Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore: Whales, Elephant Seals and Adventure

January 26, 2012, 11:12 am

Point Reyes National SeashoreLocated in Marin County just north of San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore offers a chance to escape to fresh air, ocean breezes and, if you’re lucky, some incredible whale and elephant seal sightings!

In addition to hiking trails, backcountry campgrounds, and numerous beaches that offer year-round recreation, the seashore also offers a unique opportunity to watch for whales off the coast during the annual gray whale migration.

Jutting 10 miles into the Pacific Ocean, the headlands of the Point Reyes Peninsula offer one of the finest spots to view gray whales as they travel from the cold, nutrient-rich waters of Alaska, to the warm, shallow lagoons of Baja California. Prime viewing times are from mid-January and mid-March, with late April and early May offering the opportunity to see mothers and calves close to shore.

Of course, actually spotting a whale requires some luck—it’s all about being in the right place at exactly the right time. But even if you don’t spot a whale offshore, you can still learn about these fascinating creatures during ranger talks and programs. You can also sign up for learning adventures led by the Point Reyes National Seashore Association.

Plus, there is plenty of other marine wildlife to observe in the park!

From December through March, a breeding colony of elephant seals can be observed from Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock, above beautiful Drakes Bay. You’ll likely hear them before you see them. Their distinctive grunting and trumpeting can be heard from distances of over a mile away! Once you arrive at the overlook, watch as the males battle for dominance and the pups linger near their mothers.

Also keep an eye out for shy but curious harbor seals, which have been known to bob in the waters just out to sea, watching people as they walk along the shoreline. Seals also haul out in large numbers along Point Reyes Headland. Point Reyes has one of the largest population of harbor seals in California, with 20 percent of the state’s harbor seals living or breeding within park boundaries.

While you’re in the area, head to the town of Point Reyes Station for some grub. One of our favorites is Cowgirl Creamery, known for their amazingly tasty cheeses.

Looking for more adventures in the Bay Area? Check out our list of the best places to get outside near San Francisco.

Or, use the Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder mobile app to find parks near you.

No smartphone? No problem! The same database is accessible on our homepage, OhRanger.com.