Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore

Things To Do

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