To Windy Gap: 2 miles (3.2 km) roundtrip
To Lower Pierce Point Ranch site: 6 miles (9.6 km) roundtrip
To Tomales Point: 9.5 miles (15 km) roundtrip
This hike starts from the Tomales Point Trailhead by passing along the west side of Pierce Point Ranch before veering west through coastal scrub to the top of tall coastal bluffs. This trail rambles along the crest of an open ridge as it follows an old ranch road northwest. It offers spectacular views of Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. It is also a prime wildlife viewing trail, as it traverses through the Tule Elk Reserve. The Tomales Point Trail is an out-and-back trail, so it provides visitors with the flexibility to choose how long they want to make their adventure.
The first mile of the trail is fairly level and broad, with views looking west over the Pacific Ocean. This is an opportune section of the trail to be on for sunset (so long as fog doesn't obscure the view). One can catch the sun setting "into" the ocean and still have enough twilight to walk back to one's vehicle before dark.
After 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) with very little change in elevation, the trail drops a bit into a saddle, called Windy Gap, at the head of White Gulch. This is a good location from which to view tule elk gathered at a perennial spring in the gulch below. Looking beyond White Gulch, one has a view of Hog Island in Tomales Bay. This is a good destination at which to turn around for visitors wanting to do a shorter hike.
Continuing north on the trail, one begins to ascend along the ridge crest to the highest location along the trail, located approximately 2.25 miles (3.6 km) from the trailhead. If you don't want to sweat much on the return hike, turn around here. Beyond this "peak", the trail descends rather steeply over the next 0.75 miles (1.2 km). But, if you are willing to proceed, you will soon arrive at a stock pond at the site of the Lower Pierce Point Ranch where elk, herons, and ducks can usually be seen. If you have yet to see elk, you'll likely see some here. Turn around here if you desire a 6-mile (~10 km) round-trip hike.
Beyond the Lower Pierce Point Ranch site, it is 1.7 miles to the tip of Tomales Point, but the trail is unmaintained, sandy, and is often overgrown. Long pants and long sleeves are advised. Fog and wind can limit visibility and make this hike more challenging; along some stretches it can be difficult to recognize which path to follow among the bush lupine. But the myriad paths tend to reconnect and ultimately merge into one path along the last half mile (0.8 km) of the "trail."
An important note to all visitors: Please stay on the main trail and away from the cliff tops. Bluffs along the California coast are inherently unstable. As an example, in January 2017, part of the bluff at the northern end of Tomales Point collapsed with no warning. As a result, a section of the Tomales Point Trail is no more. If you plan on hiking to Tomales Point, please be mindful of these hazards. Be aware of your surroundings and stay back from the edge. Many of the cliffs around Point Reyes are unstable and prone to slides or collapse, especially in wet weather. It is very dangerous to climb or walk along the edge of cliffs.
This route description alone is not a substitute for a trail map. Print out the park's Tomales Point Map (1,116 KB PDF) and North District trail map (3,409 KB PDF) before your visit, or pick one up 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.
Visit the park's Tomales Point, Pierce Point Ranch, and the Tule Elk Reserve for more information about other points of interest and activities in the immediate vicinity.