A short drive from San Francisco proper, this 9.7-mile out-and-back to the northern tip of Tomales Point in Point Reyes National Seashore offers some of the best birding and wildlife viewing in the country along coastal terrain lacking in strenuous climbs.
Starting from the Tomales Trailhead on Pierce Point Road, begin hiking northwest through a historic dairy ranch and a grove of wind-swept cypress trees. Roaming the spine of Tomales Point, the trail looks down on Tomales Bay to the east (which covers the San Andreas Fault) and the Pacific Ocean (due west). After only a mile, you’ll enter the Tule Elk Preserve where countless bulls and their harems graze on green pastures.
Continuing north up the point, watch for pelicans, cormorants and peregrine falcons along the coast to the left. From January to April, you may also spot gray whales (about 10 miles offshore) migrating from Alaska to Baja. As you hike, the point gradually narrows and the increasingly sandy trail cuts through a bush-covered ridgeline toward Tomales Bluff. Here, you’ll enjoy coastal vistas of Bodega Bay and, if you’re lucky, sunbathing seals hamming it up for the camera. Once you’ve had your fill (and your lunch), backtrack to the trailhead.
-Mapped by Dave Miller
TO TRAILHEAD: Head north on US-101/Van Ness Avenue. In 1.8 miles, turn left at US-101/Lombard Street. In 1.5 miles, take the ramp onto US-101 North. In 7 miles, take the CA-1 exit toward Stinson Beach/Mill Valley. In 0.3 mile, merge onto CA-1. Bear left to stay on CA-1. In 27 miles, turn left onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. In 6.4 miles, make a slight right at Pierce Point Road. In 1.3 miles, turn right at Marshall Beach Road. Bear left to stay on Marshall Beach. In 1.4 miles, turn left toward Pierce Point Road. In 79 feet, turn right onto Pierce Point and continue 2.2 miles to the trailhead on the right side of the road.