Point Reyes National Seashore Park Headquarters on Bear Valley Rd., W of town, (415) 464-5137. Park: daily sunrise-sunset. Bear Valley Visitor Center: M-F 9-5, Sat-Sun 8-5. Free.
|car on desolate road passes cows at Point Reyes National Seashore in Olema, California|
Known for its beaches and hiking trails, this 71,000-acre refuge has plenty of other interesting things for visitors to do. Many activities cluster around the Park Headquarters. The Bear Valley Visitor Center houses a working seismograph and a variety of nature displays. The Morgan Horse Ranch, where pack and trail animals are trained, is adjacent. (The Morgan was the first American horse breed.) A short walk away, a Coast Miwok Indian village, Kule Loklo, has been replicated using the same types of tools and materials as the Native Americans themselves originally used.
Trails beginning near the headquarters include the .5-mile self-guided Woodpecker Nature Trail; the .6-mile-long self-guided Earthquake Trail, which follows the San Andreas fault and passes a spot where the Pacific plate moved 16 feet north in about 45 seconds during the 1906 earthquake; and the popular 4.1-mile Bear Valley Trail, which winds through meadows, fern grottos, and forests before ending at the ocean. The area has 147 miles of hiking trails, most of which are open to horses. Mountain bikes are permitted on some trails, and walk-in backpacking campsites are available by reservation for a fee ((415) 663-8054).
Guided trail rides, buggy rides, hayrides, and overnight pack trips are available at nearby Five Brooks Stables (80001 State Route #1, (415) 663-1570; www.fivebrooks.com.).
About 20 miles away from the headquarters, in the Inverness area, is the 1870 Point Reyes Lighthouse ((415) 669-1534. Thur-M 10-4:30. Free. No pets.). Winds have been recorded blowing here at 133 miles per hour--the highest rate in the continental U.S. The bottom line is that it can get mighty windy, cold, and wet at this scenic spot. The lighthouse is reached by maneuvering 300 steps down the side of a steep, rocky cliff. It is a popular spot in winter for viewing migrating gray whales. Shuttle buses (Sat-Sun 9-5, weather permitting; Jan-April. $5, under 16 free.) depart regularly then from the Drake’s Beach visitor center.
Drake's Beach offers easy beach access. The Ken Patrick Visitor Center ((415) 669-1250. Sat-Sun 10-5.) here has maritime history displays and a 250-gallon salt water aquarium.
|sign at Drakes Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore in Olema, California|
|Drakes Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore in Olema, California|
|whale skeleton display at Ken Patrick Visitor Center at Point Reyes National Seashore in Olema, California|
A herd of approximately 450 elk is often seen grazing in the Tule Elk Reserve on Tomales Point. Found only in California and once hunted almost to extinction, these elk are descended from a group of 10 brought here in 1978. Late summer is rutting season, when the males “bugle” to attract females. The Historic Pierce Point Ranch is open for a self-guided tour of its buildings, including a barn, bunkhouse, and blacksmith shop. This area is dotted with historic ranches that were once part of a Mexican land grant and that now are leased from the park. Cows are plentiful, and it is refreshing to see them out here in the wide-open green spaces instead of stuffed into a stinky dirt feedlot.
|close-up of cows at Point Reyes National Seashore in Olema, California|
The Point Reyes National Seashore Association offers seminars and classes in natural history, environmental education, photography, and art. To request a free catalog, call (415) 663-1200.
More ideas for exploring Northern California.
images c2018 Carole Terwilliger Meyers