration, you want a comfortable space to return to, and thats exactly what youll get when you stay at Olema House. Our Marin County lodging features 22 rooms and two cottages, giving you a range of accommodation options to select from. Be sure to stop by Due West Tavern for a delicious bite to eat. Call to learn more about this Northern California hotel and current special offers.
Point Reyes National Seashore Tips
Natural hazards include poison oak, stinging nettle, and ticks . Wearing long pants and being aware of your surroundings can help keep them off you.
Dogs can disrupt wildlife, so their presence is limited. They are not allowed on any of the hiking trails and must be kept on a leash elsewhere. They are permitted on Kehoe Beach, Limantour Beach and Point Reyes Beach.
Point Reyes weather varies widely and may not be what you think. Check the weather forecast before you go. At the lighthouse, it’s almost always windy and frigid, and often foggy.
If you plan to visit and/or photograph the beaches, check the time for high and low tide to maximize your enjoyment.
The winding drive out to the lighthouse can be nausea-inducing for those prone to motion sickness. If you’re one of them, you know what to do.
Point Reyes has no entry fee, but there is a camping fee and a fee to ride the shuttle in winter. You also need reservations if you’re going camping.
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Hiking In Point Reyes
There are many fantastic hiking trails in Point Reyes National Seashore, but sadly most of them barring the Kehoe Beach trail are not accessible to dogs. If unlike us, youre bigtime into hiking then I suggest you checkout the Chimney Rock Trail, The Elephant Seal Overlook Trail and the Tomales Point Trail that goes through Tule Elk Reserve. Here is a complete list of all the hiking trails at Point Reyes.
DOG FRIENDLY HIKING TRAILS IN POINT REYES
If youre looking for dog friendly hiking trails in Point Reyes, then youll have to be content with the sole Kehoe Beach trail to the west of Tomales Bay. However, if there are quite a few dog friendly trails in the Point Reyes area, i.e. east of Point Reyes Station. These are the Cross Marin Trail at Lagunitas leading to a Redwood Grove in Samuel P. Taylor State Park and Randall Trail accessible via Highway 1. You can read more details about these trails and many others in Marin county in my dog friendly Bay Area hiking post.