Point Reyes – Day Trip from San Francisco: A Trip Planner



This blog is high level Day Trip planner to Point Reyes NP.

I set links below to specific blogs for detailed information and more pictures on each location.


Where? : Located 1.5 hr drive north of San Francisco on hwy 1 near the small town of Point Reyes Station

Google Map Link


What: Large peninsula protected under the National Seashore regulation, popular tourist destination on the Pacific coast with many nature attractions including Tule elk herds, Seal Elephant population.


When? : Year round


My thoughts: I highly recommend this park; I visit here many times and enjoy it every time. This is a perfect day-trip destination from San Francisco and the bay area.


The visit:

One of the most interesting, fun to visit and divers National Park we have, just 1 hr drive north of San Francisco.

You can find in the park many interesting places to visit and to explore: long sandy ocean beaches, tall cliff going down into to the ocean, lagoons, lash rain forests with long hike options, lakes and stream, waterfall falling directly to the ocean, open spaces grassland, amazing Tule elk herds, Seal Elephant population, Whale watching and more…


The park main highlights are the following attractions (link to the relevant blog post):

·         Pierce Point Ranch: This is the best place to watch Tule elk year-round.

·         Drakes Beach: Getting close-up look on the huge Elephant seal at the winter and Cypress Tree Tunnel.

·         Point Reyes Lighthouse and Chimney Rock

·         Hike to Alamere Falls and the surrounding forest, lakes and beaches.

Please check for latest park updates and closers, this is especially important after the 2020 summer Limantour fire and with the ongoing Covid19 regulations.




The park headquarters and main visitor center is at Bear Valley Visitor Center on Bear Valley road parallel to hwy 1, three miles south of Point Reyes Station town.

Currently (end of 2020) all the park visitor centers are close.

The visitor center isn’t a mandatory stop when visiting the park, especially if you know what you want to see in the big park.

There are many forest hiking trails options near the Bear Valley visitor center, but I did not hike any of them yet.


The area of Point Reyes has a lot of interesting history from thousands of years of native American habitat, first European landing at California shore by Sir Francis Drake at 1579 and cattle and milk industry during the 1800’s.

This is not “regular” national park, Point Reyes is not governing all the large peninsula land and there are still active cattle farms and large grazing lands within the Peninsula as also state beach. The mountain ridges, headland and seashores are protected as part of Point Reyes National Seashore.


3 Day-Trip Options recommendations:

·         Start the trip from Pierce Point Ranch & Tule Elk Reserve (~5 miles hike), combine this with McClures Beach, when finish the north section and you have time go to Drakes Beach & lighthouse section

·         Focus on the south part of the park: Short stop at Cypress Tree Tunnel, Drakes Beach (watch the Elephants Seal), Lighthouse, Chimene Rock & Elephant Seal Overlook

·         Hike to Alamere Falls that is in different section of the park, at summertime can combine this with afternoon stop at Stinson Beach….


How to get there:

If you are coming from San Francisco I recommend to take the longer hwy 1 route that offer short interesting stopping point and a nice ocean cliff view. On your way back home later at the afternoon take the fastest route or take hwy 1 and see the sun setting into the ocean.

On the way north on hwy 1 you can stop at Muir Beach, from the beach parking lot this is a short walk to a black sand beach.

You can stop at Muir Beach Overlook just after the small town on the ocean cliffs on your left, this is an old WW2 lookout post, enjoy the view and keep driving north.

Another option to stop, for coffee and pastries, is at the beach town of Stinson Beach (very popular beach at summertime), or farther north at the small town of Point Reyes Station just before taking the road into the peninsula.


Point Reyes Shipwrecks:

A nice short stop on your way into the park is at Point Reyes Shipwrecks (Inverness) at the inner lagoon shore.

This is an old wooden Shipwrecks stack on the sandy beach just near the main road. Park at Inverness Store (across the road from Saltwater Oyster Depot), walk 300f and see the boat up-close.

Nothing extraordinary, just nice “photo opportunity” during sunset/sunrise or at night with stars…


Tomales Bay State Park: within the large Point Reyes cape, on the inner seashore there is a state park beach. The small state park (fee) offer swimming beaches, few hiking trails, forests, marshes and picnic areas.


Few trip-planner tips:

·         Driving the winding and narrow hwy 1 is taking longer time, but it offers some viewing stops on the way. I recommend taking it on your morning drive to the park and on your way back take the fastest route.

·         At the summer any of the above trip options can be combined with spending some time at the many beaches that you can find at the park or nearby.

·         Before visiting check for closers at the following url: https://www.nps.gov/pore/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

·         At winter Drakes Beach, the Fish Dock area, the beaches around Chimney Rock, the south end of South Beach are closed to all entry to protect elephant seals from disturbance during the pupping season.

·         At winter month, it is recommended to visit Point Rays on days when it is not raining because most of the trails are exposed to wind and rain.

·         If the main park section is your prime destination I will recommend starting at the north section, hike at the Tule Elk Reserve at morning time, later you can visit the south section of the park or spend time at beaches.

·         You can also have overnight backcountry camping at the south section of the park, must make reservation prior to your trip.

·         At the Alamere falls section you can have many hike options, so you can hike only to the falls or plan 20 miles hike covering more ground.