Point Reyes is an unbelievably beautiful place to go hiking and to enjoy nature.
Places like this are perfect to escape those busy, large cities with tons of people and all this traffic.
Point Reyes is a triangular peninsula which is located west of the San-Andreas Fault. Exactly that is the reason why it is moving northwards for the last 6 million years. During the earthquake in 1906, the peninsula moved from the mainland approximately 20ft (6m) towards the north within 1 minute. The Point Reyes Lighthouse was not damaged at all.
The wonderful National Seashore can be found along Highway One, north of san Francisco in Marin County.
Let’s start with the probably most famous sight of Point Reyes: the lighthouse.
The lighthouse is located on the coast of the Point Reyes National Seashore and is the windiest place on the Northamerican Pacific coast. Often there is a dense fog. Because the 9 miles (15 kilometer) in the Pacific jutting cape is especially dangerous for ships, Point Reyes was in need of a lighthouse. After 60 sunken ships, the Point Reyes lighthouse was built on December 1st in 1870. The light fire is positioned in 36ft (11m) hight and it was laid-out for a staff of 4 men. The small building next to the lighthouse hosts the foghorn. When there are not such strong winds you have the possibility to walk down the 304 steps down to the lighthouse.
The weather conditions are always extreme here. There are over 2100 hours of fog and winds occur with a strength up to 37mi/h (60km/h).
From november thru out spring-time the lighthouse is a perfect Vista Point to watch gray whale making their way from Alaska to Mexico (unfortunately did I not see any whales here but I did a whale watching ship tour in Monterey which you can read about more if you click here).
Above the Vista Point you can find a Visitor Center which will give a lot more information about the history of the light fire and the ecosystem of the Pacific Ocean as well as the California coast. A whiteboard on the outside of the building will give information about the current conditions in the peninsula.
You can also see the lighthouse in the movie “The Fog”.
Point Reyes Beach: a dreamlike view with nothing else around but nature.
Point Reyes Beach, also known as “The Great Beach“, is the with 11mi (17km) longest beach along the Point Reyes National Seashore. If you are looking for a beach with the perfect big (!) waves to surf, this is your place-to-be. There are two big parking lots right next to the beach, the North Beach and the North Beach parking lot. I highly recommend using those. If you park on the roadside you will first have to walk thru high grasses and climb down steep cliffs to reach the beach.
Dogs are allowed on the beach as long as they are on a 6ft (1.8m) leash. They are absolutely not allowed close to the North Beach Entrance because there are endangered Snowy Plover (birds) which found exactly their territory and scientists are trying everything to keep them safe.
With a little bit of luck you can spot some Elephant Seals relaxing at the beach (also you can read more about Elephant Seals in my blog post about the Año Nuevo State Park if you click here).
If you decide to go on a long walk at the beach ou should be considerate since the water can get really close to the steep cliff depending on the tide. Many people were drawn into the ocean.
Another sightseeing point on the Point Reyes NAtional Seashore are the Alamere Falls.
The Alamere Falls are one of two waterfalls in California that directly flow into the Pacific Ocean. The other waterfall is the McWay Falls in Big Sur. The difference between those two waterfalls are that you first have to hike 5.5mi (9km) to get to the Alamere Falls while you are not allowed to come close to the McWay Falls. You are only allowed to watch it from a Vista Point.
This hiking trail is adventurous and offers a lot diversity. You will start from the parking lot where you can find the only bathrooms available along the trail. So before you seriously start you should take a moment to consider using those once. But to add to this: you really cannot expect any luxury here.
After the parking lot there is really only nature to be found and that is what the bathrooms come close to as well. They are very natural….aka it only is a hole in the ground!
In the beginning of the hike you will find a sign that tells you to take enough water and snacks and that there won’t be any bathrooms. It tells you stay on the trail and to be cautious because the trail could become danger
ous and people actually git hurt here before. It is not allowed to litter.
The trail starts with a walk thru the forest. That means: trees on the right and
on the left. Towards the end of this “tunnel of trees” you can hear and see the ocean already. But don’t get too excited already. The next few miles will get a little bit more exhausting. The first hills start and the smooth ground stops. Hello stony ground and path in between walls of stones.
Those stone walls fortunately stop after some time. After that the path thru forest will start again. Occasionally you will pass by a small lake,
which is really calm and functions like a mirror. You will only be able to see the lake from the higher situated trail. If you continue following this path the vegetation gets lower and less compact. Should you always pay really good attention to the ground since there are many rocks and roots that you could stumble over. Also there are really good hints, like arrows made of stones. Those hints will lead you to your destination.
Fun Fact btw: small people definitely have an advantage
over tall people. You are literally walking thru bushes.
First you’ll get to a waterfall which is still in top of the cliff, which marks the beginning of the climbing part. The water is crystal clear and drinkable.
To get to the beach, the ocean and the actual Alamere Falls you have to cross a small creek and climb down the cliff.
Not only can you walk the 2.5mi (4km) long beach, which is called Wildcat Beach, but you can also just sit here enjoying this incredible view! We even had a picnic here.
Finally you are able to see the 39ft (12m) high Alamere Falls!
But be cautious at the beach! Sometimes the water comes really close to the cliffs. If that is the case, it is impossible to climb it up again and you will be drawn into the ocean.
Another part to take care of is the time! Once it is dark it will get really difficult to find your way back. Without a flashlight you cannot even see your hands in front of your eyes!
We did this trail the day after daylight saving to winter time and obviously we totally forgot that the sun will set an hour earlier. Therefore we watched a beautiful sunset. But the way back took way longer than expected because we could not see anything.
If you are the adventurous type of hiker, walking back in the dark can be so awesome! It was so quiet, only nature, the waves and the trees, made any sound. And the sky full of stars was breathtaking!
Finally I can only recommend this hike to every nature lover and hiking fan. Just don’t forget your good hiking shoes 😛
The probably least famous sights are the Cypress Tree Tunnel and the old ship wreck.
The Cypress Tree Tunnel is already visible from far away. You will find it on 1 Bear Valley Rd, which doesn’t have any trees along the road besides those. They are literally outstanding. As you approach the tunnel you will see a sign that says “North District Operation Center“. After that you can park as close to the entrance of the tunnel as you want along the curbside. It is allowed to park on the road but not in the tunnel.
You can drive thru the tunnel and park in the parking lot of the “Historic RCH Coast Station KPH“. Because of the many tourists and photographers I would not recommend doing that. Everyone would have to get out of your way and wait for you to get out of the picture. That not only destroys the picture but also the calm atmosphere.
That atmosphere I am talking about gets its vibe from the beautiful surrounding nature. Especially in winter and during spring time those huge grasslands are super green and you can only see those black and brown dots aka cows 🙂 In the far background you can see the hills that look magical during the sunset.
In 1913 Guglielmp Marconi build the wireless Maritime Radio Receiving Station. “The Marshall Station“, the building at the end of the tunnel. Nowadays the station is only used by the local farmers. The radio equipment, the ship-to-coast-communication and the teletype are intact and are still sending on countless frequencies.
The Monterey Cypress trees that build the tree tunnel were planted in 1930 just for a nice entrance to the building.
The shipwreck, also known as the “Tomales Bay Shipwreck”, the “Iverness Shipwreck” or the “S.S. Point Reyes”, is not that easy to find as the tree tunnel because can cannot see it from the road.
This road I am talking about is the 12781 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, which proceeds parallel to Tomales Bay. It is surrounded by trees and hills. Sometimes you can see the wreck appear behind the trees.
A good point to keep in mind is the restaurant “Saltwater”. On the other side of the road is a parking lot where you can park and walk to the ship. But ATTENTION: the ship lies close to the water and the ground is super muddy. You can definitely assume to get wet feet.
Another obstacle to get to the wreck is the little creek which divides the parking lot from the ship. The creek is not small enough to jump over. That means you have to get creative or prepare. Either you bring rubber boots or you build yourself a bridge with the loose wood lying around.
You are allowed to get as close as you want into the ship. If you want to you can even enter it. But keep in mind that it literally is a wreck. In February 2016 somebody set the ship on fire and ever since it is even more broken than before. Only the back part was burning. The front still looks the same as before the fire.
If you take a look in the ship, it still has all the interior. You can see a bed, a fridge, a sink, old posters and even the engine is still there!
Now that I am always using the word “ship” I don’t want to get your hope too high up. The ship is by far not as big as it appears to be in pictures. It may be a ship but to just to make clear…..it is more the size of a “boat”.
The exact history about this wreck is unknown. The only thing we know is that the previous owner of the land wanted to repair the ship and that is why he “put it there”. Rumors are that they want to keep the secret to hold the mystery.
Often officials wanted to remove the ship from the bay but photographers always fought for the preservation of the ship which by now is an art piece.
Speaking of the bay: The drive there is also worth for seeing the beautiful Tomales Bay. Like many places in Point Reyes, nature here is beautiful! It is really quiet here and you can encounter many wild animals in and on the water. The air is so fresh and relaxing!
The perfect route in my opinion is, if you get her from the south to first visit the shipwreck, then drive to the Cypress Tree Tunnel and then head to the lighthouse. Right after I would highly recommend to watch the sunset at South Beach. Just make sure you are at the Cypress Tree Tunnel before 5:00pm. Otherwise the street that leads thru the tunnel will be closed and you are not allowed to enter the property anymore. If you want to walk to the lighthouse you will have to do that first. The gates here are only open from friday to monday from 2:30pm to 4:00pm when there is no wind.
Information by the way.
If you look at the Point Reyes peninsula geologically, part of it drifted from Los Angeles northwards to where it is right now in the last 6 million years. Responsible for that is the San-Andreas Fault. No matter where you come from you will drive over the fault and switch tectonic plates. The peninsula lies on the Pacific Plate.