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 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 Mount Wittenberg and Meadow Trails. Continue on the BVT for a smooth .6 mile southwest into a grove of Douglas firs. 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 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 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 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 and truck into wooded Glen Camp after a 4.7-mile day. The next day, head northwest on Glen Camp Trail .9 mile to a junction and turn west on the Coast Trail to hike to the sheer cliffs at Arch Rock overlook (mile 7.8). 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, 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
Gear up: Pick up batteries, duct tape, and stove fuel at Building Supply Center, 11280 CA 1, Point Reyes Station, CA; (415) 663-1737
-Mapped by Dave Miller
- Distance: 19.5
Location: 38.039688, -122.799599
From the visitor center, hike south along Bear Valley Trail. Watch for deer in the meadows around the trailhead.
Location: 38.036549, -122.800102
Continue straight on Bear Valley Trail, heading southwest along Bear Valley Creek; walk through large California bay and Douglas fir trees.
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Continue straight on Bear Valley Trail @ 3-way junction. Bird watchers: Grab your specks as the trail begins a gradual climb.
Location: 38.019821, -122.801201
Bear left @ Y-junction on Bear Valley Trail (Old Pine Trail enters on right). Next, trail travels through Divide Meadow; drop your pack and breathe in the fresh air (pit toilets are also available here).
Location: 37.999363, -122.798897
Turn left @ Y-junction and continue on Glen Trail. After crossing a small bridge, the trail gains elevation and narrows to a singletrack on soft, but packed dirt. Lots of fir trees and evergreens line the trail.
Location: 37.995624, -122.797104
Stay left @ Y-junction on Glen Camp Loop Trail. Ferns and Spanish moss blanket the ground next to trail.
Location: 37.990836, -122.790456
Bear left @ Y-junction. Trail descends through eucalyptus trees intermixed with surrounding evergreens.
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Continue on Glen Camp Loop Trail past Glen Camp. Optional: Break up this 13-mile hike with an overnighter at Glen Camp. The campsite fills up quickly, so make your reservation early. If you're lucky, there are a few campsites hidden in the trees away from the meadow. Water and vault toilets are available.
Location: 37.985746, -122.791336
Turn hard right and continue along Glen Camp Trail. Ahead, hike single file where trail narrows considerably.
Location: 37.98967, -122.7967
Turn left @ T-junction onto the Coast Trail. The vegetation transitions to manzanita and tall grasses.
Location: 37.986271, -122.798599
Turn right and continue on the Coast Trail @ 3-way junction. Views emerge, providing panoramas of jagged cliffs jutting into the Pacific Ocean. The trail widens slightly as you descend towards the coast (watch footing on steep and narrow sections). Also, keep your eyes peeled for deer, raptors, and vultures.
Location: 37.989601, -122.812257
Turn hard left @ 3-way and head southwest towards Arch Rock.
Location: 37.986929, -122.81334
Arch Rock: Gaze at picturesque views of the ocean and rugged undeveloped shoreline. Wildlife is plentiful with pelicans and sea birds swooping around; sea lions rest comfortably on rocks and the surrounding beach. Retrace your steps back to Waypoint 12; turn left, and continue hiking northeast away from the ocean.
Location: 37.990639, -122.810501
Turn right on Bear Valley Trail and head northeast to Waypoint 5. At Waypoint 5, turn left, and continue along Bear Valley Trail to the trailhead.
Early Morning Sun
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Turkey vultures ride the air currents along the coast.
Point Reyes Seashore
Location: 37.988046, -122.807364
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Seagull on Arch Rock
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Views of a distant beach
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