Stop at the Bear Valley Visitor Center to pick up your camping permit, then access the Bear Valley Trail (BVT) at the end of the parking lot (1, see below) for a 12.5-mile lollipop loop that winds through pungent eucalyptus forests to the Pacific. Cruise a quarter of a mile to the Bear Valley Creek to a junction with the Mt. Wittenberg and Meadow Trails (2). Continue on the BVT for a smooth .6 mile southwest into a grove of Douglas firs (3). Pack binoculars: The trees and low-lying greenery here teem with 490 bird species, including the acorn woodpecker with its monkeylike scream and showy blue-and-black Stellar's Jays. At 1.6 miles, the BVT forks left (4) to Divide Meadow. Keep your eyes peeled for grazing black-tailed deer as you hike through the tall grasses.
In another 1.7 miles, turn left onto the Glen Trail (5) at a three-way interchange with the Baldy Trail and BVT. The trail gains 301 feet over the next half-mile and narrows to a singletrack lined with delicate five-finger ferns. Veer left onto the Glen Camp Trail (6) and wind through Spanish moss and horsetail ferns in a forest so dense you'll need your camera flash for snapshots. Descend through a eucalyptus glade (7) and truck into wooded Glen Camp (8) after a 4.7-mile day. The next day, head northwest on Glen Camp Trail (9) .9 mile to a junction (10) and turn west on the Coast Trail to hike to the sheer cliffs at Arch Rock overlook (mile 7.8) (11). Brown pelicans and sea lions crowd the rocks below year-round. Follow a use path on the left down to the beach to see harbor seals surfing and to take a break in the soft sand and shade beneath Arch Rock. Backtrack on the Coast Trail to link to the BVT (12), completing the loop and heading back 4.5 miles to the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Permit Make campsite reservations (up to three months in advance) for weekends, holidays, and spring break ($15/group). (415) 663-8054
Driving From San Francisco, take US 101 north seven miles to CA 1. Stay on CA 1, heading north, for 26.1 miles, then turn left on Bear Valley Rd. Go .5 mile, then turn left on the road to Bear Valley Visitor Center. Park at the far end of the lot.
Gear Up Pick up batteries, duct tape, and stove fuel at Building Supply Center, 11280 CA 1, Point Reyes Station, CA; (415) 663-1737
Navigate Through Fog
With its well-established trails, routefinding here would seem a cinch. But with nearly 200 days of fog per year, Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the haziest places on Earth. Warm air from the Pacific bumps into cooler inland air and produces enough fog to reduce visibility to a few hundred feet in a matter of seconds. Use these tips to get through the mist.
1) Do periodic checks Verify your map position immediately when fog moves in and every half hour after.
2) Navigate object to object If the fog is too dense to find your way, take a compass bearing from your current location to your intended destination. Then, note any obvious landmark in your line of travel, and move without deviating until you reach it. When you get there, take another sighting, pick a new landmark, and repeat.
3) Play leapfrog In featureless terrain, like a large open meadow, use hiking partners as intermediate objects. Send them forward as far as possible and wave them into position along your course. Then leapfrog ahead. Give them the compass as you pass so they can repeat the leapfrog.
The San Andreas Fault
Detour from the Bear Valley Visitor Center on the .6-mile Earthquake Trail to see the famous rock fracture that bisects Point Reyes Peninsula, which shifted 20 feet northwest from the mainland in a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in 1906.
Hear that loud croaking outside of your tent? It's a non-native East Coast bullfrog. California red-legged frogs once hopped all over this area, but in the late 1800s, the red-leggeds became popular cuisine in Bay Area restaurants and were hunted nearly to extinction. The East Coast bullfrog was introduced to meet consumer demand, but has also become a predator of the still-endangered red. Discuss: Have you ever eaten frog legs? And if so, is this delicacy really that good?
"Take time to scan the Pacific Ocean at Chimney Rock or Lighthouse Point for gray whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, harbor seals, northern elephant seals, and killer whales," says Ranger Doug Hee. From the overlook, search for migrating grays swimming with their calves near the shore in late April and early May as they migrate to Alaska. "It's easy to spot grays at Chimney Rock. The adults have white barnacles and they swim very close to the cliffs. There's no other whale on the Reyes Shore that behaves this way," says Hee. On The Menu
Lunch 1 and 2
Al fresco goat cheese and cucumber sandwiches
Trail mix, cheddar
Lemon pepper penne with mushrooms
Lemon Pepper Penne with Mushrooms
An easy (and zesty) one-pot meal
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup mushrooms
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
16 ounces penne pasta
Boil 4 cups water. Add penne. Slice lemon and mushrooms, dice garlic. Drain pasta; return to pot. Add oil, garlic, pepper, shrooms, lemon, parm. Sauté.
Point Reyes Pancakes
A potassium-fortified (and chocolatey) breakfast
1 cup pancake mix
1/2 cup milk, from powder
1/4 cup trail mix
1 tablespoon olive oil
Peel and slice banana. Add oil to pan and heat. Stir milk, pancake mix, and trail mix in a medium-size pot until blended. Pour large spoonfuls of batter onto frying pan. Flip cakes when edges are dry. Cook until golden. Top with banana.
The Grocery List(Aisle #) In Nearest Store Below
granola bars (7)
4 oz. goat cheese (7)
2 wheat rolls (3)
1 cucumber (produce)
1 banana (produce)
1/2 C. Parmesan cheese (7)
1 garlic clove (produce)
2 oz. mushrooms (produce)
1 lemon (produce)
16 oz. penne pasta (4)
12 oz. trail mix (1)
1 C. pancake mix (2)
3 Tbs. powdered milk (2)
8 oz. cheddar (7)
vegan jerky (1)
Pack pepper and olive oil
NEAREST GROCERY STORE:
11300 State Route 1, Point Reyes Station, CA; (415) 663-1016
Station House Café Wash down a blue cheese burger with a pint of Anchor Steam beer (415-663-1515; stationhousecafe.com/menus). Try the Hog Island Oysters for an appetizer.