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 1.5 hr drive north of San Francisco on hwy 1 near the small town of Point Reyes Station
The large peninsula is protected under the National Seashore regulation. It is popular tourist destination on the Pacific coast with many nature attractions, places to visit, hike and enimal sightseeing including Tule elk herds, Seal Elephant population.
When? : Year round
I highly recommend visit this park; I visit this park many times and enjoy it every one.
This is a perfect nature day-trip destination from San Francisco or a destination for few days visit.
My highway 1 north section trip planner link:
Point Reye Blogs:
- Point Reyes – Pierce Point Ranch and Tule Elk Reserve
- Point Reyes – Drakes Beach and Lighthouse
- Point Reyes – Alamere Falls
- Point Reyes - November 2022 Visit
- Point Reyes NP – Picture Gallery (Dec. 2023)
Blog Links Covering Nearby Attractions:
- Mount Tamalpais State Park
- Mount Tamalpais State Park - Cataract Trail
- Muir Woods National Monument
- Sonoma Coast State Park - Goat Rock
- Fort Ross State Historic Park
- Bodega Bay
- Salt Point State Park
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 many long sandy ocean beaches, view the white cliff towering from the ocean, hike to the water lagoons, lash pine rain forests with long hike options, lakes and stream. 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 restore Lighthouse, Whale watching options and many more places to visit…
The park main Highlights and 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.
- 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 hwy 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.
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 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.
This is my recommended option if you have only one day to visit this park.
· 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 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:
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.