Marin Hikes: Point Tomales Trail

Point Tomales Trail

(Pt. Reyes Nat’l Seashore)


Pt. Reyes National Seashore was a staple item in my childhood, it was the base of many Boy Scout adventures, school field trips, and kayaking trips. Upon a recent trip home I realized, in all honesty, it had probably been the better part of a decade since I had visited it. Unable to cope with the sad reality of my now primarily city-based existence I knew I had to return and revisit some of my old stomping grounds.

At ten miles (16km), this trail was on the longer side, so make sure you bring lots of water (something about staring at the ocean always makes me thirsty…) and snacks/lunch. It’s a very exposed trail, so wear layers and long sleeves/pants. While at times you may get hot, the wind is pretty aggressive and the trail gets fairly overgrown at times; your skin will thank me.

If you only do one long hike in Pt. Reyes make it this one; it covers so many essential aspects of the park.  You start from Pierce Point Ranch (don’t explore that area until after the hike, save your energy), which was one of the many historic and pivotal dairy farms in West Marin. Just down the hill is McClures Beach, and while it not safe at all for swimming it is very picturesque and good for sunbathing if the weather complies..The trail itself is very easy to follow, there are no junctions you have to worry about as you follow the ridgeline to the edge of the point.

Even in mid-July the path was fairly green, covered in a variety of lush bushes and wildflowers. On the fauna side, you’re in tule elk country now folks, so between dodging elk pies, keep your eyes peeled for some of these magnificent beasts (much more exciting than the common white-tailed deer that plague my parents’ garden). Off to the west you can’t miss the aptly named Bird Rock, covered in birds and their “presents”, also home to a plethora of seals. You’ll be serenaded by a variety of local singers (of the ornithoid variety) as you wind your way up and down the rolling hills, keeping your eyes peeled for lizards and garter snakes that may scamper on the path in front of you.

Once you reach the point (you know you’re close when you start to heat buoy bells) try to find a wind sheltered spot (Ha! Good luck!) and enjoy those snacks you brought; you deserve them! Explore around a bit being careful not to fall into the water: no easy way out of a pickle here, most of the “beaches” are surrounded by un-climbable cliffs. Once you’ve satiated your curiosity, or have had enough of the beautiful Northern California coastline (again: Ha!), turn around and make your way back to the trail head.

Back at the trailhead, if you have the energy, check out the few placards by the ranch, or head down toe McClures to dip your toes in the water, being extremely careful about the waves.This is not the docile coastline of Southern California, McClures is known for its sneaker waves and intense riptide, and there’s no lifeguard on duty should something happen.

If you’re driving from the City of the East Bay, why not make a whole day of it? Explore Inverness or Olema and grab dinner at one of the restaurants, or even spend the night at one of the myriad of B&B’s around the area.

Download GPX     Distance 10mi/16km     Directions


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