Nestled on the coast of Marin County just north of San Francisco is Point Reyes National Seashore.
Deemed the ‘foggiest place in North America” this is one of the most unique and beautiful parks in the entire state. It’s also one of the most interesting stops on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip!
There are so many things to do at Point Reyes National Seashore – wildlife viewing, camping, hiking, beach wandering…the list goes on!
In this post, we’re sharing a comprehensive list of all the best things to do at Point Reyes National Seashore. Keep scrolling for any activities that catch your eye!
Don’t forget to scroll all the way down the post, we’re sharing a free itinerary to plan the perfect day trip to Point Reyes National Seashore.
Let’s get started!
- How To Get To Point Reyes National Seashore
- Best Times To Visit Point Reyes National Seashore
- What To Bring To Point Reyes National Seashore
- Tips For Visting Point Reyes
- Places To Stay Near Point Reyes National Seashore
- Visit Point Reyes Station Stops
- Stop at The Point Reyes Visitors Center
- Hiking Trails at Point Reyes National Seashore
- The Best Beaches In Point Reyes National Seashore
- Discover Historic Locations At Point Reyes National Seashore
- Interesting Natural Landscapes at Point Reyes National Seashore
- Other Activities to Do Near Point Reyes
- How To Plan A Day Trip To Point Reyes National Seashore
- Final Thoughts
- More Stops On The Pacific Coast Highway
How To Get To Point Reyes National Seashore
Getting to Point Reyes National Seashore from San Francisco is an easy and straightforward route.
Follow Highway 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge, and drive for about 10 miles. Turn off to Sir Francis Drake Blvd for the remaining 20-ish miles.
You’ll wind around Mt Tamalpais State Park, Samuel P Taylor State Park, and beautiful winding roads through the redwood forest.
We recommend turning on any GPS device in San Francisco and not touching it! Service can be spotty through the forest roads.
Best Times To Visit Point Reyes National Seashore
Honestly, any time is a good time to visit Point Reyes National Seashore – it just depends on what you want to do!
The most comfortable temperatures are between September and October. The fall season is also the best time to catch that iconic marine layer fog.
If you are interested in seeing more wildlife, come between April and July to spot birds, marine life like elephant seals, whales, and elk!
What To Bring To Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes can be a cold (and windy) place most times of the year. It’s important to pack plenty of layers, especially if you are planning on hiking or getting out near the water.
Here’s a quick list of thing you should consider packing for a trip to Point Reyes National Seashore:
- Hiking Boots
- Hiking Poles
- American The Beautiful Pass
- Travel photography gear
- Day Pack
- Water Bottle
Tips For Visting Point Reyes
Point Reyes National Seashore is a unique park, covering over 71,000 acres or 100 square miles of shoreline, marshes, grassland, and protected forest. It’s a HUGE place, so here are some things to consider when planning your trip:
There is unreliable cell service: Because you’re practically out on the coastline, there isn’t a lot of cell service available. Make sure to download any navigation maps for offline use before you embark on your trip.
Plan for long drive times: The park is VERY large, with some of the best things to do at Point Reyes National Seashore being quite far from one another. For example, the lighthouse from Point Reyes Station is about a 40-minute drive.
Fill up with gas (and food!) at the Point Reyes Station: There are some small towns in Point Reyes, but most of the options for food and gas are at the Point Reyes Station. If you plan to spend all day (or weekend!) in the park, it’s important to start with a full tank of gas.
Places To Stay Near Point Reyes National Seashore
Hotels / BnBs Near Point Reyes
Looking to experience Point Reyes Park, but with the comforts of a clean bed and comfortable space at the end of the day?
Here are some cabins and hotels near Point Reyes we recommend checking out:
- Olema House (24 guest rooms on beautiful private grounds)
- HI Point Reyes Hostel (walking distances from Limantour beach)
- Private Cottage in Inverness. Adorable cabin with essentials, sleeps 2
Camping In Point Reyes National Seashore
There are five unique hike-in campgrounds at Point Reyes. This website does an excellent job of describing each, their reservable campsites, and what to expect at each location.
All campers must obtain a backcountry camping permit. Camping at Point Reyes is a fun way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the California coast!
- Sky Campground (11 sites with incredible views of Drakes Bay, Point Reyes, and the Pacific Ocean via Mt. Wittenberg.
- Coast Campground (7 campsites 200 yards from the beach!)
- Glen Campground
- Wildcat Campground (7 sites with a short hike to the iconic Alamere Falls)
- Tomales Bay Campground (20 campsites with first-come-first-serve boat-in only access)
Similar to beach camping in Washington state, all of these campsites require a permit and a lot more prep work than regular camping. It’s important to be prepared to pack in and pack out everything you bring!
If you are an avid boater, there are also three boat-in camping locations to stay overnight. They are Tomales Bay, Miller’s Boat Launch, and Lawson’s Landing.
The Best Things To Do At Point Reyes National Seashore
What are the best things to do at Point Reyes National Seashore?
We’re breaking it down into sections, dividing activities into history, hiking, beaches, wildlife viewing, and more!
Visit Point Reyes Station Stops
Point Reyes Station is a one-stop-shop for all the things you might need to prep for your day trip to Point Reyes.
Simply just one street that runs right through Highway 1, it’s full of restaurants, antique shops, boutiques, and LOTS of cheese!
Here are some places we recommend checking out before you head into the park:
Bovine Bakery: Known for its exceptionally delicious pastries, expect to wait in line a while to snag one!
Cowgirl Creamery: With a Cantina and Creamery Barn Shop too, you can pick up cheesy gifts (see what we did there?), picnic supplies, or simply just enjoy some food on-site. It’s an incredibly famous California cheese shop, with a location right in San Fransico too.
Toby’s Coffee Bar: Berty and I can’t officially start the day without a coffee. Stop by the small and sweet coffee station, and grab a few gifts and snacks while you pop in.
Station House Cafe: For a full-menu, sit-down restaurant, the Station House Cafe is a great stop. With farm-to-table fresh ingredients and a full bar, you can enjoy a quality meal here.
Stop at The Point Reyes Visitors Center
Before exploring an area, Berty and I like to stop by Visitors Centers to learn a little history, pick up a map, and chat with the rangers.
Rangers are a great resource and can tell you what attractions may be open or closed (which can save you a lot of driving) and what kind of wildlife has been spotted in the park recently.
Bear Valley Visitors Center is the closest center to Point Reyes Station and the one with the most opening hours.
You can also try your hand at stopping at the Lighthouse Visitors Center or the Kenneth C Patrick Visitors Center too if you are already in the park.
Hiking Trails at Point Reyes National Seashore
One of our favorite activities to do in any national park is go hiking! Thankfully, there are several incredible hikes in Point Reyes National Seashore.
Many of these hiking trails are quite far, so we suggest choosing maybe one or two to check out for the day.
Laguna Trail Coast Trail Loop (5 miles round trip)
This coastal trail takes you to Limantour Beach.
Tule Elk Road Tomales Point Trail (9.2 miles round trip)
This incredibly scenic but long trail is worth the trek, especially to see the iconic elk in the park.
The best time to spot elk is in the morning hours, between May and August.
Abbotts Lagoon (3.3 miles round trip)
This easy, low-elevation trail takes through some wetlands near the shore.
This is an excellent spot to go birdwatching,
Estero Trail (21.2 miles route trip)
This trail takes all day to complete, but there are offshoots (like to Sunset Beach) that make the hike much shorter if you are tight on time.
This is a great trail for mountain biking, bird watching, and is good any time of year.
Elephant Seal Overlook (.5 miles round trip)
Elephant Seal Overlook trail is a short and beautiful hike, especially at sunset. Make it a tiny bit longer (2.5 miles) and continue to Chimney Rock.
Just off to the right, you’ll find the Historic Point Reyes Lifeboat Station too.
Sky Trail and Bear Valley Loop (12.2 miles round trip)
This beautiful trail is a perfect route for horseback riding.
Winding through the lush forest, it’s quieter than most hiking trails in Point Reyes, with plenty of time to soak in the surroundings.
Come take this trail if you love discovering new plants, it’s so diverse on this hiking trail.
Earthquake Trail (0.7 miles round trip)
Located conveniently in Point Reyes Station, this short trail takes you to see the San Andreas Fault Zone.
There isn’t a huge crack in the ground, but there is evidence of the earth shifting. Along the route there are lots of interpretive signs with cool geography facts!
Kule Loklo Trail (1.7 miles round trip)
Located in the Bear Valley Visitor Center, take a small hill and short trail up to a replica of a historic indigenous village of the Coast Miwok Tribe.
Here, you can read interpretive signs about the culture and history of the community, and the structure of the village.
Note: Dues to hazardous trees, this trail is closed as of February 2022. Click here to see if the trail has opened in time for your visit.
The Best Beaches In Point Reyes National Seashore
There are 80 miles of shoreline in Point Reyes National Seashore.
Naturally, there are stunning beaches and coastlines to discover in practically every corner of the park!
Here are some of the best things to do at Point Reyes National Seashore that are of the beach variety:
South Beach Overlook
Located in the Lighthouse parking lot, this is probably the most iconic of beaches in Point Reyes. It’s got a shoreline that looks like it goes on for miles!
Out on the way to Tomales Bay, this beach requires a short hike to reach it. It’s dog-friendly, has beautiful sand, and it quieter than other beaches in Point Reyes.
Accessible from Limantour Beach (5.5 miles) Sculptured Beach has some rocky shoreline and incredible views.
Along the way, you can check out tide pools and wander through the coastal grasslands.
This beach stretches for over four miles! This is one of just four Point Reyes beaches you can drive to, which makes it quite popular for day visitors. Dogs are allowed on leash here.
Ten Mile Beach
Also known as Great Beach or Point Reyes Beach, Ten Mile Beach stretches for 10-miles, from the Lighthouse to Kehoe Beach. It’s the beach you see from the South Beach overlook!
A stunning stretch of beach that backs up to towering sandstone cliffs. This is an excellent beach for beach picnickers and landscape photographers.
Heart’s Desire Beach
This darling shoreline isn’t on the ocean but tucked away in Tomales Bay. This makes it a very popular spot for swimming, attracting families and groups.
It’s quite popular, so we suggest coming early to snag a parking spot. Expect to pay for parking, $8.
This incredible waterfall flows right into the ocean, similar to McWay Falls in Big Sur! It can be quite a challenge to get here, but your most convenient route is through Wildcat Camp. Even better is you are staying overnight here.
Located Near Pierce Point Ranch, this quiet beach is a stunning location for landscape photographers.
You can camp here (with a permit) and in the summer, this trail is covered in wildflowers.
Discover Historic Locations At Point Reyes National Seashore
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard
Deemed an expert sailor and renowned explorer by some, and a ruthless pirate by others, Sir Francis Drake was a voyager who landed in Point Reyes Seashore during one of his many west coast trips.
It’s the main road that connects most of the park, with some iconic stops (including the Cypress Tree Tunnel) along the way.
Point Reyes Lighthouse
The walk down to the lighthouse itself is quite a trek. With 300 steps total, it doesn’t seem like that much on the way down, but you definitely feel it on the way back up.
At any time of the day, you are most certainly expected to meet high winds, so secure any sunglasses or extras that may fly off.
Another event that happens here is whale watching between January-May! However, plan your trips accordingly. The lighthouse is only open Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon, and from 10:00 am – 4:30 pm.
Love lighthouses? You’ve got to discover Cape Disappointment State Park in Washington!
Fun Facts about Point Reyes:
- This place is the windiest and foggiest location in the Pacific Northwest! While we didn’t experience much fog, we definitely got our fair share of wind – you can see the effect it has on the landscape nearby. The trees lean to take the power of the wind (see picture below!)
- Point Reyes is also recorded as the cleanest seashore in all of California.
- This lighthouse has been the location for many movies (like this one), documentaries, and inspired writings.
- It is very close to San Francisco (only an hour’s drive) and definitely worth a day trip – any time of year! Berty and I really want to come back when it’s cloudy and moody…
SS Point Reyes Shipwreck
Located in Inverness, this shipwreck is easily accessible and quite fun to visit. It’s a great picnic spot if you are looking for a place to eat.
Watch the tide charts here – the best time to visit is during low tide, to give you the most access to walk right up to the ship.
Pierce Point Ranch
Located near Tomales Point, this dairy farm was in use from 1858 to 1973.
It’s a great example of what early ranchers used to use. It was also a famous location for its butter!
Cypress Tree Tunnel
This tree tunnel is not recorded on any official Point Reyes attractions map, but it’s impossible to miss on your way to the lighthouse.
It is located about halfway between the lighthouse and the park entrance. Coming here to this park, we were expecting foggy, moody PNW weather considering the heavy rains we encountered driving south. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we were greeted with sunshine and good weather. This rare sunshine created a pretty cool effect with the trees.
Sun rays peeked through and shadows danced on the road allowing Berty and I to play with the light for quite some time.
Historic KPH Maritime Radio Receiving Station
This building is located at the end of the Cypress Tree Tunnel. It’s known for receiving morse code signals and deciphering the messages. Every year on July 12th, Point Reyes holds its annual Night of Nights event, which honors the skills of the men and women who continue to practice the art of morse code. Come to hear signals being transmitted!
Interesting Natural Landscapes at Point Reyes National Seashore
The Leaning Tree (Bent Cypress Tree)
The Leaning Tree is a bent Cypress tree on the path to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Through years and years of fighting against the heavy winds of the coast, the tree has grown in this leaning pattern.
In fact, there are several trees in the area that look like this, but this one is the biggest!
Wildlife Viewing at Point Reyes
Being such a huge park, there are plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife at Point Reyes National Seashore!
Some of the most popular land animals you can find are Tule Elk (on the Tule Elk Preserve), bobcats, coyotes, and badgers.
As far as marine life goes, you can find elephant seals, whales (during their migration season), and lots of little creatures in tide pools.
Point Reyes is also a very popular spot for birding. You can hope to see ducks and sparrows in the winter. In the spring, quail and owls are out and about. During the summer, swallows and goldfinches are abundant and in the fall heron and warblers can be found.
Other Activities to Do Near Point Reyes
Go Wine Tasting
When you think of wine tasting in California, you often think about Sonoma County or Napa Country first.
However, Marin County is a unique area with smaller, local wineries that focus on enhancing the flavors of the region. The grapes often ripen after most other areas in California, but you can schedule a wine tasting at any time of the year!
Kayaking Tomales Bay
Kayaking around Tomales Bay is a great way to explore the park and get out on the water! It’s a national seashore for a reason – Point Reyes has some of the best water to enjoy, especially during the summer season. For convenient SUP and kayak rentals, check out Tomales Bay Expeditions or Blue Waters Kayaking nearby.
Horseback Riding in Point Reyes
One unique way to enjoy a day in Point Reyes is to go horseback riding! What better way to enjoy the longer trails than with a horse, the wind in your hair, and incredible scenery? There are several trails for horseback riding in Point Reyes, with tons of varied terrain! Click here to learn the rules and regulations about riding horses in the park.
Here are some popular horseback riding trails in Point Reyes:
- Tomales Point Trail (9.4 miles)
- Sky Trail and Bear Valley Loop (12.2 miles)
- Point Reyes Hostel to Coastal Trail (15 miles)
- Mount Wittenburg Loop (16 miles)
And here are some business where you can book horseback riding trips in Point Reyes:
How To Plan A Day Trip To Point Reyes National Seashore
So, let’s say you’ve only got one day in Point Reyes to see everything you can. Where you do start? What route do you take? Here is an example itinerary of how we would share a Point Reyes day trip guide for you:
Point Reyes Day Trip Guide (1 Day Itinerary)
- See the Cypress Tree Tunnel at Sunrise
- Walk on Point Reyes North or South Beach
- Visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse (Opens at 10am)
- Hike Chimney Rock Trail
- Lunch at Inverness
- See the Point Reyes Shipwreck
- Drive to Limantour Beach
- Have dinner at Point Reyes Station
We hope you enjoyed this post about things to do in Point Reyes! This is a HUGE park, so if you have more than one day to enjoy it, go for it! A weekend trip to Point Reyes would be ideal.