Alamere Falls

Twenty visitors playing and resting on an ocean beach. Pacific Ocean waves wash in from the left and a waterfall cascades onto the beach from a coastal bluff on the right.
A low-visitation mid-week day at Alamere Falls.

Alamere Falls is a beautiful waterfall deep within the Phillip Burton Wilderness. The falls are a dramatic sight as water cascades over a ~30 foot tall cliff onto the south end of Wildcat Beach. While no easy trek—a 13-mile (20 km) minimum round-trip hike is required—this spectacular spot is a popular—and a sometimes overcrowded—visitor draw. Take note: it is also the site of multiple search-and-rescue operations each year. Beware of getting too close to cliff edges and be mindful of coastal erosion!

 

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There is NO park-sanctioned "Alamere Falls Trail"

Please take note! Many social media posts, websites, and older (and some newer) guide books reference an "Alamere Falls Trail" (also sometimes referred to as a "shortcut to the falls"). The "Alamere Falls Trail" is NOT a maintained trail, and poses many hazards to off-trail hikers—crumbling and eroding cliffs, massive poison oak, ticks, and no cell phone service. Visitors who use this unmaintained trail may endanger themselves and rescuers, and inadvertently cause resource damage, such as trampling plants, which may lead to the death of the trampled plants. On an almost weekly basis, visitors get hurt scrambling down the heavily rutted route leading to the top of the falls or sliding down the crumbly cliff-face to get to the beach, sometimes requiring search and rescue teams to be mobilized. The National Park Service strongly advises visitors against using this unmaintained route. Please use the recommended routes described below to visit the falls.

 
A rocky headland rises over a sandy beach as Pacific Ocean waves wash in from the right. A waterfall, just left of center, cascades over a bluff top onto the beach.
Alamere Falls and Double Point.

Help Protect Wilderness Values

Wilderness areas are places of refuge—protected and managed to allow for relaxation, self-reliance, opportunities for solitude, and natural quiet. To maintain this extraordinary wilderness character, this area is supposed to be free of mechanized equipment and the imprint of human development is limited.

  • Restrooms: There are no restrooms near Bass Lake or Alamere Falls. A restroom building with flush toilets is located at the northeast corner of the Bear Valley Trailhead parking lot. Vault toilet buildings are located at the Palomarin and Five Brooks trailheads, at Divide Meadow, and at Wildcat and Glen campgrounds.
  • Leave no trace.
  • Don't Litter: Pack out everything you pack in...or more. Bring along a trash bag. Unfortunately, some visitors litter. There is also a lot of marine debris that washes up on Wildcat Beach. Park staff and future visitors will be grateful for any trash that you pick up and pack out.
  • Glass: Please leave glass containers at home or in your vehicles. Many visitors walk barefoot in the vicinity of Bass Lake, Wildcat Beach, and Alamere Falls.
  • Natural Quiet: Devices such as radios, boomboxes, and portable speakers are prohibited. Talk quietly. By lowering your voice in parks, you greatly improve the soundscape. Natural sounds are part of a web of resources vital to the ecosystems at Point Reyes. When noise covers up natural sounds, the entire natural ecosystem shows the effects. Find out how you can make a positive difference.
  • Phones: Mobile phone reception is very minimal to nonexistent. If you keep your mobile phone on while you are hiking in areas without a cell signal, your phone's battery will drain rather quickly as it continuously attempts to find a signal. Please only use your mobile phone for emergencies. Doing so will also help preserve Wilderness values, such as natural quiet.
 
A cartoon silhouette of an unmanned aerial vehicle (a drone) surrounded by a red circle bisected by a red diagonal line.
  • Drones: Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft, such as drones, from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Point Reyes National Seashore is prohibited.
  • Bicycles: Bicycles are prohibited in Wilderness. Visitors may ride their bicycles to Wildcat Campground via the Stewart Trail from the Five Brooks Trailhead, but the beach and almost all other trails in the area are off-limits to bicycles. Please refer to our Bicycle Riding to learn where you can ride your bike in the Seashore.
  • Marijuana: The use and/or possession of marijuana remains illegal on federal lands, including Point Reyes National Seashore and other National Park Service areas.
  • Take the #PointReyesPledge.
  • Share with your community that you #ExploreResponsibly.

Please help us keep this extraordinary wilderness wild!

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A map of the southern district of Point Reyes National Seashore with more commonly used routes to hike to Alamere Falls highlighted. [Click on this image to download a 3 MB PDF version of this map.]

Come Prepared

  • Plan: Read through the NPS Trip Planning Guide
  • Pack the Ten Essentials.
  • Maps: Print out the Alamere Falls Map (2,998 KB PDF) and the South District Hiking Map (766 KB PDF).
  • Vehicle fuel: The closest gas station to the Palomarin Trailhead is five miles away in Bolinas. The closest gas station to the Bear Valley Trailhead is three miles away in Point Reyes Station. These are the only gas stations in West Marin. There are three electric vehicle charging stations at the Bear Valley Visitor Center; none at the the other trailheads.
  • Weather: Consult the National Weather Service Forecast. During the hike to Alamere Falls, there will be no shelter from the weather. Dress appropriately. Wear layered clothing.
  • Water: There is NO water at the Palomarin and Five Brooks trailheads. Bring at least a couple liter-sized water bottles per person. Fill your water bottles before arriving at the Palomarin or Five Brooks trailheads, as there are no water faucets there. There is a water bottle filling station/water fountain inside the Bear Valley Visitor Center (limited hours), in addition to a drinking fountain at the Bear Valley Picnic Area restrooms and a water faucet in the Bear Valley Picnic Area (both available from 6 am to midnight). There is also a water faucet located near the vault toilets at Wildcat Campground, approximately one mile (1.6 km) north of Alamere Falls. If one is hiking from the Bear Valley Trailhead, there is also a water faucet at Glen Campground; diverting to Glen Campground will add 0.8 miles (1.3 km) to your hike. If you bring water in plastic one-time-use bottles, do not litter—pack the bottles out.
  • Food: There are no food services at or beyond the trailheads. Bring sufficient food to provide you with enough energy to hike thirteen-plus miles.
 
A cartoon silhouette of a dog surrounded by a red circle bisected by a red diagonal line.
  • Pets: Dogs and other pets are prohibited on almost all trails within Point Reyes National Seashore, including all of the trails leading to Alamere Falls. Please refer to our Pets pages to learn where you can bring your dog in the Seashore. This prohibition does not apply to working service dogs, which are allowed on park trails. If you have a service dog, please inquire at the Bear Valley Visitor Center for information.


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Emergencies

  • Administer first-aid and send for help.
  • Call 911 or 415-464-5170, if possible. Mobile phone reception is very minimal to nonexistent. If you keep your mobile phone on while you are hiking in areas without a cell signal, your phone's battery will drain rather quickly as it continuously attempts to find a signal and you may not have any battery power when you really need it. Cell phone signals will be strongest along and near the ridge crest.
  • There are pay phones available outside the Bear Valley Visitor Center and the Point Blue Conservation Science Field Station, located ~0.75 miles (~1.2 km) south of the Palomarin Trailhead. Staff at the Five Brooks Stables also have a land-line phone.
  • If you solo hike and you get into trouble or are injured, you will want to know how to perform a self-rescue.
  • If you are hiking with others and someone in your party is injured, have someone stay with the injured party and send, preferably, at least two others for help.
  • National Park Service personnel carry two-way radios which are able to be used in most locations throughout the park, so keep your eyes open for park staff to provide assistance.
  • Depending on the time of day, there may be personnel available at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, the Point Blue Conservation Science Field Station, and/or the Five Brooks Stables.

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Directions to the Trailheads

There are three trailheads at which most visitors park to hike to Alamere Falls: Bear Valley, Palomarin, and Five Brooks. Information about the routes from these trailheads to Alamere Falls via Wildcat Campground may be found below.

 
A wide foot path passes by trailhead signs and a metal gate. The trail passes through a meadow before entering a forest in the distance.
The Bear Valley Trailhead.

Bear Valley

The Bear Valley Trailhead is located just south of the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Park your vehicle(s) in the gravel parking lot on the left (east) side of the access road close to the Bear Valley Trailhead, not in the paved parking lot adjacent to the Bear Valley Visitor Center. (Bear Valley Map - 2,875 KB PDF) There is a restroom building with flush toilets at the northeast corner of the trailhead parking area, along with garbage and recycling receptacles. There is also a water faucet from which one may obtain potable water. From Bear Valley, the minimum hiking distance to Alamere Falls is 7.3 miles (11.7 km).
Directions to the Bear Valley Visitor Center

 
Many vehicles parked in a gravel parking lot on the left. A vault toilet building is located just right of center. A foot path heads off into the woods on the right.
The Palomarin Trailhead on a relatively low-visitation Saturday afternoon.

Palomarin

The Palomarin Trailhead is located approximately thirty-five minutes by car from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. It is located at the northwestern end of Mesa Road, approximately 5 miles (8 km) northwest of Bolinas. The last 1.2 miles (1.9 km) of Mesa Road is unpaved and is often severely potholed and washboarded. There are four vault toilets at this trailhead, along with garbage and recycling receptacles. There is no potable water available. From the Palomarin Trailhead, the minimum hiking distance to Alamere Falls is 6.5 miles (10.4 km). If you park along Mesa Road, the hiking distance will be greater.
Directions from the Bear Valley Visitor Center to the Palomarin Trailhead

 
Twenty-two vehicles in a line parked along the left side of a gravel road.
Vehicles parked along the west side Mesa Road south of the Palomarin Trailhead on a relatively low-visitation Saturday afternoon.

Please be aware that on weekends throughout the year and on many weekdays throughout the summer, the parking lot at the Palomarin Trailhead fills very early in the day. If you arrive after the parking lot fills up, you are welcome to park on the west (ocean) side of Mesa Road. Please observe all "No Parking" signs. Also be aware that visitors arriving late in the morning or in the afternoon may be turned away. On many summer weekend days, the park may close the area to further entry for several hours when there are no more parking spaces available. If you wish to visit Alamere Falls or other locations accessed via the Palomarin Trailhead, arrive early, or consider visiting mid-week. Check the park's Facebook page and/or Twitter feed for updates on holiday and summer weekends!

 
A wide gravel footpath/service road passes by trailhead signs. A low split-rail fence separates a grassy meadow on the left from the trail. Trees border the trail on the right.
The Five Brooks Trailhead.

Five Brooks

The Five Brooks Trailhead is located approximately ten minutes by car from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. There are two vault toilets at this trailhead, along with garbage and recycling receptacles. There is no potable water available. From Five Brooks, the minimum hiking distance to Alamere Falls is 7.1 miles (11.4 km); the minimum distance by bicycle is 7.8 miles (12.5 km).
Directions from the Bear Valley Visitor Center to the Five Brooks Trailhead

 

Stay on designated trails

Stay on park-maintained trails. Hiking along the bluff tops is strongly discouraged. Stay away from cliff edges. Loose soil and/or rock can give way suddenly and you may fall. Visitors walking on the beach below the cliffs may be injured or killed by rocks dislodged by visitors at the edge of the clifftops. Do not climb cliffs.

Visitors walking off of official trails and paths trample vegetation, which may lead to the death of the trampled plants, or spread seeds from non-native plants to locations where they have yet to be introduced. Over time, as more and more visitors use a route, it starts to look more and more like an official trail, and more and more visitors use it, resulting in a feedback loop that makes the "trail" look "official." However, these "social paths" tend to exacerbate erosion and harm threatened and endangered species. These paths also can lead to locations where visitors may be more at risk to injury, endangering themselves and any potential rescuers.

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Looking south along Wildcat Beach from Wildcat Campground. The Pacific Ocean is on the right. A sandy beach stretches from the foreground toward Alamere Falls, Double Point, and Stormy Stack, which are visible in the distance in the image's center.
Looking south from Wildcat Campground along Wildcat Beach.

The Routes to Alamere Falls via Wildcat Campground

To visit Alamere Falls safely, Point Reyes National Seashore recommends hiking to Wildcat Campground and, from there, walking a mile south on Wildcat Beach (more about this section of the hike below). Many trails lead to Wildcat Campground, but the most commonly used routes are: the 6.3-mile (10.1 km) hike from the Bear Valley Trailhead via the Bear Valley, Glen, and Stewart Trails; the 5.5-mile (8.8 km) hike from the Palomarin Trailhead via the Coast Trail; or the 6- to 6.7-mile (10 to 10.7 km) hike from the Five Brooks Trailhead via the Stewart Trail. The Stewart Trail is open to bicycles for those who wish to ride up and over the 1,300-foot (400 m) Inverness Ridge.

Tip: If you are ever in doubt as to which way to go, there are signs at every official trail junction indicating some of the significant trail junctions and destinations in a given direction, as well as distances to those locations. In short, follow the signs for Wildcat Campground on the way out, and the signs for Bear Valley, Palomarin, or Five Brooks trailheads on the way back.

 
Looking down from a high elevation at a grassy clearing in the center of the photo, which is the location of Wildcat Campground. It is surrounded by vegetated hills to the left and right. The Pacific Ocean fills much of the upper quarter of the image.
Wildcat Campground as viewed from the Coast Trail north of the Stewart Trail.

From Bear Valley

Follow the relatively flat Bear Valley Trail south 3.1 miles (5 km) to the Glen Trail. (Bicyclists: read the next paragraph.) Turn left onto the Glen Trail and begin climbing up the side of a ridge. Stay right at 0.6 miles (1 km) to stay on the Glen Trail. After another 0.4 miles (0.6 km), one arrives at the first of two connector trails that lead to the Coast Trail. Turn right if you want to follow the Coast Trail to Wildcat Campground (the distance is 0.3 mile [0.5 km] longer via the Coast Trail) or keep left to stay on the Glen Trail. After another 0.4 miles (0.6 km), one arrives at the second connector trail. If you do opt to hike via the Coast Trail, turn left once you reach the Coast Trail and follow it south to the Stewart Trail. Otherwise, staying on the Glen Trail for an additional 0.5 miles (0.8 km) will bring one to the Stewart Trail. Turn right and follow the Stewart Trail 1.2 miles (1.9 km) downhill to get to Wildcat Campground. A well-worn trail leads along the south side of the campground to the beach.

Bicycles are permitted on the northern 3.1 miles (5 km) of the Bear Valley Trail. There is a bicycle rack at the Glen Trail junction to which bicyclists may chain/lock their bicycles. Beyond this location, one enters the Phillip Burton Wilderness, in which bicycles are prohibited.

 
Below overcast skies, Pacific Ocean waves wash in from the right, breaking against a rocky headland in the image's center. Vegetated hills and valleys fill the lower left quadrant of the image, with a small lake filling a depression in the center right.
Ocean Lake and Double Point.

From the Palomarin Trailhead

Follow the Coast Trail northwest as it meanders along near the top of an ocean cliff top for approximately one mile (1.6 km). The Coast Trail then heads inland and drops in elevation to a valley floor before switchbacking out the other side. After climbing over a pass, one hikes past a number of small ponds before reaching Bass Lake after 2.8 miles (4.5 km) of hiking. In another 0.6 miles (1 km) one arrives at a view of Pelican Lake. Continuing on 0.8 miles (1.3 km) leads to the junction with the Ocean Lake Loop Trail. Stay right to remain on the Coast Trail as it heads a bit further inland through coastal scrub and forest, or turn left on to the Ocean Lake Loop Trail, which drops initially to pass by Ocean Lake, but then climbs steeply to reach the top of some coastal bluffs with views looking up and down the shoreline. Both routes reconnect after 1.1 miles (1.7 km) after passing on opposite sides of Wildcat Lake. The Coast Trail then descends 0.2 miles (0.3 km) to Wildcat Campground.

 
A grass-covered hill is visible in the distance, framed by trees in the foreground.
One of the only far-reaching views from the Greenpicker Trail looks north toward Black Mountain.

From Five Brooks Trailhead

If you wish to bicycle all the way to Wildcat Campground, this is the trailhead at which you will need to start. Follow the Stewart Trail northwest past Five Brooks Pond for 0.3 miles (0.5 km) to the junction with the Olema Valley Trail. Keep right to stay on the Stewart Trail as it begins to climb up the side of Inverness Ridge. After 0.8 miles (1.3 km), the Greenpicker Trail branches off to the right at a switchback. Hikers may wish to shorten their hike by 0.7 miles (1.2 km) by following the Greenpicker Trail to the ridge crest, but be forewarned that the Greenpicker Trail is steeper than the Stewart Trail. Since the Greenpicker Trail is within the Philip Burton Wilderness, bicycles are prohibited on it. So, bicyclists may continue on the Stewart Trail as it switchbacks 2.6 miles (4.2 km) up the side of the ridge to Fir Top, the highest location (1324 ft/404 m) along the southern end of Inverness Ridge. However, due to the dense Douglas fir forests, there are no far-reaching views. Hikers on the Greenpicker Trail may wish to return to the Stewart Trail at this location, although one could continue hiking on the Greenpicker Trail. But staying on the Greenpicker Trail can result in the hike to Wildcat Campground being 1 mile (1.6 km) longer. The shortest route from Fir Top to Wildcat Campground is to follow the Stewart Trail as it descends 2.7 miles (4.3 miles) from ridge crest to ocean beach, staying on the the Stewart Trail at five different junctions with multiple trails that head off in various directions.

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Pacific Ocean waves wash ashore onto a sandy beach from the right. Bluffs rise from the beach on the left. A tall headland rises in the center.
Even during a relatively low tide in early spring, waves wash almost to the base of the bluffs at the south end of Wildcat Beach.

The Walk along Wildcat Beach

To visit Alamere Falls safely, Point Reyes National Seashore recommends hiking to Wildcat Campground and, from there, walking 1.1 mile (1.7 km) south on Wildcat Beach during a low tide. At higher tides, Wildcat Beach may be completely inundated. And, even during low tide periods in the winter and spring, there may be locations along the beach where the waves are lapping (or crashing) at the base of the bluffs.

Be aware of tides and surf conditions. Before you visit, check the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's tide predictions and the National Weather Service's Watches, Warnings & Advisories page for the Coastal North Bay to learn whether there are any active Beach Hazards Statements, High Surf Advisories, and/or High Surf Warnings. If there are, you will need a much lower tide to safely walk along the beach...or you may wish to postpone your trip for a day when the surf is smaller.

 
Pacific Ocean waves wash across a sandy beach from the right and crash against the base of a bluff at the center of the image. Just beyond the wave splash, a waterfall cascades on to the beach.
There wasn't sufficient sand on the beach to safely make the passage to the falls during moderate tide levels on this late summer day. Do not attempt to walk to the falls if the ocean waves are reaching the base of the coastal bluffs.

Since the amount of sand "on" the beach varies from season to season, there is no tide height that we can provide to guarantee that the tide will be low enough to allow safe and dry passage along the beach. In general, however, there is more sand "on" the beach in the summer and fall than in the winter and spring. Therefore, one can usually walk along the beach with a higher tide level in the summer and fall, while the tide level needs to be lower in the winter and spring to do so.

If you arrive at Wildcat Beach and find that the waves are reaching the base of the bluffs, do NOT attempt to walk to Alamere Falls. You could be injured or die, especially if there is high surf. If the tide is heading out, you could wait until the water level is low enough to allow safe passage along the beach. Be prepared to wait a while. If the tide is coming in, you may wish to come back on a future date rather than waiting for the tide to peak and then retreat.

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Alamere Falls. April 19, 2006.

Last updated: May 10, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Phone:

(415) 464-5100
This number will initially be answered by an automated attendant, from which one can opt to access a name directory, listen to recorded information about the park (i.e., directions to the park; visitor center hours of operation; weather forecast; fire danger information; shuttle bus system status; wildlife updates; ranger-led programs; seasonal events; etc.), or speak with a ranger. Please note that if you are calling between 4:30 pm and 10 am, park staff may not be available to answer your call.

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