Point Reyes National Seashore was created to protect rural and
undeveloped stretches of the coast and is part of the National
Park system. It's a rugged mix of wild coastline and forest of unequivo-
cal appeal to hikers, nature lovers, and wildlife enthusiasts. The rocky
shore is a direct result of earthquake activity—the San Andreas Fault
separates Point Reyes, the northernmost landmass on the Pacific
Plate, from the rest of California, which rests on the North American
Plate. In fact, Point Reyes is moving towards Alaska at the rate of 2
inches a year—during the 1906 earthquake, it jumped north 20 feet!
This tour takes all day. START: Rent a car (p 163), cross the Golden Gate
Bridge, and head north on US 101. Exit onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard
and take Highway 1 north to Olema. Driving time is around 90 minutes.
1 The Bear Valley Visitor Cen-
ter, a visitor center for Point Reyes
National Seashore, has ecological
and historical exhibits, as well as a
seismograph and weather station.
Pick up a detailed trail map and chat
with the helpful, friendly park
rangers. You can take a ranger-led
guided tour (call ahead) or inquire
about activities like biking, horse-
back riding, and wildlife viewing.
Bear Valley Rd. (look for the sign
north of Olema on Hwy 1). y 415/
464-5100. www.nps.gov/pore. Week-
days 9am-5pm; weekends 8am-5pm.
Free admission. Best time: weekdays.
2 Drake's Beach. Take a walk
along this sublime beach backed by
white sandstone cliffs. Just don't
swim—the water is frigid and the
undertow dangerous. Don't turn
your back on the sea, as occasional
powerful “sneaker waves” can sud-
denly come to shore.
3 Point Reyes Lighthouse.
You'll drive by dairy farms and pas-
tures to reach this dramatic vista
point—look for the sea lions and
harbor seals. In winter, you may
catch sight of gray whales on their
5,000-mile journey north from Mex-
ico. Open Thurs-Mon 10am-4:30pm.
y 415/669-1534. Stairs to light-
house closed when winds exceed
40 mph. ( Lighthouse is 300 steps
down from center; no wheelchair
ramp.) Free admission. On busy
winter weekends a shuttle ($5, kids
16 & under free) takes visitors from
Drake's beach to the lighthouse. Call
y 415/464-5100 for details.
4 Tomales Point Trail. The north-
ern tip of Point Reyes boasts sweep-
ing views of the rocky coast; in spring,
it also contains a breathtaking array of
wildflowers, and July to October offer
the best viewing of the 500 elk living
on a protected reserve on this penin-
sula. Bring binoculars.
5 The Station House Cafe is a,
low-key favorite where the daily
specials draw on organic, local
ingredients with a selection of fine
California wines and beer. 11180
State Rte. 1. y 415/663-1515. $.
The Point Reyes lighthouse is the top look-
out point for whales and sea lions.