San Francisco, CA: Tomales Point Trail

Trace the Pacific coastline from a tule elk preserve to a seal-dotted bluff along this 9.7-mile out-and-back on Point Reyes National Seashore.
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Trace the Pacific coastline from a tule elk preserve to a seal-dotted bluff along this 9.7-mile out-and-back on Point Reyes National Seashore.

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.

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 15.6

Waypoints

TPT001

Location: 38.18906, -122.9540545

From the Tomales Trailhead, hike through a cypress tree grove and turn right after passing the historic Upper Pierce Ranch. The hard-packed dirt trail follows the Pacific coast, gradually ascending and then descending a moderate slope.

TPT002

Location: 38.1986388, -122.961967

Reach Windy Gap, which is due east of Driftwood Beach. Begin a three-quarter-mile ascent to the highest point on the trail (535 feet). Watch for tule elk on both sides of the trail. Tomales Bay and the Pacific are visible from various spots for the remainder of the out-and-back.

TPT003

Location: 38.2243271, -122.9788742

Pass the former site of Lower Pierce Ranch, marked by a set of cypresses. Continue climbing along an easy grade and look out for Bird Rock just off the western shore. Pelicans and cormorants are a frequent sight here. In late winter and early spring, wildflowers carpet the trailside slopes.

TPT004

Location: 38.2298355, -122.9861679

From this point on, the trail is comprised entirely of sand. Any of the use-trails that wander between coyote bushes lead to the tip of the point.

TPT005

Location: 38.2406239, -122.9952371

Reach Tomales Bluff at the northern edge of Point Reyes National Seashore. The trail is steep and sandy down to the bluff. Aside from the marine birds and coastline, look for elephant seals. Enjoy the view before backtracking to the trailhead.

Coastal Bluff

Location: 38.2333092, -122.9883599

©Dave Miller

Cypress

Location: 38.1895743, -122.9552937

©Dave Miller

Trail at Upper Pierce Ranch

Location: 38.1901983, -122.9557014

The trail begins a the site of the historic Pierce Ranch. ©Dave Miller

Weasel

Location: 38.1909151, -122.9600894

©Dave Miller

Crashing Surf

Location: 38.1939929, -122.9627502

©Dave Miller

Experienced Hiker

Location: 38.196084, -122.96363

©Dave Miller

Old Ranch Road

Location: 38.1970873, -122.9634476

©Dave Miller

Tomales Bay near Windy Gap

Location: 38.1989086, -122.9620957

©Dave Miller

Bachelors

Location: 38.2159634, -122.9752278

©Dave Miller

Bull Elks

Location: 38.2173964, -122.9760432

©Dave Miller

Follow the Leader

Location: 38.2189642, -122.9767942

©Dave Miller

Bull Tule Elk

Location: 38.22065, -122.975657

©Dave Miller

Challenge

Location: 38.2212063, -122.9761398

©Dave Miller

Tomales Bay

Location: 38.2214929, -122.9766548

©Dave Miller

Tule Elk

Location: 38.2221672, -122.9770946

©Dave Miller

More Elk

Location: 38.2228247, -122.9779637

©Dave Miller

Bird Rock

Location: 38.231708, -122.9864395

©Dave Miller

Tomales Bluff and Point

Location: 38.2341267, -122.9892933

©Dave Miller

Brown Pelican

Location: 38.2347503, -122.9898727

©Dave Miller

Birds on a Rock

Location: 38.2352644, -122.9903126

©Dave Miller

Seabird Silhouette

Location: 38.2394947, -122.9947436

©Dave Miller

Tomales Bluff

Location: 38.2405312, -122.9951298

©Dave Miller

Tomales Point

Location: 38.2406197, -122.9951835

©Dave Miller