Just North of San Francisco lies the American West’s only National Seashore: Point Reyes. A national seashore is protected by the National Park Department, so with that title, you know it’s something to see. There are only 10 National Seashores in America, 9 on the east coast and 1 on the west. With the iconic Highway 1 coastal road, you would expect there’d be more in California. But as I’ve said before, national park titles don’t come easily.
To get to Point Reyes you’ll take a beautiful drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and up Highway 1. The park isn’t far in distance but it is in time, so plan on spending a full day here! The most prized hike in Point Reyes is an 8 mile trail to Alamere Falls. The journey may be long, but the most beautiful places are often the hardest to get to. This waterfall is something more like a local’s secret. With its size and beauty, you would think it’d be more widely known. To get to the falls, take the Coastal Trail. The closest parking lot is the Palomarin Lot. Hike the trail for about 4 miles until you see a cut in the bushes on the left- I know, sounds sketchy.
Prior to my visit, I researched the trail a little and read that it can be difficult to find, since there is no signage and it is not located on the trail map. There are usually rocks that point to the path but people often remove them. The trail through the bushes was pretty noticeable and the only side trail that I saw up until that point. The rocks were also there- it was really obvious for me (see below).
There shouldn’t be a problem finding it, but if you are worried just ask other hikers coming from the opposite direction. The hike to the falls is another .75 miles. Once you reach the end, you’ll see that there are 3 waterfalls around the creek. The largest being the tidefall- AKA a waterfall that flows into the ocean. Don’t skip out on the climb to the beach, that’s what the hike is all about!
Point Reyes also has a lighthouse at its furthest peninsula point. During the popular winter months, a shuttle bus must be used to reach this area on Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal Holidays. What a strange time for a beach to be most popular, right? In the winter months, most visitors flock to the shorelines, not for the beaches, but for the animals that congregate here. Elephant seals!
Fun fact: Steven Spielberg used a mixture calls produced by elephant seal pups, walruses, and dolphins for the vocals of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.
In the winter months, females gather on the shoreline to give birth to their pups. They’ll nurse them for about one month before sending them on their separate way. In just one month the pups transform from 70 lb newborns to 250-350 lb sub-adults. You may see a few bulls in the area, as well. They are unmistakable at up to 8,000 lbs! You’ll be able to get the best glimpse of the seals from Drake’s Beach and Chimney Rock. The park is full of other wildlife including coyotes, deer, and California’s own Tule Elk- found roaming around with the dairy cows or in the Tule Elk Reserve.
The beaches around the Point Reyes’ shoreline are absolutely picture perfect, and some are dog friendly! If you plan to stay in the park overnight, you can apply for a beach fire and campground permit. Other daytime activities in the park include kayaking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, and hiking miles and miles of trails. If you’re looking to escape the weather, the Bear Valley Visitor Center shows short films daily on park related topic and the Red Barn Classroom hosts seasonal art exhibits. Take a look at the NPS website for more information.
Point Reyes is a great day trip from San Francisco or from your Highway 1 drive. It is also a perfect 3-day weekend camping trip! Have you made the hike to Alamere Falls? Did you have any troubles finding it? Comment below!
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Top 7 Sites in Yosemite National Park
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