Thing to Do

Hike the Tomales Point Trail

A man hikes through light fog on a dirt path through wildflowers, along a coastal bluff
Coastal fog and spring wildflowers add to the beauty of a hike on Tomales Point trail.

NPS / A. Kopshever

Distance to Windy Gap: 2 miles (3.2 km) roundtrip
Distance to Lower Pierce Point Ranch site: 6 miles (9.6 km) roundtrip

Distance to Tomales Point: 9.5 miles (15 km) roundtrip

This trail rambles along the crest of an open ridge offering 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.

At the one-mile (1.6-km) mark is 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 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. In January 2017, part of the bluff at the northern end of Tomales Point collapsed. 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 Tomales Point, Pierce Point Ranch, and the Tule Elk Reserve for more information about other points of interest and activities in the immediate vicinity.

Details

The Tomales Point Trail is an out-and-back trail. Consider the weather, your preparedness, and overall group speed in deciding when to turn around. 

Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.

Allow 35 minutes driving time from Bear Valley to the Tomales Point Trailhead, located at the north end of Pierce Point Road. Tomales Point is the northernmost peninsula within Point Reyes National Seashore, located between Tomales Bay on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west.

Winter

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.

Spring

Most spring days are windy and Tomales Point frequently experiences strong breezes. Expect cool temperatures in March. By late May and early June, temperatures can be quite pleasant, even warm.

Summer

Although there is very little rain during summer months, there is often dense fog throughout the day in July, August and September with temperatures often 20 degrees cooler than at Bear Valley.

Fall

The coastal areas of 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.

Point Reyes National Seashore is open for day-hiking from 6 am to midnight.

Accessibility Information

The Tomales Point Trail does not meet criteria for being accessible. The trail traverses both flat and rolling terrain. The trail itself is quite narrow, about two to three feet (>1 meter) wide in places. The trail surface is primarily hard-packed soil. A high volume of foot traffic over time has led to the trail becoming rutted in some places. 

Point Reyes National Seashore

Last updated: December 6, 2021