hikes in Point Reyes National Seashore
The Point Reyes National Seashore is a natural sanctuary on the California coast that is primed and ready for exploration. Discover the grandeur and diversity of the fragile coastal environment through the extensive network of hiking routes that cover the area. Encompassing over 71,000 acres of the Point Reyes Peninsula, the National Preserve is almost completely separated from the continental United States by a rift zone on the San Andreas Fault. The striking topographic disparity of crashing surf and verdant headlands beckons curious explorers from around the globe.
A landscape characterized by sandy beaches, rugged headlands, lush temperate forests, and coastal prairies; the adventure opportunities here are endless! The summer months see wonderful hiking, sea kayaking, and epic wildlife viewing possibilities. Hike amongst tule elk at Tomales Point, admire elephant seals on Chimney Beach, explore cattle ranches at Drakes Estero, and watch the gray whale migration from the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Unfortunately, the Point Reyes National Park is not a dog-friendly preserve due to the abundance of wildlife and fragile environment, so it is best to leave your pup at home!
The topographic variety of the Point Reyes Peninsula boasts unrivaled hiking experiences. Exhibiting a diversity of flora and fauna, as well as the grandeur of the Pacific coastline, this outdoor oasis offers an adventure for everyone. Most of the routes in the National Seashore are easy-going and manageable for hikers of all skill levels and ages. Located so close to San Francisco, this natural oasis is a popular city escape we encourage you to indulge in.
The 12 Epic Hiking Routes in the Point Reyes National Seashore
Though it was difficult, we narrowed down our favorite trails in the Point Reyes National Seashore for you to enjoy. Here you can find hikes that cater to families with younger children and treks reserved for intrepid adventurers craving a challenge. No matter which route you chose, the Point Reyes Peninsula will not disappoint!
- Alamere Falls Trail - The Alamere Falls Trail is the most popular hike in the National Seashore, and there is no doubt as to why. This epic adventure travels along the dramatic coastal headlands before plunging down to the shoreline to one of the world’s rare tidal falls.
- Point Reyes Lighthouse Trail - Indulge yourself in uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean from the postcard perfect lighthouse. This beautiful adventure climbs down over 300-odd steps to the historic lighthouse and Lens House. If you're lucky, you may even be rewarded with sights of migrating gray whales.
- Abbotts Lagoon Trail - The Abbotts Lagoon Trail is a picturesque seaside stroll that the whole family can enjoy! Wander through cattle ranches, wind-sculpted sand dunes, and along the lagoon. As you hike, be sure to keep an eye out for otters that inhabit the area!
- Tomales Point Trail - Explore the Tule Elk Reserve and indulge in breathtaking coastal vistas along the Tomales Point Trail. Traveling along the headlands abundant with wildflowers, past historic sites, and down to the tip of the peninsula—this trek packs a punch.
- Sky Trail and Bear Valley Loop - The Sky Trail and Bear Valley Loop is an extraordinary adventure that travels through fog-shrouded forestlands pierced with sunbeams. This adventure boasts a magical experience that intermediate hikers and families with older children can enjoy!
- Bear Valley and Coast Trail - Bear Valley is one of the most popular areas in the park due to its unparalleled beauty. Wander through the forested canyon adorned with charming creeks before opening to the rugged coastline. This trek provides the perfect opportunity for wildlife spotting!
- Bolinas Ridge Loop - The Bolinas Ridge Loop is actually situated just outside the perimeter of the Point Reyes National Seashore, but it's one of our favorites so we had to include it! Meander through redwood stands, cattle ranches, and coastal prairies along this scenic route.
- Chimney Rock Trail - Spot lounging elephant seals and enjoy epic ocean views along the Chimney Rock Trail. This easy-going adventure stretches across the grassy headlands to an overlook of the majestic creatures.
- Bass Lake Hike - Cool off in the waters of Bass Lake along this trek. This wonderful hike explores the shoreline cliffs before diverting inland to Bass Lake. Spend the day swimming in the picture-perfect lake along the Pacific coast.
- South Beach Trail - Otherwise known as “The Great Beach”, the South Beach Trail stretches along the shoreline of the pristine beach. Have a picnic, throw a ball, and explore the stunning beach. Adventurers of all skill levels and ages can enjoy this walk.
- Earthquake Trail - Want to learn more about the San Andreas Fault? The Earthquake Trail uncovers the geology of the area as you wander the path lined with interpretive signs over the fault. Equally as scenic as it is educational, the whole family will love this adventure.
- Elephant Seal Overlook Trail - The Elephant Seal Overlook Trail is a short but scenic trail to an observation point overlooking Drakes Beach. Bring a pair of binoculars and enjoy the sights of the lounging elephant seals and their pups below.
When is the Best Time to Visit the Point Reyes National Seashore?
Visit the Point Reyes National Seashore in the fall and spring for the best weather. During the shoulder season, the coastal area sees less fog and rain, making it an ideal time for those coming to indulge in the ocean views! Due to its geographic location, the region lacks the contrast of extreme heat or cold, offering adventure pursuits year-round. The winter months along the coast see more rain and intense wind. On the other hand, if you head out in the warmer season, you can expect thick fog in the early morning which will usually burn off by mid-afternoon. No matter the time of year, we encourage visitors to dress in layers, as the coast can bring unexpected weather at a moment’s notice.
Other Outdoor Activities in the Point Reyes National Seashore
The Point Reyes National Seashore area is, above all else, a hiker’s haven; boasting an extensive network of routes throughout the preserve and the Philip Burton Wilderness. Explore the lush woodlands, brush-covered hills, estuaries, headlands, historic sites, and beaches by foot for the most immersive experience.
In addition to trekking, the park is a popular camping and wildlife viewing area. Explore the Tule Elk Reserve, do some birding, overlook the elephant seal population sunning on Drakes Beach, and watch gray whales migrating from Mexico to Alaska. Those with an intrepid spirit can even rent a sea kayak and head out into the surf! Though the outdoor pursuits are limited in the Point Reyes National Seashore, the scenery is unparalleled in its beauty and grandeur, which is in and of itself a reason to visit the area.
Frequently Asked Questions About Point Reyes National Seashore
What is the Point Reyes National Seashore known for?
The Point Reyes National Seashore is known for its dramatic landscape—the surging surf of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the headlands, pristine beaches, coastal grasslands, lush forests, and estuaries.
Why does the Point Reyes National Seashore close?
Sections of beach along the Point Reyes Headlands are subject to yearly closures to protect the nursing elephant seal pups. Check out the NPS website for additional information on wildlife closures.
Does the Point Reyes National Seashore have a beach?
Yes, there are many beaches in the Point Reyes National Seashore. The most popular beach is the 11.0mi stretch nicknamed “The Great Beach”, more commonly known as the Point Reyes South Beach.
What is there to do in the Point Reyes National Seashore?
The Point Reyes National Seashore is a great place for hiking, sightseeing, whale watching, birding, kayaking, camping, and more!
Are dogs allowed in the Point Reyes National Seashore
The Point Reyes National Seashore is not a dog-friendly preserve. Pups are allowed on only three beaches— Kehoe, Limantour, and Great Beach, and one trail—the Kehoe Beach Trail.
Awesome Adventure Tours near Point Reyes
Check out our awesome Point Reyes hiking tour on 10Adventures! This epic 6-day adventure travels along the rugged Pacific coastline along the best trails to the must-see sites. For an active exploration of the California coast, the Point Reyes Hiking Tour cannot be topped!
Find Other Amazing Hiking Regions in California
- Death Valley
- Inyo National Forest
- Joshua Tree National Park
- North Bay
- Yosemite National Park
- Stanislaus National Forest
- Sierra National Forest
- Redwoods National and State Parks
The best hikes in Point Reyes National Seashore
Yes, there are more than 10
Point Reyes National Seashore is so beautiful that we can not give you only 10 hikes. So here is a list of bonus hikes in Point Reyes National Seashore that you should take a look at as well
Are we missing your favourite hike?
Tell us! If you've got photos, a GPS track and know the hike, we'd love to share your favourite hike with the rest of the 10Adventures community.