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Point Reyes National Seashore California

Point Reyes provides excellent hiking in Tomales Point with tule elk and picture opps. Point Reyes National Seashore California cannot be seen in one day and maybe not even in one week. There are more mileage of trails, 150 miles worth, than paved roads so it is safe to say if you really want to see this beautifully preserved national seashore then you are going to have to walk, mountain bike or go on horseback. Hikes in Point Reyes National Seashore range from less than one hour to six hours. These estimated times do not include stopping but continuous walking so you need to be realistic with the daylight that is available during the time of year you plan on visiting Point Reyes. You definitely don't want to rush your hike to Tomales Point to turn around and practically speed walk or run back to your car, that would be stressful. A typical hiking pace is about 1 to 2 miles per hour. You might think that is ridiculously slow but this takes in account that you will actually enjoy the scenery on your hike by stopping, observing, taking pictures, exploring even, at what this beautiful park has to offer.

Picture from Tomales Point trail hike Point Reyes California

The full service Bear Valley Visitor Center should be your first stop in the park. Rangers can help you with any questions and sometimes there are road or trail closures so check on that. They have terrific displays on the natural history of the Point Reyes, and animal and bird displays too. The main road, Sir Frances Drake Boulevard, winds through the Inverness Ridge and across the pastoral lands to the beaches, lighthouse, and wildlife viewing areas. Even though on the drive from the visitors center to the light you will come across cattle, they are not the animals people come here to see. The popular animal species to see in the park or from the park is coho salmon and steelhead trout, Tule elk, California gray whale, and elephant seals. And with more than 70,000 acres this is a bird watcher's paradise. There have been almost 490 avian species that live or have been observed in the park in either the marshes, on the ponds, on the beach, and soaring over dunes and wetlands.

Picture of cattle at Point Reyes National Seashore California

From the Visitor's Center we drove to the Point Reyes Lighthouse which is a very popular attraction. From the parking lot the walk is paved but the majority of it is down hill with lots and lots of steps to reach the lighthouse. It is worth it though. From the top of the cliff we saw sea lions playing on the rocks below. The scenery the entire journey is spectacular and a wonderful opportunity to take group pictures. You also pass the residents where the lighthouse keepers live. The location of this lighthouse is considered to be the windiest and foggiest on the west coast of the United States.

Picture of Point Reyes National Seashore California

Point Reyes Lighthouse picture

Then we headed towards the Historic Pierce Point Ranch which is where the trailhead is for the Tomales Point Trail. We stopped at McClures Beach to check it out. From the parking lot there is a rugged little trail that leads down a ravine to the ocean. We didn't stay long because we knew that we were headed to The Point. Anyway it was foggy the morning of our visit, but it usually is here. The exciting part was that above the parking lot is where we first saw the Tule Elk.

Picture of flowering succulent near Point Reyes Lighthouse picture of wild lilies on tomales point hike

One of the highlights for us taking the Tomales Point Trail was to see the Tule elk. Although they can be seen in different areas of the park we read that hiking this trail was our best chance at seeing them. This hike actually goes through the Tule Elk Reserve, and the name in itself means you will see the elk. You can see by the pictures that we really got to see a lot. The Tomales Point Trail is a total of 9.5 miles, and with a number like that you have to take food and water with you. Even though this is a pretty easy hike being that elevation is not an issue and it is mostly sand or packed ground it was a long day for us, and we are pretty fit. The trail is well marked and is considered open, however the last stretch was a little overgrown but we like that. We will never forget the overgrown path we took to the trailhead for the Siyeh Pass in Glacier National Park, what an awesome trail that was that led to an actual glacier. The views from the end of the Tomales Point hike were spectacular and a rest was definitely deserved.

Tule Elk at watering hole on Tomales Point hike picture

Tule Elk Reserve at Point Reyes picture

Picture taken at start of Tomales Point hike

Picture taken during the early morning fog of the Tule Elk at Point Reyes

There are no RV campgrounds or hotels within the boundaries of the national seashore so the drive in and out of the park each day could get a little monotonous. You can camp within the park but it is all considered backcountry. This requires a permit and you get to any of the backcountry camping spots by hiking or biking in or you could boat-in at Tomales Bay. For hotel or RV camping you travel south one mile from the Bear Valley Visitor Center to Olema. If you want to stay at a California state park then the closest would be six miles away from Point Reyes National Seashore California.

picture of mcclures beach at point reyes national park

Jason's thoughts - This was far different than many of our hikes. It is super easy. Super fun and any skill level can do it. Long stretches of beautiful grassy rolling hills, low lying trees and little ponds dot the route. Lots of animals and if you can go all the way to the end like we did a spectacular site awaits you along the cliffs plunging to the sea. I will return here.

Kelly's thoughts - The Tomales Point hike was long but gratifying. Don't let the morning fog hinder you from exploring or hiking cause before you know it the blue sky shines through with the warming sun. I was pleased with seeing the Tule Elk almost the entire hike. Being on the cliffs to see the vast Pacific, surrounding coastlines and towns is a joy for me. I can't wait to go back and hike the southern portion of the park to see different views and different animal species.

Travel info - Point Reyes National Seashore California is about 50 miles north of San Francisco on Highway 1. Click for California coast or Sequoia National Park or

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