Point Reyes National Seashores Top Attractions and Things to Do
Travel to Point Reyes National Seashores and see vast farmlands and charming countryside. Enjoy your lunch at a local beach restaurant and visit Point Reyes’ historic lighthouse where whales and dolphins could be seen. (depending on the season).
In Point Reyes, you can go bird watching, whale watching, viewing an abundance of wildlife including elephant seals, foxes, coyotes, bobcats , deer and tule elk. There are awesome beaches and hidden gems to explore, wonderful bicycling paths, picnic spots, picturesque meadows, and laidback villages along the way.
Brief history and introduction: The 70,000 acres of Point Reyes have been known as a “National Seashore” since 1962. It was originally named when Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino named the land Punto de los Reyes, (“King’s Point”) in 1603. It is located within the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, an area geologically separated from the rest of Marin County by a rift zone of the San Andreas Fault, half of which is below sea level, forming Tomales Bay. The northernmost part of this peninsula is maintained as a reserve for Tule elk and the southern part is a protected beach for elephant seals. Point Reyes Lighthouse attracts birds and whale-watchers looking for Gray Whales migrating south in mid-January, and north in mid-March. Point Reyes Lifeboat Station is a National Historic Landmark. It is the last remaining example of a rail-launched lifeboat station, once commonly found along the Pacific coast. The style of the native Kule Loklo village, located just a few miles from the visitor center, was heavily influenced by the Coast Miwok.
Point Reyes National Seashores Top Attractions
Point Reyes Lighthouse and Visitor Center: At the western end of Point Reyes peninsula is a 308-step staircase leading to the historic Point Reyes lighthouse. Unlike many lighthouses, that were built high so ships from far away could see, Point Reyes lighthouse was built low to shine its light below the fog line.
Point Reyes Lighthouse is perched on the edge at the western-most point of the Point Reyes Headlands (at the farthest distance from the park entrance). Point Reyes Lighthouse and Visitor Center are located 45 minutes west of Bear Valley (located near Olema Valley ) along Sir Francis Drake Highway. The visitor center and the lighthouse are only open Friday through Monday year-round(expectation during renovation ,pandemic and closure).
To reach Point Reyes Lighthouse from the parking lot, a short uphill walk (0.4 mile) takes visitors to the to the Lighthouse observation deck -an awesome overlook to see the lighthouse and around it. Whales often swim by (weather permitting). You can check out the lighthouse small visitor center as well, it offers exhibits on the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, as well as on whales, wildflowers, birds, seals and sea and lions.
To reach the Lighthouse will have to go through ascending and descending 308 step stairs.
Tip: The stairs to the lighthouse are closed during high winds so check the weather forecast before visiting Point Reyes National Seashore. This remote wilderness of Point Reyes is often subject to dense for and or gusty winds, you should dress in layers.
Tip: The Lighthouse Visitor Center and stairs are open only on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 10-4:30. It’s closed Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.
Whale Watching in the Point Reyes National Seashore: The headlands of the Point Reyes Peninsula offer one of the best spots to view whales. The areas around Chimney Rock and the Lighthouse offer some of the best whale watching spots in Point Reyes National Seashore. The peak of the whales’ migration usually occurs between January and March while late April and early May afford the opportunity to see mothers and calves close to shore.
Tomales Bay State Park: Tomales Bay is an as awesome hidden gem and a small beach known for locals. This remote state park is a popular destination for paddlers, picnicking, hiking, swimming, and wildlife viewing. A few loops and short hikes around and trails run through Tomales Bay State Park. This park is about 2,000 acres and it’s a California state park located in Marin County, but it’s part of the Point Reyes peninsula because it’s adjacent to Point Reyes National Seashore – operated by the U.S. National Park Service.
Best Beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore: With over 80 miles of protected coastline, Point Reyes National Seashore offers visitors some of the most pristine beaches in California. Many beaches in Point Reye are family friendly and easily accessible, but others can be reach only by hiking. McClures Beach, south of Tomales Point and west of the Pierce Point parking area, has great tide pooling and lots of wildlife. Other beaches include Palomarin Beach is the southernmost beach along the Pacific side of Point Reyes National Seashore. Limantour Beach. Drakes Beach. Chimney Rock on Point Reyes. Point Reyes North Beach. Point Reyes South Beach. Abbotts Lagoon Beach. Kehoe Beach.
Tip for visitors : Abbotts Lagoon Beach: This is a great place for bird watching , and Drakes Beach is finest of all less windy than other beaches. It’s an ideal place for picnicking swinging (taking int consideration that the waters are often cold).
Tip for visitors : Dogs are allowed only on South Limantour Beach, North and South Point Reyes Beaches, and Kehoe Beach. They are not allowed on any hiking trails.
Wildlife Watching at Point Reyes
Point Reyes Wilderness holds some of the greatest array of wildlife in California. Point Reyes wildlife includes bobcats, coyotes, tule elk, owls, badgers, elephant seals, whales, assorted raptors, weasels, badgers, foxes, barn swallows, hawks, ospreys. The most popular is watching the native Tule elk roaming in this picturesque and pastoral landscape and grasslands.
Tomales Point (Pierce Point) is located at the northern end of Point Reyes National Seashore, it’s a popular destination for visitors wishing to view tule elk, birds, birds and wildflowers. The historic Pierce Point Ranch offers a glimpse into the early dairy ranching days on the peninsula.
Black bears were historically present in the Point Reyes area but by 1901, they were extinct from the area.
Top Point Reyes Hiking Areas & Loops
Best Hiking Trails in Point Reyes Bear Valley trail is the most popular hike in the park. From the visitor’s center, the trail follows streams through a shaded, fern-laden canyon, and breaks out at Divide Meadow before it heads downward to the coast and then emerges at the spectacular ocean-view at Arch Rock. Three trails, connecting from the west with the Bear Valley trail, head upward toward Mt. Wittenberg which, at 1,407 feet, is the highest point in the park. Across the parking lot at the visitor’s center is a 0.97 km loop that runs directly over the San Andreas Fault and a 0.6-mile earthquake trail deep underground, so that when standing, visitors straddle the fault line. On this fault line, you can observe details of the surrounding geology. Earthquake Trail: (0.6 miles)
Chimney Rock Trail: Length: 1.9 mi • Est. 57 m. An easy walk from the parking lot to the elephant seals vista point. It can be very windy sometimes, go early.
Here the top hikes in Point Reyes
Laguna-Coast Loop (5 miles)
Woodward Valley Loop (13 miles)
Alamere Falls via Coast Trail from Palomarin Trailhead: Length: 12.2 mi • Est. 5 h 53 m
Tomales Point Trail: Length: 9.4 mi • Est. 4 h 35 m
Bear Valley Trail to Coastal Trail: Length: 10.0 mi • Est. 4 h 7 m
Coast Trail to Bass Lake/ Coast Trail to Wildcat Camp: Length: 11.1 mi • Est. 5 h 40 m
Laguna Trail and Coast Trail Loop: Length: 6.0 mi • Est. 2 h 45 m
Muddy Hollow, Coast Trail, Sky Trail, Laguna Trail: Length: 12.4 mi • Est. 6 h 2 m. This is a very long-day hike and can begging for some hikers.
Sunset Beach Trail: Length: 7.5 mi • Est. 3 h 37 m
Abbotts Lagoon Trail: Length: 3.6 mi – Est. 1 h 34 m. A great spot to hike to a quiet beach if you have time as it takes longer to get to the beach.
Point Reyes Station and Cowgirl Creamery
Point Reyes Station is a charming historic village, it’s part of the Point Reyes National Seashore, has become a travel destination to rejuvenate amid a virtually untouched landscape.
The tiny coastal town of Point Reyes Station is located on California Coast highway 1 between Stinson Beach and Bodega Bay. There is a winery nearby, organic products and laidback farms. Cowgirl Creamery is the most famous shop in town, it celebrates the region’s organic dairy producers. Their organic, award-winning cheese is delicious. The shop features a carefully curated selection of the best of artisan goods and cheese-centric dishes for you to enjoy.
Stinson Beach State Park and Seaside Village
A spectacular drive along coast highway 1 runs through this seaside village OF Stinson Beach. This large public beach is located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area between Muir Beach village and Bolinas, near Point Reyes.
Stinson Beach is about a 45-minute drive from San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge on California’s Pacific Highway 1. It’s one of the cleanest in the state, and known for its soft, white, and large sandy beaches. Stinson Beach is popular for swimming, playing, hiking, surfing, picnicking, and volleyball. Stinson Beach is the ideal weekend getaway for San Franciscans and very close to Point Reyes as well.
The magnificent ridge that rises above this quaint oceanside village is part of Mount Tamalpais State Park, the highest peak in Marin County.
There are 3 restaurants in Stinson beach and a minimarket located by the beach.
Marine Mammal Center: The Marine Mammal Center was established in 1975 for the purpose of rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing marine mammals who are injured, ill or abandoned. It was founded in Sausalito, California, by Lloyd Smalley, Pat Arrigoni and Paul Maxwell.
Since 1975, it has rescued over 23,000 marine mammals. It also serves as a center for environmental research and education regarding marine mammals, namely cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals, fur seals, walruses and sea lions), otters and sirenians (manatees and dugongs). Marine mammal abandonment refers to maternal separation; pups that have been separated from their mother before weaning. At the center, they receive specialized veterinary care: they are diagnosed, treated, rehabilitated and ideally, released back into the wild. Animals in need of assistance are usually identified by a member of the public who has contacted the center. These animals represent the following major species: California sea lions, northern elephant seals, Pacific harbor seals, northern fur seals and southern sea otters.