Thing to Do

Hike to Mount Wittenberg from Bear Valley

A dirt single track trail climbs up under a canopy of mixed evergreen forest.
The Mount Wittenberg trail climbs steeply under the shade of Douglas fir and tan oak.

NPS / A. Kopshever

Distance: 4.8 to 6.5 miles (7.7 to 10.4 km) roundtrip, strenuous

The hikes described on this page feature steep 400 meter (1300 feet) climbs to Mount Wittenberg, the highest point on the Point Reyes Peninsula at 1407 feet (426 meters) in elevation, with a few limited views of the ocean and Olema Valley near the ridge crest. These routes pass through a dense mixed Douglas fir and oak forest and a few open meadows. These routes are also mostly within the Phillip Burton Wilderness. Please practice Leave No Trace principles.

Start at the Bear Valley Trailhead and follow the relatively flat Bear Valley Trail south through a meadow for 0.2 miles (0.3 km), passing into the Phillip Burton Wilderness. Turn right on to the Mount Wittenberg Trail and ascend through the forest, passing through a few meadows, for a distance of 1.8 miles (2.9 km) to the Mount Wittenberg-Z Ranch trail junction, which is located in a meadow along the ridge crest.

From this junction, the 0.3-mile-long (0.5-kilometer-long) Mount Wittenberg Summit Trail leads, as its name suggests, to the summit of Mount Wittenberg. The once unobstructed views from near the summit have, since 2000, become obstructed by dense Douglas fir thickets that sprouted shortly after the 1995 Vision Fire. While the 2020 Woodward Fire burned through much of the forest around Mount Wittenberg, the view-obstructing Douglas fir thickets were largely left unscathed.

Return back to the Mount Wittenberg-Z Ranch trail junction where there are a few options to return to the trailhead:

  • Retrace your route back to the Bear Valley trailhead for a total of 4.8 miles (7.7 km) roundtrip.
  • Return via the Meadow Trail for a 5.4-mile-long (8.6-km-long) loop. From the Mount Wittenberg-Z Ranch trail junction, continue west along the Mount Wittenberg Trail for 0.4 miles (0.6 km) to its junction with the Meadow and Sky trails. Along this section of trail, one may be rewarded (weather dependent) with views looking west across the peninsula to the Pacific Ocean. From the Meadow-Sky trail junction, descend the Meadow Trail through forest and a couple meadows for 1.6 miles (2.6 miles) to the Bear Valley Trail. Turn left and follow Bear Valley Creek downstream for 0.8 miles (1.3 km) to return to the Bear Valley Trailhead.
  • Return via the Horse Trail for a 6.5-mile-long (10.4-km-long) loop. From the Mount Wittenberg-Z Ranch trail junction, turn north and follow the Z Ranch Trail through a thicket of Douglas fir for 0.7 miles (1.2 km) to the Horse Trail. Turn right and follow the Horse Trail downhill for 2.4 miles (3.8 miles) to its junction with the Morgan Trail. Along this section, there are a few gaps in the forest canopy that provide views to the north of Inverness Ridge and Bolinas Ridge and just a little bit of Tomales Bay. Turn right and follow the Morgan Trail around the west side of the Morgan Horse Ranch to return to the Bear Valley 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.

Always check current conditions before heading out into the park and familiarize yourself with park regulations. Please practice Leave No Trace principles.

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.

Details

Allow two to three hours to hike any of the routes described on this page.

All ages.

Pets are prohibited on all of the trails that lead to Mount Wittenberg. Visit the park's Pets page to learn where pets are welcome at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.

The Bear Valley Trailhead is located at the southwest corner of the Trailhead and Picnic Area parking area at Bear Valley in Point Reyes National Seashore.
Directions to Bear Valley

To help reduce traffic congestion in the paved parking lot adjacent to the Bear Valley Visitor Center, please park your vehicle(s) in the gravel, trailhead/picnic area parking lot on the left (east) side of the access road close to the Bear Valley Trailhead. Parking is free. Download the Bear Valley Area Map (427 KB PDF), which shows the location of the trailhead parking lot relative to the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

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. Expect cool temperatures in March. By late May and early June, temperatures can be quite pleasant.

Summer

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.

Fall

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 daily for day-hiking from 6 am to midnight. Overnight parking and camping is only permitted with a valid backcountry camping permit.

Accessibility Information

The Mount Wittenberg, Meadow, Z Ranch, and Horse Trails vary in width from three to six feet (0.9 to 1.8 meters). The total elevation change from Bear Valley to the summit of Mount Wittenberg is about 1300 feet (400 meters) over a distance of 2.4 to 4.1 miles (3.8 to 6.6 km), depending on which route one follows. The trail surface is mostly compacted dirt with exposed roots and rocks.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Last updated: September 12, 2022