Point Reyes

Notes by piero scaruffi | See Travel resources
Other California destinations | California hikes | Bay Area hikes } Pictures


Point Reyes is a park 1.5 hours northwest of San Francisco. It is a rewarding place, both in terms of quantity, quality and variety of landscapes, trails and wildlife. I rank it as best Bay Area park. In fact, nowhere else in the Bay Area can you see so much wildlife in the same place.

Unfortunately, it is cursed with the same weather as San Francisco: the fog is ubiquitous, especially in the summer. Best time to see it is in winter, late fall and early spring. Spring also brings a deluge of flowers. Mid january to mid march is whale-migration season.

Directions from San Francisco: take the Sir Francis Drake Blvd/ San Anselmo exit off 101 (exit 450B), drive west on Sir Fracis Blvd through San Anselmo and Fairfax for about 20 minutes. It dead ends in Olema, past the Samuel Taylor Park. Turn right and immediately left. The visitor center will be on the left handside.


  • Lighthouse (best spot for whale watching, stairs close at 4pm)
  • Chimney Rock (elephant seals in winter)
  • Drake's Beach (probably the best place to kayak)
  • Point Reyes Beach
  • Abbotts Lagoon
  • Tomales Point (main area for elk)
  • Drake's Estero
  • Palomarin Coast Trail
  • Bass Lake
  • Crystal Lake
  • Pelican Lake
  • Alamere Falls
  • Arch Rock (Note: Arch Rock collapsed in 2016)
  • Sculptured Beach

Elephant seals can be seen off Chminey Rock, Point Reyes Beach and Drakes Beach from december till april.

Sea Lions can be seen at Sea Lion Cove, near the lighthouse.

Harbor seals can be seen at Double Point and Drakes Estero from april till july.

Warning: raccoons in Pt Reyes cause more damage than bears in Yosemite.



  • Phil Arnot: "Point Reyes" (Wide World Publishing, 1997)


Trail maps

Camping in and around Pt Reyes:

  • Backcountry camping is the only available camping inside Pt Reyes (Glen, Sky, Coast and Wildcat campgrounds all require some walking to get there).
  • Steep Ravine Campground is the best option (10 minutes from the entrance of Pt Reyes, by the sea, cozy and romantic) but often sold out months in advance. Directions: take the hwy 1 exit off 101, drive north on hwy 1 for about 20 kms, turn left into a narrow driveway downhill to "Steep Ravine Rocky Point", about 1 km south of Stinson Beach.
  • Samuel P. Taylor State Park is about 30' from the entrance of Pt Reyes, so not really convenient, but a little more available. Extremely expensive ($35 in 2016) but pretty much all the campgrounds in Marin County and Sonoma County are the same.
  • Olema Ranch is private campground, horrible and expensive ($42 in 2016), basically just a parking lot, but it has hot showers.
  • Kirby Cove (52 kms away)
  • Haypress (56 kms away) requires a 1.2 km hike
  • Lawson's Landing (34 kms away) is another private campground
  • Given the prices of these campgrounds, the Pt Reyes Hostel is a very good and convenient alternative
  • Given the prices of these campgrounds, even a hotel makes sense. The cheapest hotel in Novato (20 kms away) costs just a little more than a Olema Ranch campsite
  • There are two "first come - first served" campgrounds on Mt Tamalpais.