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



This blog is high level Day Trip planner to Point Reyes NP (1 Hr drive north of San Francisco).

Below there are links to specific park location blogs so you can get detailed information and many more pictures from each location.


Where? :

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

Google Map Link



The large peninsula is protected under the National Seashore regulation.

Point Reyes is a popular tourist destination on the Pacific coast with many nature attractions, places to visit, many hiking options and a place to enjoy animal sightseeing including: Tule elk herds, large Seal Elephant population Coyotes and Birds.


When? : 

the reserve is open year round and every season bring something else.

Many of the hikes and the animal viewing are in open landscape and beaches so you are not protected from rain and wind. The park mountains along highway one are covered with forest and protect you from the rain and sun.


My thoughts

I highly recommend visit this park; I visit this park many times and enjoy it every one.

This is a perfect day-trip destination from San Francisco or the south bay or even a dedicate destination for few days visit. there is a lot to see and explore.

Point Reye Blogs on Specific Location:

The visit:

Point Reyes is one of the most interesting, fun to visit and divers National Park we have near San Francisco.

The large park is located north of San Francisco, just 1 hr drive on highway one along the coastline.

You can find in the park many interesting places to visit and to explore:

Walk on the long sandy ocean beaches, view the white cliff towering from the ocean, hike and explore the lagoons.

Explore the lash pine rain forests covering the mountains here you have many options of short or long hike.

You can hike to Alamere waterfall, falling directly to the ocean.

Visit the open spaces grassland, and view the amazing Tule elk herds.

In Chimney Rock or Drakes Beach you can see the Elephant Seal colony.

There is a restored Lighthouse you can visit.

Whale watching and many more places to visit…


The park main Highlights and Attractions (link to the relevant blog post):

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

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




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

Unlike many other national parks here at Point Reyes 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.

Plan in advance and drive directly to your destination.

There are many forest hiking trails options near the Bear Valley visitor center.

The most popular of the hikes is Bear Valley Trail.
The trailhead is just at the end of the road near the large parking lot.

From here you can hike 4.5 miles all the way to the ocean front.
This is relatively easy wide trail that pass the mountain range in a low section so it does not involved with a lot of climbing.
You do not need to hike all the 9 miles out and back but rather turn around once you had enough.


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 Park 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 Option Recommendations:

·         Start the trip from Pierce Point Ranch & Tule Elk Reserve (~5 miles hike), when finish your visit here drive to Drakes Beach & Lighthouse section, see the Elephant Seal and the lighthouse.
The above is my recommended option if you only have one day to visit this park.
If you have additional days visit the below options:

·         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….

If you have additional time you can visit and hike in Drakes Estero and along the ocean beach in Limantour Beach.

How to Get There:

If you are coming from San Francisco I recommend to take the longer hwy 1 route that offer few short interesting stopping point along the drive and a nice ocean cliff view.

On your way back home later at the afternoon take the fastest route recommended by the mapping app or take again the winding hwy 1 and enjoy the sun setting into the ocean view.

before arriving to Point Reyes on your 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. on mid-day weekends the parking lot is usually full and you do not have any place to park your car.

You can also have a short 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:

Unfortunately during 2023 winter storms the ship was compliantly broken and I saw somewhere that they are going to remove what left of it.

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…

If you just want to enjoy the beach you can park at the side of the road before it climb into inland, here you will have a quite nice sandy beach.

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.

I never visit here so I can't provide a lot more information.

Drakes Estero:
The Estero de Limantour SMR and Drakes Estero SMCA are two neighboring estuarine marine protected areas (MPAs) located near Point Reyes. the large body of shallow saltwater bay protect important estuarine habitat including tidal creeks, beaches, rocky shore, tidal flats, coastal marsh, and sandy seafloor.
Drakes Estero and Estero de Limantour are the only marine Wilderness on the west coast of the continental United States.
there is a hiking trail that passes through open grassland and cattle pastures, traversing rolling terrain and offers outstanding views of Drakes Estero and Estero de Limantour.
When hiking on the nearby hills you can watch the tidal flats, sand bars, and birding habitats as well as the open grassland and cattle pastures covering the hills.


Few Trip-planner Tips:

·         Driving the winding and narrow hwy 1 is taking longer time than other faster routes that goggle map suggest taking but it offers amazing ocean viewing and additional stops along the way. I recommend taking it on your morning drive heading to the park and on your way back.

·         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 at nearby locations.

·         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 hard this is because most of the peninsula trails are fully exposed to the wind and rain.

·         If the ocean peninsula park section is your prime destination I will recommend starting at the north section tip. Hike first at the Tule Elk Reserve at morning time, later you can visit the south section of the park (Lighthouse or Drakes Beach) or spend time at park beaches.

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

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







Additional Pictures: