Three- to six-hour hikes:
Bear Valley Trail
Distance: 13.1 km / 8.2 mi.
Probably the single most popular trail in the park, the Bear Valley Trail is the most direct walk to the ocean from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Begin at the Bear Valley Trailhead, at the south end of the Bear Valley Parking Lot. This pleasant stroll through mixed Douglas fir forest and along Bear Valley Creek to Divide Meadow and along Coast Creek beyond Divide Meadow is largely sheltered from sun, wind, and coastal fog. Arch Rock was an overlook point with no beach access. NOTICE: The Arch Rock trail has been closed until further notice due to the arch's collapse as a result of coastal erosion. If one were to hike 1.5 km (0.9 mi.) north on the Coast Trail, one would be able to descend to Kelham Beach via the 150 m (500 ft.) long Kelham Beach Trail.
Meadow–Horse Trails Loop
Distance: approx. 10.4 km / 6.5 mi.
This hike features a moderately steep 330 meter (1100 feet) climb up and down the east slope of Inverness Ridge, with a few limited views of the seashore near the ridge crest. The loop passes through a dense mixed Douglas fir and oak forest and several open meadows. Start at the Bear Valley Trailhead and follow the Bear Valley Trail south for 1.3 km (0.8 mi.). Turn right on to the Meadow Trail and climb to the Meadow Trails junction with Sky Trail. Turn right onto the Sky Trail and, after 50 meters (55 yards), then bear right onto the Mount Wittenberg Trail. Head north and east 0.7 km (0.4 miles) to the Z Ranch–Mt. Wittenberg trail junction along the ridge crest. From this junction, a 0.6 km (0.4 mi.) trail leads to the summit of Mt. 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. From the Z Ranch–Mt. Wittenberg trail junction, head north along the Z Ranch Trail for 1.2 km (0.7 mi.), and then follow the Horse Trail downhill 3.8 km (2.4 mi.). After crossing a bridge near the east end of Horse Trail, turn left until you reach Kule Loklo. Walk south along the Morgan Trail to the Morgan Horse Ranch to return to Bear Valley Trailhead.
Walk east and south through the recreated Coast Miwok Village to return to the Bear Valley Trailhead via the Kule Loklo Trail. Due to hazard trees, the Kule Loklo and the Kule Loklo Trail are closed until further notice.
Sky–Bear Valley Loop via the Mount Wittenberg Trail
Distance: 17 km / 10.5 mi.
A nice varied hike, through mixed Douglas fir forest, meadows, and coastal scrub with coastal views and beach access. Begin at the Bear Valley Trailhead, at the south end of the Bear Valley Parking Lot. Follow the Bear Valley Trail for 0.3 km (0.2 mi). Turn right on to the Mt. Wittenberg Trail and climb (400 m / 1300 ft. elevation change in 2.9 km / 1.8 mi.) all the way to the Z Ranch–Mt. Wittenberg trail junction along the ridge crest. From this junction, a 0.6 km (0.4 mi.) trail leads to the summit of Mt. 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. From the the Z Ranch–Mt. Wittenberg trail junction, continue along the Mt. Wittenberg trail to the junction with the Sky Trail. Follow the Sky Trail south through the forest all the way to the Coast Trail. A thirty-minute detour to the north on the Coast Trail will bring you to Kelham Beach. Otherwise, head south on the Coast Trail to the Bear Valley Trail. Enjoy your last coastal view here, before returning via the Bear Valley Trail along Coast Creek through beautiful buckeyes and mixed Douglas forest.
Sky–Bear Valley Loop via the Meadow Trail
Distance: 17 km / 10.5 mi.
A nice varied hike, through mixed Douglas fir forest, meadows, and coastal scrub with coastal views and beach access. Begin at the Bear Valley Trailhead, at the south end of the Bear Valley Parking Lot. Follow the Bear Valley Trail for 1.3 km (0.8 mi.). Turn right on to the Meadow Trail and climb to the Meadow Trails junction with Sky Trail. (For a view of the ocean from the ridgecrest, turn right onto the Sky Trail and, after 50 meters (55 yards), then bear right onto the Mount Wittenberg Trail for 160 meters (0.1 mi). Return to the Meadow–Sky Trail junction and head south on Sky Trail through the forest all the way to the Coast Trail. A thirty-minute detour to the north on the Coast Trail will bring you to Kelham Beach. Otherwise, head south on the Coast Trail to the Bear Valley Trail. Enjoy your last coastal view here, before returning via the Bear Valley Trail along Coast Creek through beautiful buckeyes and mixed Douglas forest.
Woodward Valley Loop
Distance: approx. 21 km / 13 mi.
This trail includes forest that was burned during the 2020 Woodward Fire and spectacular coastal hiking. Begin at the Bear Valley Trailhead, climbing either the Mt. Wittenberg or the Meadow Trail to the Sky Trail. Continue south along the Sky Trail to the Woodward Valley, which was one of the lushest, greenest trails in the park before the Woodward Fire. Follow the Woodward Valley all the way down to the Coast Trail before heading south to the Bear Valley Trail. Open ocean views are plentiful along the last 0.8 km (0.5 mi.) of the Woodward Valley Trail and along the length of the Coast Trail. Beach access is marked along your way at both Sculptured Beach and Kelham Beach. Both are beautiful and remote beaches. From the Coast–Bear Valley Trail junction, follow Bear Valley Trail east and north along a gentle grade through beautiful buckeyes, oaks, and Douglas firs back to the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Estero–Glenbrook–Muddy Hollow Road Loop
Distance: 12 km / 7.4 mi.
This loop offers views of Estero de Limantour and the possibility of seeing tule elk. It is also a great hike for spring wildflowers. This area was burned by the 1995 Vision Fire, and Bishop pine trees have since started encroaching on what had previously been open grassland and coastal scrub. The loop offers a similar experience and views regardless of whether one follows it clockwise or counter-clockwise. If one were to do the route clockwise, one would head south on the Muddy Hollow Trail for 0.5 km (0.3 mi.) through a riparian (e.g., streamside) zone to the junction with Estero Trail. The Estero Trail head west out of the valley floor through some coastal scrub up and over a ridge before descending into another valley and crossing the Glenbrook Creek. There may be standing water on the trail in the Glenbrook Creek area during winter and spring. Just beyond the Glenbrook Creek is the site of the Glenbrook Ranch. All that remains of the ranch are eucalyptus trees that were planted to protect the ranch from the wind. Continue south 0.6 km (0.4 mi.) toward the estero before making a sharp bend to the north. The trail runs fairly straight along a low ridge crest before intersecting with the Glenbrook Trail in 1.7 km (1.1 mi.). One could turn left to stay on the Estero Trail and return via the White Gate and Muddy Hollow Road trails; doing so would add an extra 3 km (2 mi.) to one's hike. Or continue straight along the ridge crest as the Glenbrook Trail leads 1 km (0.6 mi.) north to the Muddy Hollow Road Trail. Turn right and follow the Muddy Hollow Road Trail as it meanders 3.7 km (2.3 mi.) back to the trailhead. There is not a bridge across the Muddy Hollow Creek just west of the trailhead and one may get their feet wet while attempting to cross the creek when the water level is high in winter and spring. Allow fifteen minutes driving time from Bear Valley to the Muddy Hollow Trailhead, which is located off of Limantour Road.
Estero Trail to Drakes Head
Distance: 15 km / 9.4 mi.
This trail through open grassland offers outstanding views of Drakes and Limantour Esteros, and of the locally rich bird life. The first section of the trail is through grasslands before skirting along the northern edge of and then cutting through an abandoned Christmas tree farm. An old, breached stockpond dam is located 1.8 km (1.1 mi.) from the trailhead at the head of Home Bay. A bridge spanning the breach offers a good location to watch from birds, bat rays, and leopard sharks. Beyond Home Bay, the trail leads up and over a couple small headlands, which are separated by valleys in which there are stockponds that attract waterfowl, as well as cows. Please be sure to leave gates as you find them: if they are closed, please close them after passing through. The Sunset Beach Trail branches to the right 4 km (2.5 mi.) from the trailhead; follow it 2.1 km (1.3 mi) to get to Sunset Beach, which is more of a wetland now, rather than a beach. Or, stay on the Estero Trail as it turns left and heads up a ridge away from Drakes Estero. The last couple sections of the route seems more like a cattle trail than a human trail, but persevere and look for markers to differentiate between the cattle paths and the hiking trail. After 1 km (0.6 mi.), turn right on to the Drakes Head Trail at the junction of a number of fencelines adjacent to a small corral and abandoned, circular, concrete water trough. There will be abundant views of Estero de Limantour to the east as one heads south 2 km (1.3 mi.) south to Drakes Head. The view looking down into the Estero on a clear day is spectacular, with the possibility of seeing bat rays and leopard sharks swimming just below the water's surface. Allow twenty-five minutes driving time from Bear Valley to the Estero Trailhead, which is located a short distance off of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. on the way to the Lighthouse.
Tomales Point Trail
Distance: 15 km / 9.5 mi.
This open trail through the Tule Elk Reserve offers spectacular views of Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. It is also a prime wildlife viewing trail, as it is remote and the tule elk are enclosed in this reserve. The first 5 km (3 mi.) to the Lower Pierce Point Ranch site are well marked and maintained, but the last stretch can be overgrown with bush lupine and other shrubs, so wearing long pants and long sleeves are a good idea. The journey all the way to the Point is worth it, for the views can be spectacular. Fog and wind can limit visibility and make this hike more challenging. Allow thirty-five minutes driving time from Bear Valley to the Tomales Point Trailhead, which is located at the end of Pierce Point Road.
Notice: Please see the advisory about the collapse of part of the bluff near the north end of Tomales Point.
Bass Lake and Wildcat Beach
Distance: 10 km / 6 mi. to Bass Lake and 17.6 km / 11 mi. to Wildcat Beach
The south end of Coast Trail begins with spectacular ocean views from high above the surf. It can be windy and exposed, with only occasional canopy overhead. In the summer, look for salmonberries and thimbleberries. Bass Lake is a popular, but unofficial, swimming spot; access can be challenging and lined with poison oak and there are no lifeguards—swim at your own risk. If you choose to continue to Wildcat you'll be rewarded with ocean and lake views and a beautiful beach. From either destination, one returns via Coast Trail. Allow thirty-five minutes driving time from Bear Valley to the Palomarin Trailhead* at the end of Mesa Road.
Distance: minimum 20.8 km / 13 mi.
Alamere Falls is a beautiful waterfall deep within the Phillip Burton Wilderness. Alamere Falls is a dramatic sight as it cascades over a ~30 foot tall cliff onto the south end of Wildcat Beach. To visit Alamere Falls safely, Point Reyes National Seashore recommends hiking to Wildcat Campground and, from there, walking 1.6 km (1 mile) south on Wildcat Beach during a low tide. Many trails lead to Wildcat Campground, but the most commonly used routes are: the 8.8-km (5.5-mile) hike from the Palomarin Trailhead* via the Coast Trail; the 10.1-km (6.3-mile) hike from the Bear Valley Trailhead via the Bear Valley, Glen, and Stewart Trails; or the 10.7-km (6.7-mile) hike from the Five Brooks Trailhead via the Stewart Trail. more...
* Please be aware that on most weekends throughout the year, the parking lot at the Palomarin Trailhead fills up very early in the morning, and visitors arriving late in the morning or in the afternoon may be turned away. If you wish to visit Alamere Falls or other locations accessed via the Palomarin Trailhead, arrive early, or consider visiting mid-week. Check the park's Facebook page and/or feed for updates on crowded weekends!
Hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore
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