Frequently Asked Questions


1. How long does it take to get to the Lighthouse?

From the Bear Valley Visitor Center, driving time to the Lighthouse parking lot is about 45 minutes. It will take you another 15 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the Lighthouse Visitor Center. The lighthouse itself is 300 stairs down the cliff face. The Lighthouse Visitor Center and the steps leading down to the Lighthouse are only open Thursdays through Mondays, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Top of Page


2. I'd like to go for a hike. What would you recommend?

See our Trail Guide & Suggested Hikes page.

Top of Page

3. Where can I find the trail that shows the fence displacement from the 1906 earthquake?

The Earthquake Trail is located across the parking lot from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. The trailhead can be found adjacent to the picnic area restrooms.

Top of Page


4. Where are dogs allowed in the park?

Within Point Reyes National Seashore, dogs are allowed only on South Limantour Beach, North and South Point Reyes Beaches, and Kehoe Beach. They are not allowed on any hiking trails. Pets must be on a leash at all times; the leash must be no longer than 6 feet. Visit our Pet Regulations page for more information and information on seasonal closures.

Top of Page


5. When is the best time to see whales?

Whales are most often sighted from January through April when the gray whale migration is under way. The gray whales migrate south from Alaska to Baja California, with peak viewing in mid-January. Mid-March is peak viewing for the northern migration with mothers and calves often passing very close to shore in April. Visit our Whale Watching page for more information.

Top of Page


6. Where can I see whales?

The best spot to view whales in the park is at the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock areas. Drakes Beach, the Great Beach and Limantour also provide good vantage points for viewing whales. Visit our Whale Watching page for more information.

Top of Page


7. Is there camping in the park?

Yes, however it is all backcountry (hike-in) camping-there is no car camping in the park. The nearest car camping is located at Olema Campground (415-663-8001) and Samuel P. Taylor State Park (1-800-444-7275). For more information about camping in the park and surrounding area, visit our Campgrounds and Backcountry Camping pages.

Top of Page


8. Where can I see the tule elk?

The tule elk reside at the north end of the park on Tomales Point within the Tule Elk Reserve. A herd of nearly 400 elk may be seen there, often from the roadside and parking lot area near Pierce Ranch. Visit our Viewing Tule Elk page for more information.

Top of Page


9. What time does the park close?

The park does not have an official closing time. However, all beach fires must be out by midnight and there is no overnight parking without a backcountry permit. Sleeping in parked vehicles is strictly prohibited within park boundaries.

Top of Page


10. Can I have a fire in the park?

Fires are allowed on beaches by permit only. Permits are issued free of charge on a same day basis (the same-day you plan to have a fire) and may be obtained from any visitor center or from rangers in the field. For more information about fire regulations visit our Beach Fires page or call the Bear Valley Visitor Center at (415) 464-5100 x2 x5.

Top of Page


11. I only have so much time, what should I see/do?

For making the most of your visit, take a look at our Trip Itineraries page.

Top of Page


12. Where is a good place to eat/sleep nearby?

Check our Restaurants and Lodging pages for information regarding restaurants and lodging. Our Basic Information pages can help you find other services in and around Point Reyes National Seashore.

Top of Page


13. Where are good areas for birdwatching?

Drakes and Limantour Esteros, Abbotts Lagoon, Five Brooks Pond, and the Lighthouse area are all good places to view birds. Visit our Bird Watching page for more information.

Please note: employee housing as well as park administrative, maintenance, operations, and storage facilities, including, but not limited, to access roads, outbuildings, grounds, and docks, are closed to public use.

Top of Page


14. Can I fish at Point Reyes?

Fishing is permitted under California State Hunting and Sport Fishing Regulations. By state law, no fishing is allowed in:

  • Lagunitas Creek and all its tributaries including Olema and Bear Valley Creeks,
  • All coastal streams within the park,
  • Limantour Estero, or
  • Point Reyes Headlands Marine Conservation Area.
  • Certain Marine Protected Areas. See our Marine Life Protection Act page for more details.

For more information, visit our Fishing at Point Reyes page.

Top of Page


15. My fiance and I wish to get married at Point Reyes. Do we need to get any permits?

Special use permits are required for all weddings and any other event or activity that would involve more than 100 people. For more information or to obtain a permit, contact the park's Special Use Coordinator at 415-464-5111.

Top of Page


16. Can I use a metal detector at Point Reyes?

Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations Section 2.1 (a) (7) prohibits the use or possession of metal detectors, magnetometers, and similar equipment within the jurisdiction of national park lands. However, such devices may be transported through park areas provided they are broken down, dismantled, and cased in such a way that prevents their ready use.

The hobby of metal detecting is generally considered to be "treasure hunting". Even if the user is searching for items of relatively low value, such as recently issued coins or the like, there is great potential loss of items with significant historical or cultural value. The National Park Service is mandated to protect historic features and artifacts for the enjoyment of future generations. Therefore, the use of metal detectors within park areas is considered to be incompatible with the mission of the Service.

Top of Page


17. What time does the movie/slide show start? (at Bear Valley Visitor Center)

Audio-visual programs are shown upon request anytime the Bear Valley Visitor Center is open. We have six different audio-visual presentations:

  • "Enchanted Shores" - a 20-minute slide show with beautiful images of Point Reyes
  • "Life at the Water's Edge" - a 20 minute video about Snowy Plovers and Least Terns
  • "On A Barren Rock" - an 11-minute video about the Point Reyes Lighthouse
  • "Point Reyes: The Point of Kings" - a 15-minute orientation video
  • "Something Special" - a 22-minute orientation video introducing the park and local area
  • "Spark of Life: Fire at Point Reyes" - a 12 minute video about the 1995 Vision Fire

Top of Page


17. "I hit an animal while driving. What should I do?" or "I found a roadkilled animal. What should I do?"

Please contact park dispatch at 415-464-5170 if you hit an animal while driving within the National Seashore and there is significant damage to your vehicle, or if you see a recently roadkilled animal that is creating a road hazard on a park roadway. You can also help increase researchers' understanding of the extent of roadkill and help develop innovative ideas for reducing roadkill by reporting the roadkill to the California Roadkill Observation System.

Top of Page

Did You Know?