Visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse

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Temporary facilities closure is in effect until further notice.

Following guidance from the CDC and public health officials, and to comply with county-wide shelter-in-place legal orders, Point Reyes National Seashore's visitor centers, including the Lighthouse Visitor Center, are temporarily closed until further notice. The stairs leading down to the lighthouse are also closed and all ranger-led programs and activities have been cancelled for the duration of the shelter-in-place order. Help do your part to slow the spread of the coronavirus by maintaining at least six feet of social distance. Updates will be posted to our Current Conditions page and social media channels.

Sir Francis Drake Boulevard Road Work

On Monday, April 20, 2020, contractors began work on a major two-year road improvement project in Point Reyes National Seashore. To better ensure the safety of road crew and visitors, time-limited delays and some road and/or area closures are expected through the duration of the project. As of May 17, 2020, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard southwest of its junction with Drake Beach Road is closed to motorized traffic. Visit our Road Closures page for more information.

Visit our Operating Hours & Seasons page to learn when the Lighthouse Visitor Center and the stairs leading down to the Lighthouse are open.

1870 Historic photo of the Point Reyes Lighthouse. National Archives and Records Administration, PRNS HPRC Rec. No. 008690

A Brief History of the Point Reyes Lighthouse

The Point Reyes Headlands jut 10 miles (16 km) out to sea and pose a threat to ships traveling between San Francisco Bay and locations to the north. The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse was built in 1870 to warn mariners of this navigational hazard and served for 105 years. The Point Reyes Lighthouse was retired from service in 1975 when the U.S. Coast Guard installed an automated light adjacent and below the historic tower. The Coast Guard then transferred ownership of the lighthouse to the National Park Service, which has taken on the job of preserving this fine specimen of our maritime heritage. Visit our Lighthouse History at Point Reyes page for more.

A map of the Point Reyes Lighthouse area. (Click here to view a higher resolution image of this map.)

Come Prepared

  • Print out the Point Reyes Lighthouse Area map. (247 KB PDF)
  • Fuel: The closest gas station is 20 miles (32 km) away in Point Reyes Station. Be sure you have sufficient fuel in your vehicle for a minimum 40-mile (64 km) round-trip drive, not including side trips to other points of interest within the National Seashore.
  • Weather: Visitors will likely experience high winds, cool temperatures, fog, and/or rain along the 0.65-mile (1.05-km) walk to the lighthouse; so dress appropriately. Wear layered clothing.
    National Weather Service Forecast for the Point Reyes Lighthouse area
  • Water: Bring a water bottle. There is a water bottle filling station/water fountain located near the east end of the green garages that are located approximately 100 yards (~90 meters) before one arrives at the Lighthouse Visitor Center. Bottled water is not sold at Point Reyes National Seashore's visitor centers or bookstores.
  • Food: There are no food services west of Inverness, which is a thirty-five-minute drive from the lighthouse parking lot. Bring food from home or purchase food at one of the stores or restaurants in West Marin before heading out to the Point Reyes Lighthouse if it is close to mealtime.
  • Phones: Cell phone reception is very minimal to nonexistent in the lighthouse area. A pay phone is available near the west end of the green garages that are located approximately 100 yards (~90 meters) before one arrives at the Lighthouse Visitor Center.
  • Restrooms: Restrooms are available at the visitors' parking lot from 6 am to midnight and at the east end of the green garages that are located approximately 100 yards (~90 meters) before one arrives at the Lighthouse Visitor Center from 6 am to 10 pm. Be sure to use the restrooms before going down the stairs to the lighthouse.
A cartoon silhouette of a dog surrounded by a red circle with a red diagonal line bisecting the circle.
  • Pets: Dogs and other pets may be walked in the parking lot and along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard east of the parking lot; otherwise, dogs and pets are prohibited. Please be aware that most visitors to the lighthouse are away from their vehicle for an hour or longer, longer if riding the shuttle bus. Please do not leave your dog unattended in your vehicle; leave your dog at home instead. This prohibition does not apply to working service dogs, which are allowed on trails and in public buildings. If you have a service dog, please inquire at the Bear Valley Visitor Center for information before heading out to the Lighthouse area. Visit our Pets page for more information about visiting Point Reyes National Seashore with your dog.
A cartoon silhouette of an unmanned aerial vehicle (a drone) surrounded by a red circle bisected by a red diagonal line.
  • Drones: Launching, landing, or operating a remotely operated aircraft (aka "remotely piloted aircraft," "unmanned aircraft," or "drone") from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Point Reyes National Seashore is prohibited.

    If you observe drone use in Point Reyes National Seashore, please call park dispatch at 415-464-5170 or contact staff at the nearest Visitor Center as soon as possible. If you observe drone use in other National Park Service areas or if you find photographs or videos online or elsewhere that were illegally taken within National Park Service areas from drones, you can report the violation to the National Park Service tip line at 888-653-0009 or by email.
A narrow road winds through tan and green pastureland, through a cluster of buildings, and off toward a rocky headland on the edge of the ocean.
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard passes through a number of ranches on its way to the Point Reyes Headlands.

The Drive

The Point Reyes Lighthouse is located at the western-most end of the Point Reyes Headlands and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is windy and slow-going, so allow forty-five minutes to drive the ~20 miles (~32 km) from the Bear Valley/Olema/Point Reyes Station area to the lighthouse parking lot (one hour and thirty minutes round-trip), not including any time you will spend in the vicinity of the lighthouse. Allow one hour and forty-five minutes for the drive (three hours and thirty minutes round-trip) from the Santa Rosa area, northwest San Francisco, or the northern East Bay. Many visitors spend at least an hour or two in the lighthouse area.
Directions to the Point Reyes Lighthouse from the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

Silver Toyota FJ Cruiser parked on a road blocking most of the lane.
To get around this vehicle, one would need to cross the double yellow line, endangering themselves and oncoming traffic due to the limited view of the road beyond.


Parking is very limited, particularly in the afternoon. If you arrive and find that there are no available spots in the parking lot, you may park parallel to the road east of the parking lot. Please observe all "No Parking" signs and red curbs, and ensure that no part of your parked vehicle is within eight feet (2.4 m) of the center of the road in order to allow other vehicles to use the road without having to cross the center line.

A large recreational vehicle parked in a small parking lot. A red circle with a diagonal line indicates that doing so is prohibited.
Shortly after this photo was taken, this RV was flanked on both sides by other automobiles and was unable to safely leave the parking lot. Please be considerate to other visitors and park large vehicles and trailers along the road, as is indicated by the sign, and not in the small parking lot.

RVs and Trailers

Recreational vehicles (RVs) and vehicles pulling trailers are prohibited from parking in the Lighthouse visitors' parking lot and must park along the road. While there may appear to be sufficient space early in the morning, as was the case when the RV in the picture to the right arrived, the parking lot can quickly fill. By the time the driver returned, the parking lot was full and there wasn't sufficient room to maneuver the RV out of the parking lot without damaging other vehicles. Not until much later, after the parking spots adjacent to and in front of the RV across the inbound lane were cleared, was the driver of the RV able to safely get the RV out of the parking space and out of the lot. Some visitors who arrived during this time and were told by the driver of the RV (and later by park staff) that they had to park along the road, even though there were parking spaces apparently available in the lot, weren't too happy.

If you are traveling with a trailer or are driving an RV towing a passenger vehicle, consider unhitching at the bus/RV/trailer-only parking lot at Bear Valley and taking only the passenger vehicle for the drive out to the Lighthouse area.

Overnight parking/camping in RVs and trailers is prohibited throughout Point Reyes National Seashore.

Five visitors boarding a coach-sized bus that is decorated with a rainbow-colored horizontal stripe.


From late December through late March or mid-April, when visitation by whale watchers to the Point Reyes Lighthouse area is heavy, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard may be closed to private vehicles at the South Beach junction from 9 am until approximately 5:45 pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays when the weather is fair or better. On these days, visitors wishing to go to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock areas are required to ride a shuttle bus from Drakes Beach. Shuttle bus tickets cost $7/adult; children 15 years of age and under ride free.

A metal gate blocking a road leading up a hill with a brown sign on the left.
To get to the Lighthouse and Visitor Center, walk past the gate and follow the service road/path. Only authorized vehicles and vehicles with Disabled Person parking placards or plates are permitted beyond the gate. The accessible parking lot is located 0.3 miles (0.5 km) beyond the gate.

The Walk

To get from the parking lot/shuttle stop to the lighthouse itself, one must walk—mostly uphill—0.45 mi (0.7 km) to the Lighthouse Visitor Center, and then descend 313 steps. Please take your time walking from the parking lot to the Visitor Center and climbing the stairs. When wind speeds exceed 40 mph, the stairs leading down to the lighthouse are closed for visitors' safety. If the stairs are closed, the brown sign visible on the left side of the photograph to the right (or above if viewed on a small screen) will indicate that the stairs are closed due to high winds.
Wind Forecast

A concrete parking pad with accessible parking signs. In the background on the left is a two-story-high green building. In the upper right corner of the photo is a large branch.
The accessible parking lot is on the right/north side of the road just beyond the cypress trees. If you start to drive up a steep hill via an eight-foot wide driveway to the garages, you are going too far.


The lighthouse area's accessible parking lot is located 0.4 miles (0.6 km) beyond (to the west of) the lighthouse shuttle stop and main visitor parking lot. Individuals with a Disabled Person parking placard or plate may open the gate at the west end of the roundabout at the shuttle stop and drive to the accessible parking lot (be sure to close the gate after you've passed through). Please drive slowly and carefully since this section of the sixteen-foot-wide service road doubles as the pedestrian path from the main parking lot to the lighthouse. The accessible parking lot is on the right/north side of the road just beyond the cypress trees. If you start to drive up a steep hill via an eight-foot wide driveway to the garages, you are going too far.


The ~400-foot (~120 m) long path from the accessible parking lot to the Lighthouse Visitor Center and the observation deck at the top of the stairs is wheelchair-accessible. The visitor center and observation deck are also accessible. Accessible restrooms are located at the east end of the green garages that are located approximately 100 yards (~90 meters) to the east of the Lighthouse Visitor Center. To get to them, follow the accessible path from the accessible parking lot toward the Lighthouse Visitor Center for about 290 feet (~90 meters) and make a very sharp left to follow the accessible path leading to the garage.

The Lighthouse Visitor Center, observation deck, and restrooms are all fully accessible, but the lighthouse itself is not.

See the Accessibility section on our Winter Shuttle Bus System page for information on driving to the Lighthouse on weekends and holidays during the winter and early spring.

Visit our Accessibility page for additional information about other locations within Point Reyes National Seashore. Feel free to call 415-669-1534 or 415-464-5100 x2 x5 if you have any questions.

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Stay on designated trails

Stay on the paved pedestrian path/service road between the parking lot and the Lighthouse Visitor Center and Lighthouse. Hiking along the bluff tops is prohibited. All off-trail areas west of the Lighthouse visitors' parking lot are closed to entry. This closure includes areas accessed by going over or beyond the railings on the lighthouse stairs and platforms. Stay away from cliff edges. Loose soil and/or rock can give way suddenly and you may fall. Do not climb cliffs.

Visitors walking off of official trails and paths trample vegetation, which may lead to the death of the trampled plants. Over time, as more and more visitors use a route, it starts to look more and more like an official trail, and more and more visitors use it, resulting in a feedback loop that makes the "trail" look "official." However, these "social paths" tend to exacerbate erosion and harm threatened and endangered species. These paths also can lead to locations where visitors may be more at risk to injury, endangering themselves and any potential rescuers.

The only official maintained trails/routes/paths in the Point Reyes Lighthouse area are the paved service road and pathway from the parking lot to the Lighthouse, the South Beach Overlook Trail (a dirt trail leading north from the shuttle stop to the South Beach Overlook), and the path/stairs leading to the Sea Lion Overlook, located 1,100 feet (335 m) east of the Lighthouse parking lot.

The Point Reyes Lighthouse Visitor Center and Ocean Exploration Center with the Pacific Ocean in the background.

The Lighthouse Visitor Center

The Lighthouse Visitor Center offers exhibits on the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, as well as on whales, seals and sea lions, and wildflowers. A display of local birds will introduce you to the avian species you might see perched on the cliffs or flying past the point, including a black-footed albatross, Brandt's cormorant, brown pelican, common murre, pigeon guillemot, rhinoceros auklet, and western gull. Historic photographs of shipwrecks and lighthouse-keepers help visitors connect with the area's maritime history. A touch table allows visitors to feel baleen and to closely inspect the skulls of a California sea lion, common dolphin, northern elephant seal, and harbor porpoise. The Fresnel lens from the San Francisco Lightship is also on display. A small bookstore offers books, maps, and other educational products. Visit our Operating Hours & Seasons page to learn when the visitor center is open.

The northern wall of the Ocean Exploration Center. A model of a white shark is suspended from the ceiling. Murals depicting life below the surface of the ocean are painted on the walls. A large picture window is on the left side of the image.

The Ocean Exploration Center

Attached to the Lighthouse Visitor Center is the Ocean Exploration Center. A collaboration between the National Park Service and NOAA's Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones national marine sanctuaries, the Ocean Exploration Center highlights the spectacularly rich and globally significant ocean environment of North-central California. The coastal and marine ecosystem off North-central California is one of the biologically richest ocean zones on the planet, but the sea life is largely hidden beneath the water's surface. The center increases visitors' opportunities to view and learn about this remarkable area, protected by two national marine sanctuaries and a national seashore. The Ocean Exploration Center features 3-D models of a California sea lion, a Dall's porpoise, a sooty shearwater, and a white shark suspended from the ceiling, murals depicting life below the surface painted on the walls, and informative panels describing ocean wildlife and habitats off our coast. A large picture window offers visitors a stunning view of the Point Reyes Beach and the Pacific Ocean, while protecting them from the legendary winds of Point Reyes.

(Left) A gray whale starting a breach and (Right) whale watchers at the Lighthouse Observation Deck.

The Observation Deck

The Observation Deck is located at the top of the 313 steps leading down to the lighthouse. It offers a great location for whale watching and watching birds and is the first location from which visitors can see the lighthouse—which is located ~240 feet (~70 meters) below the Observation Deck. From the northwest corner of the deck, one can observe a common murre nesting colony, which can contain approximately 20,000 birds during the spring. Sea lions frequently haul out on a pyramidal-shaped rock northwest of the murre colony.

Looking north from the Observation Deck, if it isn't too foggy, one can see the Point Reyes Beach and Tomales Point. And if it is extremely clear, Bodega Head, the Sonoma Coastline, and Mount Saint Helena can be seen. If they are not shrouded in fog, one may see the Farallon Islands twenty miles to the south. And to the southeast, Mount Tamalpais, the hills of the Marin Headlands, western San Francisco, and Montara Mountain rise above eastern waters of the Gulf of the Farallones.

On weekends and federal holidays from late December through late April, Winter Wildlife Docents are be stationed at the Observation Deck from 11 am to 4:30 pm (weather permitting) to answer questions about gray whales. The docents have park-provided binoculars and scopes through which visitors are able to view gray whales.

The Observation Deck is open until ~9:45 pm every day, so even if the stairs leading down to the Lighthouse are closed, visitors are welcome to watch for whales and birds and enjoy the sunset from the Observation Deck. The entire Lighthouse area west of the gate adjacent to the shuttle bus stop at the visitors' parking lot is closed from 10 pm to 6 am.

Visitors ascending and descending the 308 steps leading down to the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

The Stairs

The Point Reyes Lighthouse itself is another 900 feet (275 meters) beyond the Visitor Center at the base of 313 steps—the equivalent of ~25 stories. Allow 5 to 10 minutes for the descent and 10 to 20 minutes for the ascent, plus whatever amount of time you wish to spend at the base of the stairs, i.e., checking out the lighthouse, talking with a ranger, or watching for whales or birds. When wind speeds exceed 40 mph (64 km/hr), the steps to the lighthouse are closed for visitors' safety.
Wind Forecast

Here are some tips to make your trip down and up the stairs safe and enjoyable:

  • Do not "hop" the fence to get a "better" photo or for any other reason. The fence is there for your safety. Individuals who are found on the wrong side of the fence will be cited for entering a closed area.
  • Get here early to avoid the crowds. There are many more visitors climbing up and down the stairs between 2 pm and 4:30 pm than between 10 am and 2 pm.
  • Know your abilities and limitations.
  • Make sure you have been eating/hydrating and continue to do so during physical activity.
  • Take it slow. There are several landings for sitting and resting along the way.
  • The viewing platform above the lighthouse offers equally stunning views and wildlife viewing opportunities without the trip down the stairs.
  • The stairs leading down to the Lighthouse close promptly at 4:30 pm. If you start down the stairs shortly before 4:30 pm, you will not have too much time to spend at the Lighthouse level. If you start down the stairs at or after 4:30 pm, you will be turned around before reaching the Lighthouse.
A white light tower with a red roof next to a few other white buildings on the edge of an ocean cliff.

The Point Reyes Lighthouse

The watchroom (the lower chamber) of the historic lighthouse contains exhibit panels featuring the history of the light and the keepers. The equipment building next to the lighthouse has an exhibit about the changes in fog signal technology at Point Reyes over the years and exhibits the two 1947 super typhon foghorns, the air compressors, and a backup power generator that were more recently used at Point Reyes before the current light station was constructed in 1975. Both the watchroom and the equipment building are usually open from 10 am to 4:30 pm, Fridays through Mondays, as staffing and weather conditions permit.

The lighthouse's first gallery (the middle chamber), which houses the original clockworks and from which one can get a close look at the first-order Fresnel lens, is usually open from 2:30 pm to 4 pm, Fridays through Mondays, as staffing and weather conditions permit.

Please help us better preserve this historic artifact.

  • Do not touch any part of the clockwork mechanism or Fresnel lens.

    The clockwork mechanism's case and the frame for the Fresnel lens are composed of brass and cast iron, which more quickly tarnish and corrode, respectively, due to oils left behind when visitors touch these metals with their hands.
  • No baby/child carriers, backpacks, or large bags.

    The space within the first gallery is very limited and there is usually insufficient space to safely maneuver while wearing a baby/child carrier or backpack on one's back. Please remove such carriers and backpacks before entering the tower. Children, of course, are welcome to enter the first gallery, but please keep children under control and make sure they don't touch or damage the clockwork mechanism's case in the center of the gallery.
  • Notes to photographers:

    • The space within the first gallery is very limited and the clockwork mechanism's case is partly composed of glass windows. Please leave tripods, monopods, selfie-sticks, and other such equipment outside of the tower, or at least collapse and store such equipment in a manner that they have a minimal to no chance of scratching or impacting the glass.
    • No flash photography. Repeated flash photography can damage historic objects and artifacts.
    • When taking photographs of the clockwork mechanism through the windows, do not allow your camera or hands or any body part to come in contact with the glass or any other part of the mechanism's case.

Special Event:

Evening programs illuminating the historic light have in the past occurred on the first and third Saturday of the month, April through December. For 2015, the evening programs were offered on the first and third Saturday of the month from July through September. No evening programs were offered in 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019. The dates on which this program will be offered in 2020 have yet to be determined. There is no fee, but reservations are required. Please call 415-669-1534 between 10 am and 4:30 pm on the day of the program to reserve a spot.

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Three white-sided, red-roofed structures sit on a rocky headland above the Pacific Ocean. Scaffolding surrounds the lighthouse tower and has been erected on the right side of the larger building on the right.
Three months into the Point Reyes Lighthouse Restoration Project, contractors had erected scaffolding around the lighthouse tower and had removed the tower's roof and lantern. They had also reshingled the roof of the equipment building. Photo taken on November 17, 2018.

2018–2019 Restoration Project

From August 6, 2018, to November 7, 2019, Point Reyes National Seashore conducted a large restoration project on the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse. This was the first major restoration project for the lighthouse since its construction in 1870. Over the subsequent 148 years, the tower's cast iron had significantly rusted and weakened. The Plexiglas windows that were installed in the 1970s had also become frosted and were no longer transparent. The Fresnel lens and clockwork mechanism were temporarily removed and refurbished before the roof and lantern (the windowed, uppermost level) of the tower were deconstructed. After the tower's lantern and roof were rebuilt with new material and transparent glass windows, the lens and clockwork mechanism were reconstructed. The shingles on the equipment building's roof were replaced, the building was repainted. The Lighthouse Visitor Center was gutted and new cabinetry was installed. And improvements were made to increase accessibility for people with disabilities. Visit our 2018–2019 Lighthouse Restoration blog to learn more and to view a photo gallery of the work that was completed.

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Last updated: August 26, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956


This number will initially be answered by an automated attendant, from which one can opt to access a name directory, listen to recorded information about the park (i.e., directions to the park; visitor center hours of operation; weather forecast; fire danger information; shuttle bus system status; wildlife updates; ranger-led programs; seasonal events; etc.), or speak with a ranger. Please note that if you are calling between 4:30 pm and 10 am, park staff may not be available to answer your call.

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