Winter Shuttle Bus System
Weekends And Holidays
$5 Shuttle Bus Tickets are Available
Winter is an exciting time to visit the park. As the gray whales migrate past and the elephant seals return to the Point Reyes Headlands, so do lots of visitors. This means increased traffic on the narrow roadways and in the small parking lots at the lighthouse and at Chimney Rock—especially on weekends and holidays. In order to reduce traffic congestion in the Point Reyes Headlands, the Seashore instituted a shuttle bus system in 1998.
The lighthouse shuttle bus system usually begins on the last Saturday of December and continues through mid-April. The last day for the 2014 shuttle season was March 30. Sir Francis Drake Boulevard will be closed to private vehicles at the South Beach junction from 9 am through 5:30 pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays when the weather is fair or better. Shuttle service will not run during stormy or extremely wet weather. Check the telephone weather recording at 415-464-5100, ext. 2 (then press 1) for updates on whether shuttles are operating. To ensure the safety of bus operators and passengers, we do need to limit private vehicle access on the narrow and curving road while the buses are running. Map of road closure.
NOTE: Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from the South Beach junction to the Lighthouse visitor parking lot is open to private vehicles on weekdays, and on weekend days when the shuttle bus system is not operating.
NOTE: The Drakes Beach Café is indefinitely closed. No food is available for purchase beyond the community of Inverness.
How it works
Interagency Senior, Interagency Access, Golden Age, and Golden Access passes may apply to the shuttle fees. Holders of these passes should request information at the time of purchasing bus tickets. The Interagency Annual Pass and the Interagency Annual Pass for US Military and Their Dependents do not provide the pass owner a discount on the shuttle fee. Fee waivers are not available for recreational use user fees such as bus transportation.
Bus service is provided from Drakes Beach directly to the lighthouse parking lot. The average time between buses is 20 minutes. Buses circle from Drakes Beach to the Lighthouse to Chimney Rock and back to Drakes Beach, but do not backtrack from Chimney Rock to the Lighthouse. Visitors usually disembark for the Point Reyes Lighthouse, whale watching, and wildflowers at the Lighthouse bus stop, and, when ready, return to the bus stop for the second leg to Chimney Rock for hiking and elephant seal watching. Or, instead of getting off at the Lighthouse, visitors may stay on the same bus as it continues on to Chimney Rock.
Be sure to return to the Lighthouse shuttle stop by 5 pm or to the Chimney Rock shuttle stop by 5:30 pm, or you may miss the last bus taking visitors back to Drakes Beach. Sir Francis Drake Boulevard will remain closed to private vehicles until approximately 5:30 pm.
Individuals with a Disabled Person parking placard or plate may drive their personal vehicle to the Lighthouse accessible parking lot and the Chimney Rock parking lot during times when the shuttles are operating. When one arrives at the South Beach road junction, they will need to show the parking placard or plate to the traffic control personnel, who will then instruct the driver concerning how to proceed to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock. Be sure to let the traffic control personnel know if you do wish to go to Chimney Rock because there are special instructions for driving on the single-lane Chimney Rock Road while the buses are operating. Inquire at the Bear Valley Visitor Center or the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center if you have more questions.
The National Park Service at Point Reyes appreciates your support of the shuttle service and welcomes your comments. The bus service is the first step toward protecting and managing the fragile Headlands area for visitor enjoyment and safety.
Shuttle System History
In 1998, to relieve this congestion and eliminate the two-hour waiting period, Point Reyes National Seashore contracted large 40-passenger buses to provide transportation from Drakes Beach to the Headlands. The 1998-1999 lighthouse shuttle bus experiments proved successful, parking lot congestion was relieved, and visitors were provided with a comfortable and quick trip to the Headlands. The success of the lighthouse shuttle bus prompted the National Park Service to indefinitely continue this service.
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...