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9 Most Scenic Hikes in Point Reyes, California

9 Most Scenic Hikes in Point Reyes, California

As scenic of a drive as it is to venture on the roads around Point Reyes National Seashore, the true beauty is best discovered by foot. For avid hikers and even those after a pleasant stroll, there is a number of wonderful hikes in Point Reyes for all. From beach walks to sand dunes, dense forests and coastal views, wildlife to wildflowers, no matter which Point Reyes trails you pick, you’re bound to have a treat for your eyes.

Point Reyes National Seashore protects 100 square miles of natural beauty from coastal beaches to inland wilderness and is home to elk, many bird species, and even marine wildlife such as elephant seals, which are just some of the highlights of things to do in Point Reyes National Seashore. Its proximity to San Francisco makes it an ideal day trip or even a weekend trip from SF (also an ideal stop on a PCH road trip), so whether you’re after a day of coastal views, are into camping, or just want to get out of the city, Point Reyes is an excellent choice for a bit of time in nature and to get moving.

Best Hikes in Point Reyes National Seashore

Some of these Point Reyes hiking trails will take you a full day, so head out early, others are perfect for a picnic and a few can be done on the same day. Pick which you like and plan accordingly so that you don’t miss out!

But first: Don’t miss the rest of my guides for hiking trips in California & more!

1. Tomales Point Trail

  • Level: Moderate
  • Distance: 9.3 miles (15.1km)
  • Elevation gain: 1177 feet (359m)

Perhaps the most popular hike in Point Reyes, and for good reason, Tomales Point hike is not a trail to miss! Don’t let the distance turn you off of this hike though, as truly scenic views can be enjoyed even from the parking lot. No matter what your hiking level is, I encourage you to venture even a little way on the trail to take in the views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and Tomales Bay on the other. If you’re up for it the views at the very end are most definitely worth it, but be mindful as the end is the edge of a cliff.

Not only great for views, but this hike is also the best area to see tule elk roaming freely as it’s on Tomales Point that the Tule Elk Reserve sits! You’ll have the highest chances of seeing the tule elk in the summer and fall but come spring and summer and this already gorgeous area will be blooming with wildflowers. 

You can find the Tomales Point Trailhead at the end of Pierce Point Road, and just a bit further on from the Tomales Point parking lot you’ll find the McClure’s Beach Trail, which is a short 1.3 mile (2.1km) hike down to the beach that is recommended for sunset.

2. Bear Valley Trail

  • Level: Moderate
  • Distance: 8.2 miles (13.1km)
  • Elevation gain: 734 feet (224m)

Be warned that the Bear Valley Trail parking lot will be busy as this is one of the most popular trails in Point Reyes. But note that this parking lot serves as the spot that leads to a number of other trails so you won’t be hiking alongside all you see parked here. Either way, it’s still a hike to consider! It’s a mostly flat trail that will lead you through a thick forest to Divine Meadow, to a canyon alongside a pretty stream, and into grassland where you’ll find the split to the Coastal Trail. Continue on Coastal Trail to Kelham Beach if you’d like a break for lunch.

Since this trail is popular, it is well marked and bathrooms are available at Divine Meadow. If you’re on the lookout for Arch Rock, you will be disappointed as it has collapsed. 

3. Chimney Rock Trail

  • Level: Easy
  • Distance: 1.9 miles (3.1km)
  • Elevation gain: 269 feet (82m)

Don’t pass on the opportunity to hike this out and back trail just because it’s short. It’s a treat that will lead you to Elephant Seal Overlook where you can spot, you guessed it, elephant seals! Though not the most magnificent creature, their sheer size is a sight to behold, even from afar.

You’ll most likely hear them before you see them below. But elephant seals aren’t the only wildlife you can spot here. Birds are abundant as Point Reyes National Seashore is home to almost 500 different kinds of birds, but you can also see gray whales in the waters, which you’ll have the highest chances of spotting in March or April. Not to mention that you’ll have impressive views of the Pacific Ocean and Drakes Bay and wildflowers dot the area too.

4. Alamere Falls Hike

  • Level: Moderate to hard
  • Distance: 13.6 miles (21.9km)
  • Elevation gain: 1811 feet (552m)

Alamere Falls is truly a sight as one of the two tidefalls along California’s coast (the other is in McWay Falls in Big Sur). Alamere Falls plunges into the Pacific Ocean at high tide but during low tide you have the chance to make your way onto the beach, being mindful of how slippery the rocks can be!

The hike to get here is no easy feat, as the shortest trail to this waterfall is 13.6 miles (21.9km) round-trip. Starting from Palomarin Trailhead, at the end of Mesa Road, wander down this trail for picturesque views of Brass Lake, Pelican Lake, and of the forest. Get to the trailhead early, as it gets busy and fills up. This trail also continues onwards to Wildcat Beach where you can camp at Wildcat Campground for the night which is a popular choice.

Other options for access to this trail and spectacular waterfall are Bear Valley Trail, Wildcat Camp Trail, and Olema Valley. See all of the options on AllTrails.

5. Mount Wittenburg Trail

  • Level: Moderate
  • Distance: 4.1 miles (6.6km)
  • Elevation gain: 1299 feet (396m)

For those after steeper elevation gain, and a great view, there’s no better trail in this area than the Mount Wittenburg Trail that leads to the highest point in Point Reyes. The summit is reached after trekking through a meadow and dense forest where coastal views can be spotted through the trees.

Take your time working your way up the switchbacks from the Bear Valley Trail parking lot, and opt to return the same way or take the Meadow-Sky Trail at the junction to make it a loop with an easier, more gentle descent back to the parking lot.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

6. Point Reyes Lighthouse

  • Level: Easy to Moderate
  • Distance: 1.3 miles (2.1km)
  • Elevation gain: 331 feet (101m)

A trip to Point Reyes National Seashore is not complete without a visit to the Point Reyes Lighthouse! This trail will lead you from the visitor center and onwards to the lighthouse. While a stroll to a lighthouse may seem easy, I can say that it is on the way down! Be mindful that it requires walking 308 stairs back up, but the scenery is worth it.

If you’re hoping to visit the lighthouse note that it is only open Fridays through Mondays, but either way, to trek down and back up is still quite pretty and on a paved path. Check-in at the visitor center first too to make sure that the stairs aren’t closed which happens when winds hit 40 miles per hour or stronger.

7. Laguna-Coast Loop Trail

  • Level: Easy
  • Distance: 6 miles (9.7km)
  • Elevation gain: 501 feet (153m)

For an easy trail that has some distance to it, look no further than the Laguna-Coast Loop that will take you through a variety of habitats. From a grassy meadow, across a ridge, to further fields, and then onwards to coastal bluffs and eventually the beach, this picturesque trail is a pretty scenic one without a hefty challenge.

Wildlife such as rabbits, deer, and even coyotes may be spotted here. You’ll also find Coast Camp here where it’s handy to stop and use the bathrooms if needed before heading back to complete the loop via Laguna Trail.

8. Abbotts Lagoon

  • Level: Easy
  • Distance: 3.3 miles (5.3km)
  • Elevation gain: 187 feet (57m) 

This pleasant hike will guide you to Abbotts Lagoon with charming views on the way as you trot down a dirt path, a wooden boardwalk, and eventually hit the sand as you get closer to the lagoon. Try your hand at sliding your way down the sand dunes. You’ll be able to spot wildlife and wildflowers here as you go for a gentle stroll. Enjoy some time at the beach before heading back the same way you came. 

9. Limantour Beach Trail

  • Level: Easy
  • Distance: 5.3 miles (8.5km)
  • Elevation gain: 72 feet (22m)

Talk about a beach walk, Limantour Beach Trail leads you across the sand and along the coast where you’re very likely to see some birds. This trail is typically quiet and is only of the only places in Point Reyes National Seashore where dogs are allowed. They must be kept on a leash and are only allowed so far, so keep your eyes out for signs.

Since it is a beach walk, it’s not the most ideal trail, but for a gentle stroll where you can kick your shoes off, it’s a top choice. The sand is mostly packed but it is still sand so it can become quite the workout! Another option is to take the Limartour Spit trail which is shorter. Both trails can be accessed from the Limantour Beach parking lot, which is a great beach to spend some time at too.

Enjoy your trip to Point Reyes!