Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore

In A Nutshell

Accessibility

All of Point Reyes National Seashore's Visitor Centers are accessible. Point Reyes also has numerous accessible paths to various points of interest.

Visitor Centers

Bear Valley Visitor Center
The visitor center is completely accessible with a gently ramped, multilevel interior. All displays are well placed for use or viewing from a seated position. Restrooms and a telephone on the outside information board are accessible. Designated parking is located in front of the center.

Point Reyes Lighthouse Visitor Center
Parking close to the Lighthouse is available by arrangement. Call 415-669-1534 or 415-464-5100 x2 x5. The visitor center, observation deck, restrooms and a telephone are all fully accessible, but the lighthouse itself is not.

Ken Patrick Visitor Center and Drakes Beach
The complex includes a visitor center, cafe, picnic area, telephone, restrooms and showers which are all accessible. There are several designated parking spaces. There is no beach access.

Wheelchair Available
Inquire at the Information Desk at the Bear Valley, Ken Patrick or Lighthouse Visitor Centers for free use of a wheelchair.

Trails

Earthquake Trail
This 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) round-trip paved trail is self-guiding. A picnic area, restroom and two designated parking spaces are located at the trailhead.

Kule Loklo Coast Miwok Cultural Exhibit (Assistance required.)
The first part of the 650 meter (0.4 mile) dirt trail to Kule Loklo is quite steep. There are no accessible restrooms. Inquire at Bear Valley Visitor Center for more information on accessing Kule Loklo.

Bear Valley Trail to Divide Meadow (Assistance advisable.)
This gradual 2.5 kilometer (1.6 mile) well-packed dirt trail leads through Douglas Fir forests alongside a stream to a woodland meadow. There are a few uphill and somewhat rocky sections which are passable with assistance. Pit toilets at the meadow are not accessible.

Five Brooks Pond (Assistance advisable.)
This 1.1 kilometer (0.7 mile) dirt loop trail around the pond is a lovely place to picnic or bird watch. There are no accessible restrooms.

Abbotts Lagoon
A gentle, soil-cemented trail leads 400 meter (1/4 mile) to an overlook of the lagoon. Restrooms are accessible and there are two designated parking spaces. No beach access.

Historic Pierce Ranch
A soil cement trail tours this 1880s dairy ranch. A telephone in the upper parking lot is accessible.

Beaches

Limantour Beach
A paved trail leads from the main parking to the beach. It turns south along a freshwater marsh, excellent for birdwatching. No beach access. Restrooms are not accessible. Telephone on Limantour Road before the parking lot is not accessible.

North and South Beach
Each parking lot has an accessible restroom and designated parking. There are short paved paths along the dunes with lovely ocean views. There is no beach access.

Other Points of Interest

Morgan Horse Ranch
With a handicap-identification card, you may take the maintenance road to a small parking area close to the stables. Exhibit areas are accessible.

Mount Vision
A fifteen minute drive up winding Mount Vision Road off Sir Francis Drake Highway takes you to three spectacular vista points (on clear days). Two viewpoints look west towards Drakes Bay and Estero and one near the top looks east over Tomales Bay. No facilities.

PRBO's Palomarin Field Station
Formerly known as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, this research station in the south end of the park has a small visitor center with accessible restrooms and telephone. Bird banding can be observed from sunrise until noon. Call 415-868-0655 for information or go to their website at www.prbo.org .

 

Exceptional Park Resources

Natural Resources

  • Over 71,000 acres, including 32,000 acres of wilderness
  • 80 miles of unspoiled and undeveloped coastline
  • 27 threatened and endangered species
  • Over 900 species of flowering plants
  • More than 120 species of trees
  • 480 bird species in North America (over 45%) have been sighted here and the American Bird Conservancy named Point Reyes as one of 100 "globally important bird areas."
  • 65 species of mammals
  • 28 species of reptiles and amphibians
  • 125 species of fish from 45 families
  • The San Andreas Fault separates the Point Reyes Peninsula from the rest of the North American continent


Cultural and Historic Resources

  • The cultural history of Point Reyes extends back some 5,000 years to the Coast Miwok Indians, who were the first known inhabitants of the peninsula.
  • According to many experts, Sir Francis Drake landed here in 1579, the first European to do so.
  • In response to the many shipwrecks in the treacherous coastal waters, key lighthouse and lifesaving stations were established by the United States government in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
  • In the early 1800s, Mexican land grantees established ranchos.
  • American agricultural operations, begun in the late 1800s, continue to this day in the Seashore's pastoral zone.
  • 352 designated historic structures
  • 34 cultural landscapes
  • 124 archeological sites
  • 516,000 objects and documents in the park's museum collection
  • Point Reyes Lifeboat Station, a National Historic Landmark
  • Morgan Horse Ranch 


Infrastructure

  • 5 backcountry campgrounds
  • 28 water systems
  • 150 miles of trails
  • approximately 100 miles of roads
  • 310 public and administrative structures
  • 51 wastewater systems
  • 3 visitor centers
  • 1 environmental education center
  • 1 science and learning center
  • 30 restroom complexes
  • 34 housing units

Operating Hours & Seasons

The park is open daily (with overnight camping available by permit only) from sunrise to sunset throughout the year.

Visitor Center hours are as follows:

  • Bear Valley Visitor Center, weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., weekends and holidays 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Lighthouse Visitor Center, Thursday through Monday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Lighthouse stairs and exhibits (weather permitting), 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Lens Room open as weather & staffing permit. All Lighthouse facilities closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center, weekends and holidays, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

All Visitor Centers are closed December 25. Visitor Centers may close at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Call 415-464-5100 for hours of operation on these holidays.

Places To Go

Upon arriving at Point Reyes National Seashore, many visitors stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Here one can obtain information on current weather, road and trail conditions, or watch one of the orientation films. You can also pick up a camping permit here if you wish to stay overnight in one of the Seashore's campgrounds. In the immediate vicinity of the Bear Valley Visitor Center are a few short nature trails and other interpretive exhibits. A few of the more popular hiking trails start here as well.

Beyond the Bear Valley Visitor Center are roads that lead to beaches, trailheads, and other points of interest, such as the Lighthouse and Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Centers, and the Tomales Point Elk Reserve.

 

PLAN YOUR VISIT

Point Reyes National Seashore was established to preserve and protect wilderness, natural ecosystems, and cultural resources along the diminishing undeveloped coastline of the western United States.

Located just an hour's drive from a densely populated metropolitan area, the Seashore is a sanctuary for myriad plant and animal species and for the human spirit — for discovery, inspiration, solitude, and recreation — and exists as a reminder of the human connection to the land.

 

 

Maximizing Your Stay

How much time do you have?
Visitors can easily spend a day, a weekend, or even longer exploring what Point Reyes has to offer. The park maintains about 240 kilometers (150 miles) of trails, four backcountry campgrounds, several historical structures, three visitor centers, numerous beaches accessible by car and/or foot, and much, much more. With so much to see and do, you might wonder where to begin! Following is a list of suggestions.

For a one-hour stay
If you can only stay for an hour, there is plenty to keep you busy in and around Bear Valley Visitor Center. The visitor center itself contains several ecological and historical exhibits along with a seismograph, weather station, and auditorium for enjoying videos, slide shows, and other educational programs.

You might also like to visit Kule Loklo. A short path starting from the visitor center will lead you up to a replica of this Coast Miwok Indian Village. Interpretive signs briefly describe Coast Miwok culture, history, and the structures in the village. (1.3 km / 0.8 mi)

If a walk in the woods is more of what you're looking for then perhaps you'd enjoy a short hike on Woodpecker Trail. This beautiful loop trail explores local forest and meadows, with interpretive signs describing some plants and animals you may see along the way. (1.2 km / 0.7 mi)

For an introduction to local geological history there is the popular Earthquake Trail. This nearly flat trail is a short paved loop that explores the San Andreas Fault Zone. Interpretive signs describe the geology of the area. The trail entrance is located across the parking lot from the visitor center just to the left of the bathrooms. (1.0 km / 0.6 miles)

For up to a three-hour stay
With a three-hour stay in the park,visitors can see and do a number of things, one of which is to visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Travel time to the Lighthouse parking lot from the Bear Valley Visitor Center is approximately 45 minutes. From the parking lot there is a 10-15 minute walk to the Lighthouse Visitor Center. The Lighthouse itself can be seen from the observation deck located near the Lighthouse Visitor Center. To reach the Lighthouse you must descend 308 stairs from the observation deck to the facility. Note: The Lighthouse Visitor Center and the steps leading down to the Lighthouse are only open Thursdays through Mondays,10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

A 35-40 minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center can also get you to the Pierce Point Ranch and Tule Elk Reserve. Here you can learn about the history of dairy ranching in the park though interpretive signs and historical structures. A short hike from the Pierce Point Ranch will take you into the 1,050 hectare (2,600 acre) preserve where nearly 400 tule elk roam free. They can be seen any time of the year - and often can be seen from the ranch parking lot. The most exciting time to see the tule elk is during the fall rut, late July through November.

Beaches - Many of the park's beaches can be reached within a half hour to forty minute drive from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. These include Limantour Beach, Drakes Beach, Heart's Desire, and North and South Beaches. Several others may be reached by foot.

Another popular destination is the Ken Patrick Visitor Center located at Drakes Beach. The visitor center has an impressive display of exhibits featuring 16th-century maritime exploration, marine fossils, and marine environment. A full-sized minke whale skeleton is suspended from the center's ceiling.

If you would prefer hiking for a few hours, Divide Meadow from the Bear Valley Trailhead is a pleasant destination and resting point for a picnic. From the trailhead it is a casual stroll through a mixed Douglas fir forest along Bear Valley Creek to the tree-lined open grasses of the meadow. (5.1 km / 3.2 mi) Another nice 3-hour hike is up to Mt. Wittenberg from Bear Valley Visitor Center. This steep 400 m / 1300 ft climb to the highest point in the park is not for the weak hearted, but provides the adventurer with panoramic views of the Seashore and Olema Valley at its peak. (8 km / 5 mi)

And for a full-day visit (4 hours or more)
Any combination of the activities listed above will provide a full day of fun and adventure. Keep in mind however that these activities are really just the beginning. Biking, kayaking, tide pooling, bird watching and backpacking are all enjoyed by many here in the park - and the list just keeps going!

Park Significance

Point Reyes National Seashore provides essential habitat for 27 threatened and endangered species and a variety of rare or recovering species including the tule elk, California red-legged frog, Sonoma spineflower, northern elephant seal, coho salmon, and western snowy plover.

The convergence of two ecological provinces and the coastal/marine margin at Point Reyes creates a rich biological diversity and abundance of plants and animals seen few places on earth.

The peninsula's rich and varied natural resources -- its estuaries, coastal grasslands, salt marshes, coniferous forests, and marine environment -- have attracted and supported people for over 5000 years and reflect a continuum of human use and changing land-use values.

Point Reyes National Seashore is a 70,000-acre recreational and inspirational haven consisting of 80 miles of wild, undeveloped coastline located just an hour's drive from an urban area populated by over seven million people.

The diversity and complexity of the natural and cultural resources found in and around Point Reyes National Seashore make it a world-class laboratory and outdoor classroom providing outstanding opportunities for hands-on education and long-term scientific research.

Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the finest examples of how plate tectonics and other geologic processes continue to define our landscapes and our lives.

The coastal weather and the Point Reyes Peninsula create such a hazard for area mariners that the Point Reyes Lighthouse, with its first-order Fresnel lens, and a Coast Guard lifesaving station were built here.

The natural and cultural resources of the Point Reyes Peninsula and the surrounding area are so rare, valuable, and inspirational to all the people of the world that the United Nations declared the Seashore an International Biosphere Reserve, known as the Central California Coast Biosphere Reserve.

 

Places

The Point Reyes peninsula is remarkably covered with numerous layers of human activity that have left sometimes overt, other times subtle changes on the landscape. Those changes, imposed upon a rugged coastal environment, were filtered through the lens of cultural values, traditions, lifeways, economies and technologies of people who emigrated from small and great distances over a period of several millennia though current time. Point Reyes' also preserves a number of historic structures, from farm houses, barns, and creameries to lighthouses and radio stations, which represent the ranching and maritime culture of the central California coast.

Outdoor Activities

Point Reyes National Seashore comprises over 259 square kilometers (100 square miles), including 13,500 hectares (33,300 acres) of coastal wilderness area. Estuaries, windswept beaches, coastal scrub grasslands, salt and freshwater marshes, and coniferous forests create a haven of 128 kilometers (80 miles) of unspoiled and undeveloped coastline.

Abundant recreational opportunities include 240 kilometers (150 miles) of hiking trails, backcountry campgrounds, and numerous beaches. Kayaking, biking, hiking, beachcombing, and wildlife viewing are just a few of the self-guided activities awaiting your visit. Please check at a visitor center when you arrive at Point Reyes for the most recent information on trail closures or other important information you may need for your visit.

Outdoor volunteer activities include habitat restoration, monitoring harbor seals, helping out at Kule Loklo or the Morgan Horse Ranch, repairing trails, and educating visitors about elephant seals, snowy plovers and tule elk, amongst other opportunities.

Park Statistics

Geographical

Area - as of September 30, 2006:

  • Federal Land - 26,341.988 hectares (65,092.47 acres)
  • Nonfederal Land - 2,419.133 hectares (5,977.81 acres)
  • Gross Area - 28,761.121 hectares (71,070.28 acres)

Designated and Proposed Wilderness: 13,505.6 hectares (33,373 acres)

~240 km (~150 miles ) of hiking trails

Elevation: 0 to 423 meters (1,407 feet)

Climate

December, January, February and March are the months with the heaviest rainfall. Rainfall averages from about 29 centimeters (11.5 inches) per year out at the tip of Point Reyes where the Lighthouse is located to about 91 centimeters (36 inches) a year at the Headquarters of the National Seashore at Bear Valley, located only a few miles inland.

Average temperature:

  • Winter - High 12°C (53°F), Low 6°C (42°F);
  • Summer - High 18°C (65°F, Low 11°C (51°F)

Significant Dates

  • The Point Reyes National Seashore was established by President John F. Kennedy on September 13, 1962.
  • Public Law 94-544 signed by President Gerald Ford on October 18, 1976 designating 25,370 acres (10267 hectares) of Point Reyes National Seashore as Wilderness.
  • Designated a part of the Central California Coast Biosphere Reserve in 1988.

Top of Page

Annual Visitation

Total Recreation Visits

  • 2007 - 2,206,294
  • 2006 - 2,065,083
  • 2005 - 1,988,585
  • 2004 - 1,960,055
  • 2003 - 2,224,882
  • 2002 - 2,395,693
  • 2001 - 2,222,762
  • 2000 - 2,325,336
  • 1999 - 2,300,631
  • 1998 - 2,477,409
  • 1997 - 2,506,947
  • 1996 - 2,272,398
  • 1995 - 2,208,369
  • 1994 - 2,466,532
  • 1993 - 2,561,234
  • 1992 - 2,579,949
  • 1991 - 2,396,904
  • 1990 - 2,369,083
  • 1989 - 2,204,407
  • 1988 - 2,241,850
  • 1987 - 2,126,790
  • 1986 - 2,053,399
  • 1985 - 1,991,615
  • 1984 - 2,032,238
  • 1983 - 1,424,751
  • 1982 - 1,344,582
  • 1981 - 1,322,449
  • 1980 - 1,408,810
  • 1979 - 1,489,135
  • 1978 - 1,919,989
  • 1977 - 1,785,200
  • 1976 - 1,620,200
  • 1975 - 1,466,700
  • 1974 - 1,307,900
  • 1973 - 1,231,500
  • 1972 - 1,123,790
  • 1971 - 1,347,700
  • 1970 - 1,089,200
  • 1969 - 973,100
  • 1968 - 574,500
  • 1967 - 521,200
  • 1966 - 411,300

 

Fees & Reservations

ENTRANCE FEES
No Entrance Fee is Charged at Point Reyes

ACTIVITY FEES
CAMPING FEES
$15/night/site for 1 to 6 people
$30/night/site for 7 to 14 people
$40/night/site for 15 to 25 people
 

SHUTTLE BUS
$5.00 per person for anyone over 16 years of age
On weekends from late December to mid-April when the weather is good, the west end of Sir Francis Drake Blvd is closed to vehicle traffic. Shuttle buses transport visitors to the lighthouse and Chimney Rock areas. Shuttle tickets may be purchased at Drakes Beach between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekends and holidays, weather permitting. The shuttle buses run approximately every 20 minutes starting at 9:30 a.m. and service the headlands area from Drakes Beach to the Lighthouse parking lot to Chimney Rock parking lot back to Drakes Beach. Children 16 years and under ride free. Shuttles are cancelled if weather is poor.