Sea Lion Overlook at Point Reyes Headlands

Steps lead down to an overlook above a rocky cliff side.
Search for sea lions, whales and sea birds from this cliff side overlook.

NPS Photo / A. Kopshever

Quick Facts
Point Reyes National Seashore's Sea Lion Overlook is located 1120 feet (340 meters) east of the parking lot at the western end of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Inverness, California. Geographic Coordinates: 37.9969, -123.0083

Benches/Seating, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Parking - Auto, Scenic View/Photo Spot

Follow the steep 54-step stairway down the side of a cliff and look straight down. It might appear to be a rocky shoreline, but keep looking and listening. If a "rock" moves or barks, it's probably a California sea lion!

Sea lions have hair and blubber to keep them warm, but they need to haul out on the rocks to sun themselves and get warm between forays into the 53°F (12°C) ocean water. Sea lions may be seen and heard year-round at this site.

Sea lions can be easily distinguished from harbor seals because they are much larger and can use their back flippers to move easily. Harbor seals are unable to rotate the pelvis and therefore must travel on their bellies. Sea lions also have external ear flaps.

In the spring, you may see nesting Brandt's cormorants. They are bigger than the double-crested and pelagic cormorants, and have bright blue throat pouches during breeding season. This is a good gray whale watching site, especially in April when the cows and calves swim close to the coastline on their northbound migration.

Park Regulations

  • Take only pictures; leave only footprints: Almost everything one finds at Point Reyes is protected by law, including shells, rocks, fossils, flowers, and artifacts.
  • Please only travel on authorized trails, respect posted signs, and practice Leave No Trace principles when recreating in the park.
  • Do not go beyond the split rail fencing.
  • Bicycles are not permitted on the path to the Sea Lion Overlook.
  • Pets are not permitted on the path to the Sea Lion Overlook. Visit our Pets page to learn where pets are permitted at Point Reyes National Seashore.
  • Drones are not permitted anywhere in Point Reyes National Seashore.


The Sea Lion Overlook is approximately 45 minutes by car from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Parallel parking near the overlook is permitted along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in this area. Please observe all "No Parking" signs and red curbs, and ensure that no part of your parked vehicle is within eight feet (2.4 m) of the center of the road in order to allow other vehicles to use the road without having to cross the center line. Another 1120 feet (340 meters) to the west is the Lighthouse visitors' parking lot, which can only accommodate 38 vehicles. Parking space availability in the headlands area is very limited, particularly on weekend afternoons. Recreational vehicles, buses, and other oversized vehicles will need to be parked along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the east of the parking lot.

Directions to Bear Valley
Directions from Bear Valley to the Lighthouse Visitors' Parking Lot

Point Reyes National Seashore

Last updated: April 18, 2024