Alamere Falls, Point Reyes

Notes by piero scaruffi | Back to the Pt Reyes page
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The hike to Alamere Falls has become one of the "epic hikes" of the Bay Area. This is somehow unfortunate because it means that it is often overcrowded and an incredible number of inexperienced hikers get in trouble and need to be rescued by the rangers. The traditional way to visit Alamere Falls is to park at the Palomarin parking lot out of Bolinas and then hike to Pelican Lake and Bass Lake. Shortly after Bass Lake, pay attention to your left. The cutoff is no longer marked with an official sign but it is still there. It is a short 10 minute walk from there to the dead end.

As of 2019: the rangers keep announcing that the cutoff trail north of Bass Lake to Alamere Falls is closed indefinitely, or at least not maintained anymore, but instead we keep finding it in decent conditions. It is certainly overgrown with poison oak in spring and summer (the poison oak is also there in winter - you just can't see it but if you touch it, you may still get the rash). In order to get to the falls, you descend this cutoff trail first through vegetation (included the abovesaid poison oak) and then through very eroded terrain, coasting some small waterfalls on your right. When you get to the cliff, the waterfalls are right below you: you are standing at their highest point. But you cannot see much from that position. There is a way to get down to the beach, and take great pictures of the waterfalls, but that's precisely what the rangers don't want you to do because that narrow chute is not terribly safe.

The rangers recommend different routes that all go through Wildcat Camp. From there, you are then supposed to walk south along the beach for about 20 minutes, and this is possible only with very low tide. I don't particularly enjoy arguing with rangers all the time, but personally i don't consider this a "safe" way to reach the beach of Alamere Falls. First of all, you have to be able to read tide tables. Secondly, tide tables are not perfect: the tide could be technically very low but the waves be very big. Even experienced hikers may underestimate the tides and get trapped on the coast when the tide rises or when the surf gets big. If you use the cutoff and then climb down to the beach via the narrow chute, the worst that can happen is that you can't climb back up and you are trapped down there forever. I consider this unlikely, although certainly possible: the erosion speaks for itself. However, if you walk down from Wildcat beach to Alamere Falls, you are exposed to tide and surfs for 20 long minutes each way, with countless sketchy corners between one beach and the next one. I fail to see how this can be considered "safe".

Here are the alternative routes to Alamere Falls if you listen to the rangers and don't take the cutoff. All of these routes go through Wildcat campground and then, if the tide is low, it's an easy 1.5-km walk south to Alamere Falls (about 20 minutes). All of them are possible only when the tide is low (check tide tables and look for times when the tide is as negative as possible, and make sure that the waves are not too big, which you can do only once you get to Wildcat beach).

  • From Bear Valley (11.5 km) take the Bear Valley trail for 5 kms, then turn left onto the Glen trail and then (after 3 kms) turn right into the Stewart trail to Wildcat campground (2 kms)
  • From Five Brooks (11.4 km) take the Stewart trail and then (after 1.8 kms) turn right onto the Greenpicker trail then back into the Stewart trail at Fir Top for 4.3 kms to Wildcat campground (total about 9.9 km if you don't make any mistake at the many confusing junctions)
  • From the Palomarin trailhead (10.3 km) take the Coast Trail (passing Pelican Lake, Bass Lake, and either Ocean Lake or Wildcat Lake) to Wildcat campground (in 8.8 km)