Last updated: February 2, 2023
Thing to Do
Hike to Wildcat Beach
11 miles (17.6 km) roundtrip from the Palomarin Trailhead
12.6 miles (20.3 km) roundtrip from the Bear Valley Trailhead
13.4 miles (21.6 km) roundtrip from the Five Brooks Trailhead
Wildcat Beach is a 2.9-mile-long (4.7-kilometer-long) beach deep within the Phillip Burton Wilderness in the southern part of the national seashore. To get to Wildcat Beach, you can start from a number of different trailhead, although the Palomarin, Bear Valley, or Five Brooks trailheads are the closest. The following directions from any of these closest trailheads will bring you to Wildcat Camp, where there are vault toilets, potable water, and the only safe location at which to get onto Wildcat Beach. A well-worn trail leads along the south side of Wildcat Camp to the beach.
These route descriptions alone are not a substitute for a trail map. Print out the park's South District trail map (3,422 KB PDF) before your visit, or pick one up at a 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.
Hiking Directions To Wildcat Beach
From Palomarin Trailhead
Follow the Coast Trail northwest as it meanders along an ocean cliff top for approximately one mile (1.6 km). The Coast Trail then heads inland and drops into a small valley before ascending switchbacks up the other side. Climb over a pass, and hike past a number of small ponds before reaching Bass Lake after 2.8 miles (4.5 km) of hiking. In another 0.6 miles (1 km) arrive at a view of Pelican Lake. Continuing on 0.8 miles (1.3 km) leads to the junction with the Ocean Lake Loop Trail. Stay right to remain on the Coast Trail as it heads a bit further inland through coastal scrub and forest, or turn left on to the Ocean Lake Loop Trail, which drops initially to pass by Ocean Lake, but then climbs steeply to reach the top of some coastal bluffs with views looking up and down the shoreline. Both routes reconnect after 1.1 miles (1.7 km). After this point you'll be back on the Coast Trail for a final 0.2 miles (0.3 km) to Wildcat Campground.
From Bear Valley Trailhead
Follow the relatively flat Bear Valley Trail south for 3.1 miles (5 km) to the Glen Trail. Turn left onto the Glen Trail and begin climbing up the side of a ridge. After 0.6 miles (1 km), keep right to stay on the Glen Trail. After another 0.4 miles (0.6 km) keep left to stay on the Glen Trail. Hike for 0.5 miles (0.8 km) to the intersection with the Stewart Trail. Turn right and follow the Stewart Trail 1.2 miles (1.9 km) downhill to get to Wildcat Campground.
From Five Brooks Trailhead
Follow the Stewart Trail northwest for 0.3 miles (0.5 km) to the junction with the Olema Valley Trail. Keep right to stay on the Stewart Trail as it begins a long climb up the side of Inverness Ridge. After 0.8 miles (1.3 km), the Greenpicker Trail branches off to the right at a switchback. Hikers may wish to shorten their hike by 0.7 miles (1.2 km) by following the Greenpicker Trail to the top of the ridge, but be forewarned that the Greenpicker Trail is steeper than the Stewart Trail. Alternatively, continue on the Stewart Trail as it switchbacks 2.6 miles (4.2 km) up the side of the ridge to Fir Top, the highest location (1324 ft/404 m) along the southern end of Inverness Ridge. Due to the dense Douglas fir forests, there are no far-reaching views. Hikers on the Greenpicker Trail can return to the Stewart Trail at this location. Continue straight on the Stewart Trail as it descends 2.7 miles (4.3 km) from the top of the ridge to Wildcat Camp.
Allow 4 to 6.5 hours to hike to Wildcat Beach and back. Allow for more time to relax and/or explore Wildcat Beach.
Pets are prohibited on all trails that lead to Wildcat Beach. Visit the park's Pets page to learn where pets are welcome at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Wildcat Beach is a 2.9-mile-long (4.7-kilometer-long) beach deep within the Phillip Burton Wilderness in the southern part of Point Reyes National Seashore. Many routes lead to Wildcat Beach from the three closest trailheads, e.g., Bear Valley Trailhead, Five Brooks Trailhead, and Palomarin Trailhead.
Directions to Bear Valley
Directions from Bear Valley to the Five Brooks Trailhead
Directions from Bear Valley to the Palomarin Trailhead
Please be aware that on weekends throughout the year and on many weekdays throughout the summer, the parking lot at the Palomarin Trailhead fills very early in the day. Visitors arriving late in the morning or in the afternoon may be turned away. The park will close the Palomarin area to further entry, potentially for several hours, when there are no more parking spaces available in the parking lot. Please observe all "No Parking" signs. If you wish to visit Bass Lake or other locations accessed via the Palomarin Trailhead, arrive early, or consider visiting mid-week.
The heaviest rainfall occurs in the winter months. Come prepared for rain and drizzle to possibly last for several days. More rain falls east of Inverness Ridge than on the west side. 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 warm on the east side of Inverness Ridge.
Although there is very little rain during summer months, there is often dense fog. Patchy morning fog may burn off by mid-day. Afternoons are often sunny and warm with a light breeze inland. By contrast, the beaches and headlands are often 20 degrees cooler with heavy fogs common throughout the day in July, August and September.
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 daily for day-hiking from 6 am to midnight. Overnight parking and camping is only permitted with a valid backcountry camping permit.
Each of the three main routes varies in length, difficulty, and type of terrain. The route from Five Brooks via the Stewart Trail is the widest, as it's a multi-use service road—it's a gravel and packed dirt path the entire way to Wildcat Camp. This route, however, gains and loses over 1,300 feet (400 meters) of elevation. The routes from Bear Valley and Palomarin follow old ranch roads which have significantly narrowed and/or degraded and have exposed roots and rocks and have become rutted in numerous locations.