Distance: 2 miles (3.2 km) roundtrip
Explore a section of the floor of a valley that follows the San Andreas Fault, passing through meadows and over a stream. Evidence of former earthquakes is rather subtle—coming in the form of diverted streams and shutter ridges—that most visitors overlook. One will only find a fresh scar on the surface of the ground if there has been a large earthquake recently; the last one was on April 18, 1906.
Start the Bear Valley Trailhead.
From the southwestern corner of the Bear Valley Trailhead, the Rift Zone Trail heads east through a meadow for 0.3 miles (0.5 km) before crossing a bridge over the tree-lined Bear Valley Creek. Those paying attention may notice that the creek is deflected by a low ridge just upstream from this location—one of the first indications one will encounter of the valley's seismic history. After crossing the bridge, the trail climbs up and over a partially wooded shutter ridge and then crosses through another meadow, which, until relatively recently, served as a cattle pasture.
After another 0.5 miles (0.8 km) [0.8 miles (1.3 km) from Bear Valley], the trail crosses the access road for the Vedanta Society Retreat. Many hikers turn around here. Many hikers turn around at the road, but the Rift Zone Trail continues south for another 3.3 miles (5.3 km). Visit our Hike the Rift Zone Trail page for information about hiking further along the trail.
The trail beyond this access road is only open to the general public from 8 am until 2 hours before sunset. If you continue, please be sure to close any gates you pass through. South of the road, the trail passes through private property for the next couple miles (few kilometers); please treat both the private land and public park lands with respect and practice Leave No Trace principles. Take only pictures and leave only footprints.
This route description alone is not a substitute for a trail map. Print out the park's Bear Valley Area Map (427 KB PDF) and South District trail map (3,422 KB PDF) before your visit, or pick up the trail map at a visitor center on your way.
Visit the park's Hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore page for hiking tips and information about trail etiquette and safety.
Visit the park's Trail Advisories and Closures page for current information about closed trails, trails blocked by trees, or other temporary hazards or advisories.