Point Reyes – Drakes Estero


What? :

This trail passes through open grassland and cattle pastures, traversing rolling terrain and offers outstanding views of Drakes Estero and Estero de Limantour.

Drakes Estero is a large body of shallow saltwater bay located in the heart of Point Reyes National Seashore.

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.


Point Reyes is divers large national park that offer many amazing hikes and places to visit. There are many unique locations and hikes and I will not mark this one as a must visit hike, it is fun but there are other hikes in the park.



Where? :

Point Reyes National Park is located 1.5 hours north of San Francisco, west of the small town of Point Reyes Station on highway 1.

This specific hike start at Drakes Estero Trailhead, see below for detailed driving description.

Google Map Link



When? :

The park section is open year-round, but I would not recommend hiking here on a rainy or windy day.

The trail is open to the wind without any shelter and can it get muddy during and right after rain.

On a nice warm day it is fun hike just bring hat and sunscreen because it has no shade.



Due note 1: No fee is needed.


Due note 2: Toilet is available at the parking lot; Pets are not allowed on the trails.


Due note 3: The trail pass through open grassland and cattle pastures, do not disturb the animal, keep a safe distance, and do not walk between a mother and her cub. Please be respectful of grazing stock and be sure to leave gates as you find them: if they are closed, please close them after passing through.


Due note 4: No water source at the trailhead.


Due note 5: The Estero de Limantour SMR and Drakes Estero SMCA are two neighboring estuarine marine protected areas (MPAs) located near Point Reyes. They protect important estuarine habitat including tidal creeks, beaches, rocky shore, tidal flats, coastal marsh, and sandy seafloor.


Due note 6: For more information on Kayak Drakes Estero and Estero de Limantour:



Due note 7: Except for a small forest section of the trail, the trail is completely exposed to the sun, there is no shade or protection from wind or rain.


Due note 8: Drakes Estero Trail is open to biking out and back, the way back as a loop on the cuttle road through the farm is close to bikes.


Due note 9: There is possibility of seeing bat rays and leopard sharks swimming just below the water's surface. A good time to visit is the fall when leopard sharks enter Limantour Estero to breed.



My thoughts:

I want to visit and explore this section of Point Reyes and I had the opportunity to visit here on a warm nice winter day.

This is not challenging hike. It cross the grassland hills overviewing the inner bay.

There are many other hikes in Point Reyes so I will not mark this one as a “must do hike” but if you have few hours to spend and the weather is nice this is a fun hike to do.



The visit:

This trail through grassland and cattle pastures offers views of Drakes Estero and Estero de Limantour, and the opportunity to see the diverse wildlife.


The Estero de Limantour SMR and Drakes Estero SMCA are two neighboring estuarine marine protected areas (MPAs) located near Point Reyes. They 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.



How to get to the trailhead parking:

To get to the trail head you need to drive on into Point Reyes on Sir Francis Drake Highway. When you are arriving to the junction leading to Pierce Point Ranch keep driving left, follow signs to the lighthouse and after 2 miles you will see turn left. Drive on this road for about a mile and you will see the small parking lot on your right.

Overall, this trailhead is located 10 miles away from Point Reyes Station town center.

Park here and do not keep going to the ranch at the end of the road.


Note: If you find yourself at Drakes Estero end of the road (once an Oyster farm location) you took the wrong turn, get back to the main road, turn right and drive quarter of a mile to the right turnout.



The hike:

There are several hiking options but in general you are hiking along the edge of the inner bay heading south. You can walk all the way to Sunset Beach and back (this will be around 8 miles long hike) or only do part of this hike.

I decided to do a 5 miles long loop hike, so I did not hike all the way to Sunset Beach.



The Estero trail start at the small parking lot (+ toilet) heading south. The trail follow the hill side through brush grasslands for about 0.6 miles. 

At some point the trail turn south and get not Monterey pines forest. After walking down for another 0.6 miles, the trail arrives at Home Bay.

This bay was dammed by ranchers to create a stock freshwater pond but today the dam breached so ocean tide water can get into and out this section.

Trail traverses along the dam, you will cross the dam opening by a large footbridge with benches.

This is a great place for a short stop, look for wildlife and birds.


From Home Bay, the trail climb the hill on the other side of the dam heading south along the water line, crossing over a couple of small ridges through pastureland.

You will cross near two stock ponds that were constructed by ranchers. These ponds usually attract a variety of birds.


After 2.5 miles from your starting point (about 1.4 miles south of the bridge) the Sunset Beach Trail branches off to the right (straight) and the main trail is heading left. Do not miss this trail junction that is marked with metal plate.

Here I turn left following Drake’s head trail that leads up the ridgeline, not to be confused by the cuttle trails follow the blue arrow signs that mark the path.

The trail climb the flat open grassland and after short hike you will reach junction with number of fence lines adjacent to a small corral and abandoned, circular, concrete water trough.

Keep following the signs in the direction of the other side of the hill.

They may be many cattle made trails, but you can’t get really lost here.

On your way you will pass another shallow cattle pound and then you will reach the main cattle trail.

Here you can turn right and follow the trail leading south to Drake’s Head.

I was short on time, so I decided to start hiking back. Instead of walking the same trail back I decided to create a loop hike.

I turn left and start heading north on the cattle trail passing in between tow fences.

You can’t miss this trail heading in straight line to the top of the ridge in front of you, to the north of your location.

The trail turn into dirt road used by the ranches, after climbing the ridgeline the road turn and descend from the other side into the valley.

Short walk will bring you to the end of the trail and the beginning of a road.

This section of the road is in private property so you can’t drive up to this point.


From here the road heading down the creek to the farmhouses.


According to the signs you can walk here (this is not a private property) but please respect the farmers privacy and stay only on the road, cross the farm quickly to the other side.

Climb the hillside and walk down to the creek on the other side, pass the farm gate.

From here the road climb back to the trailhead parking lot where you left your car.


Overall, this was a 6.3 miles long hike (accumulated ascent of 930 ft) and it took me 2 hours and 15 minutes.

If you would like to add the hike to the far end of the trail at Drake’s Head and back than you need to add additional 2.9 miles to your overall distance.


It was a fun easy hike, not a lot to see except birds and view of open grassland covering the hills.













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