Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore

Activities & Programs

Guided Tours

Point Reyes National Seashore offers many ways for visitors to learn more about the park. Ranger-guided programs give visitors the opportunity to explore the wonders of Point Reyes with a Park Ranger. Programs are offered each weekend on both Saturdays and Sundays.

The Point Reyes National Seashore Association offers Field Seminars. Whether it's a natural history trail walk, a photography or art class led by one of our nationally (and internationally) known professionals, or a simple family outing for a fun adventure in nature, the Point Reyes Field Seminars offer something for everyone. You can visit the association's web page for a schedule of programs.

The Miwok Archeological Preserve of Marin (MAPOM) is a Park Partner. They support Kule Loklo, the reconstructed Indian village at the Park, with volunteers, demonstrators of California Indian skills, and financial support for festivals. They provide adult classes in California Indian skills in the spring and fall. For more information, contact Sylvia Thalman via email or via snail mail at MAPOM; PO Box 481; Novato, CA 94948.

Science Lectures

Please join Point Reyes National Seashore staff for Science Lectures, 45 minute presentations on scientific research being performed at Point Reyes and elsewhere in the California. Science Lectures are sponsored by the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center at Point Reyes National Seashore. They usually occur at noon on many Thursdays throughout the year and are normally held at the Red Barn Classroom at Point Reyes National Seashore's Headquarters. All are welcome and admission is free.

To get to the Red Barn Classroom, follow the Directions to get to the Bear Valley Visitor Center. After turning off of Bear Valley Road, proceed up the two-lane, paved driveway toward the Bear Valley Visitor Center. You will see the Red Barn on the left and after about 0.1 miles, there is a brown road sign pointing left to the Red Barn Classroom. Turn left on to the gravel driveway and proceed across the bridge to the parking lot. The Red Barn Classroom is on the end closest to this parking lot.

This lecture is co-sponsored by Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Dominican University.

Point Reyes National Seashore Earth Day kicks off with a Giacomini wetlands restoration planting from 11:00am - 3:00pm. For information and to RSVP, contact Lorraine Parsons at (415) 464-5193 or by email.


Ranger-Guided Programs

Below is a listing of Ranger Guided Programs offered at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Groups of 15 or more: Please contact the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 415-464-5100 x2 x5 in advance of attending one of the following programs so that staff can make the necessary preparations for the extra participants.

Year Round Programs

On Shaky Ground

2:00 p.m., Every Saturday
Dare to tread the San Andreas Fault where the earth's crust shifted and moved 5 meters (16 feet) in 1906! Meet a Park Ranger at the start of the Earthquake Trail for this easy 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) walk.
Lasts one hour.

Kule Loklo Walk

2:00 p.m., Every Sunday
This lesiurely 1.3 kilometer (0.8 mile) tour introduces visitors to the Coast Miwok and their history and culture. Meet at the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Lasts one hour.

Summer Programs

Daily Ranger Program

11:00 a.m., Weekdays Memorial Day through Labor Day
Come join a Park Ranger to learn more about Point Reyes National Seashore's natural and cultural history. Topics may cover earthquakes and plate tectonics, the Coast Miwok, the U.S. Lifesaving Service, or area flora and fauna. Stop by or call the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 415-464-5100 x2 x5 for information about todays' program. Some programs may require up to a 1.6 kilometer (one mile) walk on easy to moderate trails. Meet at the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Lasts one hour.

Lighthouse

A Look into the Lens

2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., Thursday - Monday, April through December
See inside the Point Reyes Lighthouse and discover its history and function with a Park Ranger. Access requires a strenuous descent and ascent of 308 stairs. Stairs close when weather and winds are hazardous. The lens room is open with a Ranger present from 2:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Lighthouse History at Point Reyes

Illuminating the Point Reyes Light

The first and third Saturday mid-April through December. Times will vary depending on sunset. This program will not be available January through early April due to shuttle bus operations.
Experience the Point Reyes Lighthouse as many keepers have over the years. Space is limited on this popular program. Group size is limited to 8.
Call 415-669-1534 after 10 a.m. the day of the tour for times and reservations.

» Wear very warm clothes.
» Bring a flashlight.
» High winds will result in program cancellation.
» Meet at the Lighthouse Visitor Center.

Lasts 1 hour.
Lighthouse History at Point Reyes

Whale and Elephant Seal Season Programs

Note: Visitors wishing to attend these programs may be required to ride a shuttle bus from Drakes Beach. On the day you plan to attend one of these programs, call 415-464-5100 x2 x1 to find out whether shuttles are operating. More info on the shuttle bus system may be found on our Winter Shuttle Bus System page.

Journey of the Whales

Weekends, January through March. 2 p.m.
Join a Ranger to learn about gray whales as they migrate past Point Reyes. Learn about their habits and adaptations, and hope for a whale sighting from the Observation Deck. Program lasts 30 minutes.
This program is given out-of-doors. Come prepared for windy, cold and damp weather.
The program begins at the painting of the gray whale in front of the Lighthouse garages. From the Lighthouse Visitors' parking area / Shuttle Stop, walk toward the Lighthouse Visitor Center for about 0.6 kilometers (0.4 miles). Look for the restrooms and garages on your left and the painting of the whale on the pavement. If the shuttles are operating, be sure to arrive at Drakes Beach at least an hour before the program start time to ride the shuttle in order to arrive at the program on time.

Historic Lifeboat Station Open House

Weekends January through mid-March. Open House 11:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Visit a site where heroes of our coast were housed. See the historic lifeboat, view exhibits, and experience 80 years of lifesaving history at Point Reyes. Hands-on interactive activities allow both children and adults to learn about seal and whale adaptations.
Special slide programs may be available at the Historic Lifeboat Station, depending on staffing availability. Check at Visitor Centers for whether the slide program is being offered. The slide programs last about 30 minutes.

Experience Elephant Seals

Weekends January through April. Docents will be stationed at the Elephant Seal Overlook from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. View an elephant seal colony through binoculars and scopes. Ask volunteer docents about the amazing adaptations and life cycles of northern elephant seals.
A special slide program about elephant seals may be available at the Lifeboat Station, depending on staffing availability. Check at Visitor Centers for whether the slide program is being offered. The slide program lasts about 30 minutes.

Wildflower Walk

Weekends March through April. 2 p.m.
Abbotts Lagoon, Chimney Rock, and Tomales Point are great locations to find wildflowers in bloom during the late winter and early spring. Join a ranger to learn more. Wildflower Walks usually last 1.5 hours and may require walking up to two miles. Come prepared for inclement weather. Wear hiking boots or other footwear suitable for hiking. Bring a liter of water per person. Check at a Visitor Center or call 415-464-5100 x2 x5 on the day of the Wildflower Walk to find out where to meet.

Workdays

Kule Loklo Workday

10 a.m., second Saturday of each month
Help maintain a recreated Coast Miwok village that offers a glimpse of life in pre-European California.

» Meet at Kule Loklo.
» Wear work clothes and boots.
» Bring gloves, bag lunch and drinking water.
» Rain cancels workday.

For more information, call 415-464-5140.

Habitat Restoration Workday

HRP, the "Sunday Team," meets in front of the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 9:00 a.m. on the second and last Sunday of each month. Drop-ins are welcome. Call in advance to confirm the workday (occasionally the team travels to another park) and to discuss carpooling needs. Bring lunch, water, and sturdy shoes. Gloves and tools are provided. Contact Ellen Hamingson at 415-464-5196 or by email for more information. Groups may schedule additional weekend or weekday dates by contacting Kevin Sherrill at 415-464-5223 or by email.

 

 

Hiking

The National Seashore has about 240 kilometers (150 miles) of hiking trails to explore. Trail maps for the north district trails (509 KB PDF) and south district trails (685 KB PDF) are available at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. There are many ways to customize your hike to accommodate your physical and time limitations. Stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center for current trail information and suggested hikes.

To keep your adventure safe and enjoyable, and to protect park resources, please observe the following:

Observe trails: Stay on trails to prevent erosion as well as to avoid poison oak, stinging nettles and ticks. Do not shortcut on switchbacks. Please do not enter closed areas. They are closed for your safety and resource protection.

Caution along cliffs: Stay away from cliff edges. Loose soil can give way suddenly and you may fall. Do not climb cliffs.

Clothing: Dress appropriately. Wear layered clothing and be prepared for changing conditions.

Food & water: Always carry food and water for longer hikes. Dehydration is a common cause of exhaustion, fatigue and headaches. Raccoons and other animals can quickly find and ransack unattended food and daypacks.

Drinking water: The protozoan Giardia lamblia may be present in natural sources of water and can cause severe illness. Do not drink water from streams and all other natural sources without treating. Water may be treated by boiling, filtering, or using iodine or other chemical water purifiers. Potable drinking water is available at visitor centers and in campgrounds.

Horses: If horses are passing on the trail, step to the downhill side and greet the rider so the horse knows you are there; do not touch the animals.

Trail information: There may be trail closures in effect. Please check at the visitor center before heading out on the trails.

Winter Shuttle Bus

Winter is an exciting time to visit the park. As the gray whales migrate past and the elephant seals return to the Point Reyes Headlands, so do lots of visitors. This means increased traffic on the narrow roadways and in the small parking lots at the lighthouse and at Chimney Rock - especially on weekends and holidays. In the mid-1990's, the park experimented with a variety of options to meet the increased demand for parking. Options included closing the road, numbering parking spaces, and running van shuttles. Those options, unfortunately, resulted in two hour waits and lines of cars backing up in the South Beach parking lots. The whales were passing by as visitors waited patiently in their cars.

In 1998, to relieve this congestion and eliminate the two-hour waiting period, Point Reyes National Seashore contracted large 40-passenger buses to provide transportation from Drakes Beach to the Headlands. The 1998 -1999 lighthouse shuttle bus experiments proved successful, parking lot congestion was relieved and visitors were provided with a comfortable and quick trip to the Headlands. The success of the lighthouse shuttle bus prompted the National Park Service to continue this service.

The lighthouse shuttle bus system usually begins on the last Saturday of December and continues through mid-April. Sir Francis Drake Boulevard will be closed to private vehicles at the South Beach junction from 9:00 a.m. through 5:15 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays when the weather is fair or better. To ensure the safety of bus operators and passengers, we do need to limit private vehicle access on the narrow and curving road while the buses are running. Map of road closure.

NOTE: Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from the South Beach junction to the Lighthouse visitor parking lot is open to private vehicles on weekdays, and on weekend days when the shuttle bus system is not operating.

 

Indoor Activities

Although most visitors consider Point Reyes National Seashore to be primarily a park at which to enjoy the outdoors, there are three Visitor Centers in which one can find shelter and learn more about Point Reyes during inclement weather. In the Visitor Centers, one will find informative exhibits about the natural and cultural history of the Point Reyes area. Please see our Visitor Centers page to learn more about the Bear Valley, Kenneth C. Patrick and Lighthouse Visitor Centers.

During inclement weather, visitors may also wish to visit the Jack Mason Museum in Inverness or the Bolinas Museum in Bolinas. There are also numerous art galleries in the vicinity.

Visitors may also request and view a number of audio-visual programs at the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

Bear Valley Visitor Center Auditorium

Now Showing:

» "Enchanted Shore" - Inspiring Images of the Seashore (20 minute slide presentation)
» "Life at the Ocean's Edge" - Natural history of the threatened snowy plover and least tern (21 minute video)
» "On a Barren Rock" - Point Reyes Lighthouse History (11 minute video)
» "Point Reyes: The Point of Kings" - Point Reyes Orientation (16 minute video)
» "Something Special" - Point Reyes Orientation and Introduction (22 minute video)
» "A Spark of Life" - 1995 Vision Fire (12 minute video)

Audio-visual programs are shown on request. Inquire at the desk about additional offerings.

 

Things To Do

There are many activities in which visitors may participate during their trip to Point Reyes. We recommend that visitors stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center as they enter the National Seashore in order to get better oriented to the park, to find out what activities are available during their stay, and to find out about road, trail and other closures. Visitors interested in learning more about the human and natural history of the Point Reyes area can participate in free ranger-led programs. Leisurely drives wind their way over Inverness Ridge and through the pastoral lands to beaches, to the historic lighthouse, and to wildlife viewing areas, such as the tule elk range on Tomales Point or the Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock. Birdwatching is exceptional throughout the seashore, especially during fall and spring migrations. The Point Reyes headlands and park beaches are excellent places to view the annual gray whale migration, which is best from January through April. Many visitors enjoy picnicking at beaches or at some beautiful vista along the park's trails. About 240 kilometers (150 miles) of trail beckon hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders to explore the backcountry. (NOTE: Some restrictions apply to trail usage by bikers and horses, so please pick up free park maps with specific trails marked at a visitor center.)

Many first-time visitors arrive at Point Reyes National Seashore thinking that they can see everything here within a few hours, or at most in a day. Those who have visited Point Reyes have realized that to really explore Point Reyes requires much more than a day, and some who have visited frequently for years still discover something new with each visit.

Point Reyes National Seashore also has a very active volunteer program. Volunteers are a vital part of protecting and preserving Point Reyes. Over the last few years, volunteers have invested over 50,000 hours removing nonnative plant species, monitoring wildlife, providing information to visitors, working at the Morgan Horse Ranch, protecting the resources, and maintaining the trails.

Kayaking

The most popular area for kayaking at Point Reyes National Seashore is on Tomales Bay. Tomales Bay is a 24-kilometer (15-mile) long, 2645-hectare (6780-acre) tidal water body located in rural west Marin County, California. It is the largest unspoiled coastal embayment on the coast of California. The bay is bounded largely on the west by the Point Reyes National Seashore. Adjacent communities include Pt. Reyes Station, Inverness, Tomales, Marshall, and Dillon Beach in the north where Tomales Bay meets Bodega Bay.

Kayaking is also permitted on Drakes Estero and Limantour Estero from July 1 through February 28. To protect harbor seals from disturbance during the most crucial part of the pupping season, from March 1 through June 30 the National Park Service closes Drakes Estero and Limantour Estero to boating. Pelican Point, Duck Island and the east side of Hog Island are closed to the public year round.

Recreational use of Tomales Bay has grown in recent years especially for camping, boating, and wildlife watching. The National Park Service at Point Reyes is concerned about the effects of the growth in recreational use.

The Seashore faces the challenge of not only preserving the pristine shorelines of Tomales Bay and assisting in protecting clean water, but also providing recreational opportunities for the public. Visitor use of national parklands must always be weighed against the responsibility to maintain natural and cultural resources for succeeding generations. As such, personal water craft (PWC) such as a Jetski or Waverunner are not permitted on Tomales Bay.

 

There are four areas for launching on Tomales Bay

MILLER COUNTY PARK (415) 499-6387
Also known as Nick's Cove. It is located on the east side of Tomales Bay off Highway 1, north of the town of Marshall. This Marin County park has a public boat launch with cement grade into the water, restrooms, and a pier. There is a day use fee and overnight use fee. Overnight parking is in the upper lot, to the right as you pull in.

TOMALES BAY STATE PARK - (415) 669-1140
The state park provides two access areas to Tomales Bay, Millerton Point and Hearts Desire Beach.

Millerton Point is on the east side of Tomales Bay, five kilometers (3 miles) north of Point Reyes Station. No overnight parking is permitted. There is a pit toilet and you must carry your boat along a short trail approximately 100 meters (90 yards) to the water. It is very shallow and is best used at high tides.

Hearts Desire Beach is on the west side of Tomales Bay off Pierce Point Road. It is a day-use area (no overnight parking) and there is a day-use fee. You must carry your boat approximately 100 meters (90 yards) across a sandy beach. Water and restrooms are available at the beach. Orange floats are placed in the water in summer to indicate the swimming area. Boaters may land to the south of the orange floats. Motorized vessels are prohibited within 30 meters (100 feet) of the swim area markers.

GOLDEN HINDE INN AND MARINA - (415) 669-1389
Cement boat ramp available. The inn and marina are located on the west side of the bay. It is off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard five kilometers (3 miles) north of Inverness. There is a boat launch fee and if you pay the launch fee, you may leave your car overnight. No dump station.

LAWSON'S LANDING - (707) 878-2443
The campground and boat launch are located in Dillon Beach with direct access to Tomales Bay. The boat ramp is a sand bottomed ramp and Lawson's Landing uses a fork lift to move boats onto the water, or if you have 4 wheel drive they allow you to use it to put your boat into the water. There is gas, dump station, and boat rentals. Restrooms and water available. There is a day-use and overnight fee charged.

If you plan to have a beach fire on national seashore beaches, stop by national park visitor centers for a free required permit. No beach fires are permitted on state park beaches.

Certain areas allow only day use

HOG ISLAND
The island is in the northern section of Tomales Bay across from Whites Gulch on the west side and Nicks Cove on the east side. It is a critical wildlife habitat, a favorite haul-out for seals and roosting place for brown pelicans. The island is open on the west side only for day use.

HEARTS DESIRE BEACH
Orange floats are placed to mark the swimming area during the summer. Boaters may pull up on the southern edge of the beach to access the restrooms and drinking water. No overnight use or beach fires.

INDIAN BEACH
This beach is north of Hearts Desire and has a redwood kotca, a traditional Coast Miwok sleeping shelter on it. A pit toilet is available for use. No overnight use or beach fires.

Overnight and/or Day Use
There is a fee and permit system for overnight backcountry camping on the west side beaches of Tomales Bay (within Point Reyes National Seashore). Overnight beach camping is not permitted anywhere else on Tomales Bay or within Point Reyes National Seashore. Contact the National Seashore reservation office at (415) 663-8054 for reservations and to place your name on the mailing list for information.

Beach fire permits are required and may be obtained free at park visitor centers.

No overnight parking for boat-in campers is allowed in Point Reyes National Seashore or Tomales Bay State Park.

Some of the Tomales Bay beaches that are open for overnight camping to those who have a current and valid permit are (listed from south to north):

  • Kilkenny Beach
  • Marshall Beach - On the west side of Tomales Bay across from the town of Marshall. Pit toilets are available, no water.
  • Tomales Beach - Look for the pit toilet!
  • Fruit Tree Beach
  • Blue Gum Beach - There will be seasonal closures on this beach to protect harbor seal pupping. Check with the Seashore reservation office.
  • Avalis Beach - The northernmost westside beach of the Point Reyes National Seashore. Watch especially for tides and currents in this area. No restrooms or water.

www.tomalesbay.net has more information on kayaking on Tomales Bay.

Self-Guiding Activities

EARTHQUAKE TRAIL
A short, informative trail with exhibits about the 1906 earthquake and the San Andreas Fault zone. Allow 35 minutes to walk this trail. Park in the gravel parking lot east of the Bear Valley Visitor Center. The trailhead is next to the picnic area restrooms.

Additional information:

  • 0.6-mile loop wheelchair accessible.

WOODPECKER TRAIL
A rustic trail through fields and trees with exhibits highlighting the flora and fauna of the area. Allow 45 minutes to walk this trail. Park at the south end of the Bear Valley Visitor Center parking lot. The Woodpecker Trail starts at the Bear Valley Trailhead.

Additional information:

  • 1-mile loop.
  • Trail is steep in places.

MORGAN HORSE RANCH
This working horse ranch for horses used by National Park Rangers in wilderness areas and for backcountry patrol has trailside exhibits focusing on the characteristics, breeding and history of Morgan horses. The Morgan horse is the first American breed of horse. Self-guided exhibits, corrals and demonstrations are a part of the ongoing interpretive program of the ranch. Allow 20-30 minutes to tour the Horse Ranch. Park at the south end of the Bear Valley Visitor Center parking lot and follow the signs from the Bear Valley Trailhead up a small hill.

Additional information:

  • 0.5 mile round-trip walk.
  • Some buildings open for public entry.
  • Handicapped parking area available at ranch.

KULE LOKLO
This replica Coast Miwok village has trailside exhibits that briefly describe the traditional ways of life of the first inhabitants of the Point Reyes peninsula. Allow 1 hour to tour Kule Loklo. Park at the north end of the Bear Valley Visitor Center parking lot and follow the signs to Kule Loklo.

Additional information:

  • 0.8 mile round-trip walk.

PIERCE POINT RANCH
Established in 1858, the renovated Pierce Point Ranch is one of the oldest ranches on the Point Reyes Peninsula and was one of the most successful dairy ranches of its time. It is representative of the agricultural heritage of this area. A short, self-guided path guides visitors through the historic complex. Allow 20 minutes to tour the ranch and 70 minutes round trip to drive to and from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. The ranch is located at the north end of the Pierce Point Road.

 

Outfitters and Tours

Bike Rentals
Cycle Analysis, Point Reyes Station, 415-663-9164

Kayaking and Hiking Outfitters
Blue Waters Kayaking and Hiking, Inverness, 415-669-2600
Point Reyes Outdoors Sea Kayaking Tours and Nature Hikes, Point Reyes Station, 415-663-8192

Stables and Trail Rides
Five Brooks Stables, Olema Valley, 415-663-1570
Chanslor Ranch, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3333

Horse Campground
Stewart's Horse Camp, Olema Valley, 415-663-1362

Whale Watching Boat Trips
The Boat House, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3495
Bodega Bay Sportsfishing Center, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3344
Oceanic Society Expeditions, San Francisco, 415-474-3385
SF Bay Whale Watching, Sausalito, 415-331-6267
Will's Bait & Tackle, Bodega Bay, 707-875-2323