One hour north of San Francisco lies a gem of a park: Point Reyes National Seashore. The beautiful rough Pacific Ocean coastline, the rolling hills with sweeping views, the wildlife all make for an awesome adventure experience. Whether you like hiking, kayaking, or want to go camping, check all the cool things to do in Point Reyes.

As California Bay Area has been home for many years now, we got lucky to explore the park on several occasions. Hiking, camping, kayaking, wildlife watching, under the sun or in the rain, Point Reyes is one of the parks you always want to come back to. Find out why!

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Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes California is actually part of the US National Park System but is called National Seashore because, well, the reserve features a long coastline along the Pacific Ocean.

There are indeed three separate seashores: Great Beach, South Beach, and North Beach, which put together form a 10-mile stretch. And the park offers plenty of top attractions, be in natural structure or historical buildings, permanent residents or migrating wildlife.

Top Point Reyes Attractions

Bear Valley Visitor Center

Stop at the visitor center, grab information about the hiking trails, learn about the ecosystems, and get your beach fire permits or backcountry camping permits.

Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center

Located by Drakes Beach, learn about marine life and environments, or admire a massive minke whale skeleton.

Point Reyes Lighthouse Visitor Center

This center close to the lighthouse of the same name hosts historical exhibits and the marine and land wildlife and habitat.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Stroll up the 300 stages to reach the famous 1870 Point Reyes Lighthouse for incredible views of the park and the whole coastline. The Lighthouse is the perfect place to try to watch whale migration from December to April. During that time, the shuttle bus from Drakes Beach might be compulsory to reach the area to limit traffic generated by private cars.

Point Reyes Falls

Try not to miss the Alamere Falls, probably the most iconic Point Reyes waterfall and one of only a handful of few seaside cascades (streaming into the sea) on the planet.

Cypress Tree Tunnel

The drive under these trees is pretty incredible. Planted around the 1930s, these Monterey cypress trees provide a picture-perfect display of green, lush organic tunnel.

Chimney Rock

An extensive sight of granitic rocks makes Chimney Rock a great point for seal watching and beach views.

Abbotts Lagoon

Called a two-stage lagoon due to the upper side filling with fresh water and the lower with brackish water, the place is known for its birds and wildflowers.

Morgan Horse Ranch

A breeding and training program dedicated in 1970 with the Northern California Morgan Horse Association’s help to provide horses to the National Park services for trail maintenance in the backcountry. The best way to approach the ranch is from the Bear Valley parking.

Pierce Point Ranch

Also known as the Pierce Ranch, the 19th-century ranch was one of the four on the Point Reyes peninsula.

Drakes Estero

The expansive estuary is the drainage point for the whole peninsula and is home to Harbor seals that can be regularly spotted there. The shape of the Drakes Estero features five separate strips: Barries Bay, Creamery Bay, Schooner Bay, Home Bay, and Limantour Bay. Drakes Beach connects with the ocean and the Limantour Spit.

Elephant Seal Overlook

The once nearly extinct animals can usually be observed resting close to Chimney Rock come winter.

Arch Rock Point Reyes

A long-time favorite for any Point Reyes visitors, the arch unfortunately collapsed due to erosion and is now under piles of rubbles.

Tule Elk Reserve

Located on Tomales Point, the reserve is home to about 300-400 Tule Elks.

Things to Do in Point Reyes National Seashore // Tule Elk at Tomales Point

Tule Elk at Tomales Point

Wildlife in Point Reyes

Point Reyes birdwatching opportunities are second to none since the park features about 50% of North America’s bird species. Of course, watching wildlife is always a game of patience, seasons, and luck. Spend time wandering and observing to appreciate what the park offers, and one of the reasons why most of the park is a Wilderness Area.

  • Spot Gray whales during their migrations between Mexico and Alaska from January to May.
  • Elephant seals raise their pups by Chimney Rock between December and March.
  • Harbor seals like to stay around Drakes Estero, where they enjoy the environment of the salty waters.
  • Tule elks are native to California, and a healthy population is free-ranging on Tomales Point. Visiting between the mid-summer (July) to fall (October) is perfect for the fall rut.
  • Sea Lions, from the Sea Lion Overlook

Note that some trails and beaches might be closed depending on the time of the year to protect nesting, mating, and simply protecting the different species.

Things to Do in Point Reyes

So what to do in Point Reyes? Well, plenty of cool adventures await!

Point Reyes Hiking

With over 150 miles (250 km) of Point Reyes trails, you are bound to find a trail that you will like! Given the number of possibilities, we are listing here what we think are the best Point Reyes hikes.

One of the most popular Point Reyes hikes is the 0.6-mile (1 km) full circle Earthquake Trail along the San Andreas Fault Zone, where interpretive signs give interesting facts about the famous fault responsible for the destructive 1906 earthquake.

If you are prepared for more challenging hiking in Point Reyes, head to the Tomales Point Trail, a 10-mile (15km) round-trip through Tule Elk Reserve with surprising outlooks on Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. The region is moreover home to a group of Tule Elk, grazing at a moderately close distance. A must-do Point Reyes hike!

Both Limantour Spit trail and Estero trail (each 2-mile / 3 km, though different trailheads) provide great birdwatching opportunities.

Hike up to 1,407-feet Mount Wittenberg Top, a 3-hour hike from Bear Valley Visitor Center.

Another popular trail is the Bear Valley Trail going to Arch Rock. The arch collapsed and is now under rubbles, but the trail still passes along the rugged coastline.

Things to Do in Point Reyes National Seashore // Arch Rock

Arch Rock, before its collapse

The 13-mile (21-km) Alamere Falls hike is another popular one, with its impressive 30-ft waterfalls.

Point Reyes Kayaking

Kayaking in Point Reyes takes place in three different locations: Tomales Bay, Drakes Estero / Estero de Limantour, and the Pacific Ocean. Depending on your kayaking experience or what you are looking for, you might want to check either of these areas. Since these kayaking adventures occur on or around the Pacific Ocean, check the Point Reyes tides as you plan your trip.

Tomales Bay

A 15-mile (24-kilometer) long bay between the Point Reyes Peninsula and the mainland of the Bolinas Ridge, and right along the San Andreas Fault, Tomales Bay is a popular kayaking spot. Camping is allowed at dedicated boat-in camping sites (with relevant permits) on the west coast of Tomales Bay.

Rent a kayak and launch from the mainland, and kayak across Tomales Bay to go camping in one of the campsites. Kayaking Point Reyes is an adventure trip we experienced in a windy, rainy April. Tough, wet crossing but sleeping listening to the gentle crashing of the waves made it worth it!

Note that while there are several launch locations where you can boat in, not all allow overnight parking. Some are day use only, so check before parking.

Drakes Estero and Estero de Limantour

From July to February, kayaking in Drakes Estero and Limantour is allowed and forbidden the remaining of the year to protect harbor seals.

Pacific Ocean Kayaking

Kayaking in the open ocean is possible but should be reserved for advanced kayakers with proper experience and equipment. It can be highly dangerous due to ocean conditions: wind, waves, tides, and some deadly elements.

Point Reyes Horseback Riding

Horse riding is allowed on park beaches. Riders come either from outside the park or through the onsite riding stable concession Five Brooks Ranch.

Point Reyes Lodging

A great many people visit Point Reyes National Seashore as a day trip from San Francisco. For longer stays, there are different options. From camping to hotels, hostels, and more luxury stays in nearby towns, every budget and amenities can be found around Point Reyes.

Point Reyes Camping

Probably the most searched for lodging for adventurous visitors; the options include either hike-in or boat-in backcountry camping. Camping in Point Reyes requires advanced permits.

HI Point Reyes Hostel

This Point Reyes youth hostel is conveniently inside the park on Limantour Spit Road. Click here to find the latest availability.

Point Reyes Cottages

There are two options around the Point Reyes Station:

When to Visit Point Reyes

Though the Californian weather is often depicts as warm, the reality of the Pacific Ocean means that the weather in Point Reyes is known for its cold temperatures, fog, and wind all-year-round. However, spring is a good season for checking wildflowers.

Summer months are also popular thanks to slightly warmer days. In all, spring and summer are the best time to visit the Point Reyes National Seashore, but even Fall and winter can provide great clear days perfect for exploring. Regardless of the season, make sure to check for the latest Point Reyes weather before your trip.

If you are looking for specific animals, note:

  • December to March: Elephant Seals from the Elephant Seal Overlook
  • December to April: Grey whale watching from the Point Reyes Lighthouse

Where is Point Reyes California

The Point Reyes National Seashore is in Marin County in Northern California, along the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

Most visitors would travel from San Francisco, 30 miles (50km) south of the park, though some might come from San Jose and the South Bay Area.

Directions to Point Reyes:

  • For San Francisco to Point Reyes, take US-101 and drive along the scenic Highway 1 (CA-1 N) to reach
    • either Bear Valley Road (for the Bear Valley Visitor Center)
    • or the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard before the Point Reyes Station (if you are headed toward the Limantour Road, the HI Point Reyes Hostel)

If you leave on a late Sunday afternoon, plan for potential heavy traffic from Point Reyes to San Francisco.

Point Reyes Travel Tips

  • Plan for a long day as the small road means slow driving
  • Make sure to stop at a Point Reyes visitor center to grab a Point Reyes map
  • For more on the park, you can also look at one of the Point Reyes books: Hiking Point Reyes, get a copy of the Point Reyes: The Complete Guide to the National Seashore & Surrounding Area, or check the Mount Tamalpais & Point Reyes trail map.
  • Wildlife photographers: bring a couple of different lenses to get close-up shots of the birds and other Point Reyes animals
  • Watch for free-ranging cattle that might be on the road.
  • Any drive within the park might take 45 mn from one point to another. Plan your day and itinerary accordingly.
  • Erosion, wildfires, and animal birthing season impact whether some trails are open or not. Check with the visitor center to see whether the trail or area you are planning on visiting is open.
  • Pets are allowed on a few selected trails and beaches and should be leashed at all times.
  • Leave no trace – pack in, pack out. We all love Mother Nature in its pristine shape.

We hope that some of our Everglades National Park photos will make you want to pack and go right away!

Have you been to Point Reyes? What was your experience or preferred thing to do in the park? Please share with us your adventures!

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