Last updated: February 9, 2024
Distance: 9.5 miles (15.3 km), strenuous
Descend from forested Inverness Ridge through coastal scrub to the ocean. However, it's a steep return through the forest back to the trailhead.
This hike is mostly within the Phillip Burton Wilderness. Much of this area was burned in the 1995 Vision Fire and, again, by the 2020 Woodward Fire, which was ignited by lightning strikes in August of 2020.
Start at the Sky Trailhead, which is located along Limantour Road. Follow the northern section of the Sky Trail, which has some limited views of the ocean, through the woods for 2.6 miles (4.2 km) to the Woodward Valley Trail. Along the way, you'll pass by the junctions for Fire Lane Trail, Horse Trail, Mount Wittenberg Trail, and Meadow Trail, as well as Sky Campground. Vault toilets and potable water are available along the Sky Trail at the campground, which is 1.3 miles from the trailhead.
Turn right (west) on to the Woodward Valley Trail, which was one of the lushest, greenest trails in the park before the Woodward Fire. The Woodward Valley Trail descends about 800 feet (~240 meters) over a distance of 2.0 miles (3.2 km) before intersecting with the Coast Trail. Open ocean views are plentiful along the last 0.5 miles (0.8 km) of the Woodward Valley Trail as you pass through coastal grasslands intermixed with some coastal scrub.
Turn right on to the Coast Trail and follow it 0.8 miles (1.3 km) north to Coast Campground. Vault toilets and potable water are available at Coast Campground, and, just north of site 8, a trail leads down to Santa Maria Beach.
To continue with your hike, follow the Coast Trail north from the campground for 0.1 mile (180 meters) to its junction with Fire Lane Trail. Turn right (north) on to the Fire Lane Trail and begin your ascent through coastal scrub to return to the ridge crest. Be sure to turn around every now and then to see if any views of Drakes Bay have become available as you climb.
After 1 mile (1.6 km), bear right to stay on the Fire Lane Trail at its junction with the more heavily traveled Laguna Trail. This northern leg of the Fire Lane Trail will ascend about 600 feet (180 meters) over a distance of 2.3 miles (3.7 km) as it passes from coastal scrub habitat into increasingly denser forest. At its junction with the Sky Trail, turn left and return in 0.8 miles (1.3 km) to the Sky Trailhead.
This route description alone is not a substitute for a trail map. Print out the Point Reyes National Seashore's South District trail map (3,422 KB PDF) before your visit, or pick one up at the Bear Valley 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.
Allow four to six hours to hike this route.
Pets are prohibited on the Sky, Woodward Valley, Coast, and Fire Lane trails. Visit the park's Pets page to learn where pets are welcome at Point Reyes National Seashore.
After turning onto Limantour Road, look for the "Sky Trail" sign after driving 3.4 miles (5.4 km). Turn left and park in the small lot at the trailhead. If this parking lot is full, park on the shoulder on the north side of the road. Make sure that all tires are off the pavement and that no part of your vehicle is blocking the westbound lane of Limantour Road. Allow 10 minutes drive time from Bear Valley to the Sky Trailhead.
Directions to Bear Valley
Directions from Bear Valley to the Sky Trailhead
The heaviest rainfall occurs in the winter months. Come prepared for rain and drizzle to possibly last for several days. In between winter rains, it is often sunny, calm, and cool.
Most spring days are windy. Expect cool temperatures in March. By late May and early June, temperatures can be quite pleasant.
Although there is very little rain during summer months, there is often dense fog, which tends to burn off by mid-day. Afternoons are often sunny and warm to hot with a light breeze.
Point Reyes experience some of the clearest days in late September, October, and early November. The occasional storm will start rolling through in late October, bringing clouds, wind, and rain. The strongest winds occur in November and December during occasional southerly gales.
The Sky Trail is an old ranch road and its northern 1.4 miles (2.2 km) is maintained as a service road for NPS vehicles to drive to Sky Campground. So, this section of the route tends to be at least 8 feet (2.4 meters) wide with a substrate of dirt and gravel. The Sky Trail from its trailhead to Sky Campground is open to bicycles, strollers, and other wheeled devices. But, since this section has a change in elevation of about 350 feet (106 meters), it may be challenging for someone in a wheelchair without assistance. The other sections of trail along this hike also follow the routes of old ranch roads, but these sections are not maintained as roadways and have largely become single-track trails that may be only a two feet (60 cm) wide in places. The Woodward Valley Trail and the Fire Lane Trail have changes in elevation of roughly 900 feet (270 meters) each and are oftentimes quite steep. Wheeled devices, such as bicycles and strollers, are prohibited on these other trails. Wheelchairs are permitted on these other trails, but none of these trails meet the criteria for being accessible. The vault toilets at Sky and Coast Campgrounds do not meet accessibility standards.