Maximizing Your Stay at Point Reyes National Seashore
How much time do you have?
Visitors can easily spend a day, a weekend, or even longer exploring what Point Reyes has to offer. The park maintains about 240 kilometers (150 miles) of trails, four backcountry campgrounds, several historical structures, three visitor centers, numerous beaches accessible by car and/or foot, and much, much more. With so much to see and do, you might wonder where to begin! That is why we've put together the following list of suggestions. While we do list several hikes below, if your interests are solely related to hiking you should see our Trail Guide & Suggested Hikes page.
For a one-hour stay
You might also like to visit Kule Loklo. A short path starting from the visitor center will lead you up to a replica of this Coast Miwok Indian Village. Interpretive signs briefly describe Coast Miwok culture, history, and the structures in the village. (1.3 km / 0.8 mi)
If a walk in the woods is more of what you're looking for then perhaps you'd enjoy a short hike on Woodpecker Trail. This beautiful loop trail explores local forest and meadows, with interpretive signs describing some plants and animals you may see along the way. (1.2 km / 0.7 mi)
For an introduction to local geological history there is the popular Earthquake Trail. This nearly flat trail is a short paved loop that explores the San Andreas Fault Zone. Interpretive signs describe the geology of the area. The trail entrance is located across the parking lot from the visitor center just to the left of the picnic area restrooms. (1.0 km / 0.6 miles)
For up to a three-hour stay
A 35–40 minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center can also get you to the Pierce Point Ranch and Tule Elk Reserve. Here you can learn about the history of dairy ranching in the park though interpretive signs and historical structures. A short hike from the Pierce Point Ranch will take you into the 1,050 hectare (2,600 acre) preserve where nearly 400 tule elk roam free. They can be seen any time of the year and often can be seen from the ranch parking lot. The most exciting time to see the tule elk is during the fall rut, late July through November.
Many of the park's beaches can be reached within a half-hour to forty-minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. These include Limantour Beach, Drakes Beach, and North and South Beaches, as well as Heart's Desire Beach in Tomales Bay State Park. Several others may be reached by foot.
Another popular destination is the Ken Patrick Visitor Center located at Drakes Beach. The visitor center has an impressive display of exhibits featuring 16th-century maritime exploration, marine fossils, and marine environment. A full-sized minke whale skeleton is suspended from the center's ceiling.
If you would prefer hiking for a few hours, Divide Meadow from the Bear Valley Trailhead is a pleasant destination and resting point for a picnic. From the trailhead it is a casual stroll through a mixed Douglas fir forest along Bear Valley Creek to the tree-lined open grasses of the meadow. (5.1 km / 3.2 mi) Another nice 3-hour hike is up to Mt. Wittenberg from Bear Valley Visitor Center. This steep 400 m / 1300 ft climb to the highest point in the park is not for the weak hearted, but provides the adventurer with panoramic views of the Seashore and Olema Valley at its peak. (8 km / 5 mi)
And for a full-day visit (4 hours or more)
Did You Know?
Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) began breeding at Point Reyes in 1981 after being absent for over 150 years. The population breeds at terrestrial haul out sites at Point Reyes Headland, one of only eleven mainland breeding areas for northern elephant seals in the world. More...