Come and join us for some excellent ocean views and wildlife watching (lots of tule elk, pelicans, cormorants and seagulls) on this 9.5 mile out and back hike to the tip of Tomales Point.
Tomales Point lies at the northwestern-most tip of Point Reyes National Seashore where the Pacific Ocean meets Bodega Bay. This stunning trail runs along dramatic coastal bluffs, elevated grasslands and the Tule Elk Preserve en route to its dramatic conclusion above the Seashore's wave-battered cusp.
Distance and difficulty:
This 9.5 mile out and back hike is moderate. Trailhead elevation is about 300 feet, and the hike has a rolling profile, climbing to 470 feet, descending to 135 feet, climbing to 250 feet, and dropping to 80 feet. Total elevation change is about 1300 feet.
The first 3 miles to Lower Pierce Point Ranch are well marked and maintained but the last stretch can be overgrown with bush lupine and other shrubs, so long pants and long sleeves are a good idea.
If it’s a windy day, make sure to bring a warm jacket, as it can get pretty windy here.
Please bring enough water to stay hydrated and food to get an energy boost along the way as the hike is fairly long… we'll make sure to make a break to enjoy our lunch... while taking in the amazing views
The trail rises above Pierce Point Ranch to a steep bluff overlooking McClures Beach and Driftwood Beach. Shrouded in the brilliant yellow and purple pastels of bush lupine, the trail bends north and levels for nearly one mile high above an unforgettable stretch of pristine coastline. The trail hugs the bluff as it curls inland and drops through Windy Gap (1.0 mile), then climbs steeply through open grassland to the apical north-south Tomales Point ridgeline (1.7 miles).
The next half mile runs atop the route’s highest point, revealing subtle details of Tomales Bay. Idyllic beaches and coves – largely inaccessible - stretch for miles in every direction. The trail crests once more with dramatic vistas (2.2 miles), then drops precipitously into the heart of the Tule Elk Range, one of California’s largest congregations of this native species.
Tule Elk were reintroduced to Point Reyes National Seashore in 1978. Since then populations have grown from 10 animals to over 400, one of the largest in California. There are two separate herds of Tule Elk at Point Reyes. The larger herd is at Tomales Point, a 2,600-acre fenced reserve at the north end of the Seashore. The other is a herd of 30 animals recently transplanted from Tomales Point, now roaming freely in the Limantour wilderness area of the Seashore. The reintroduction of free-ranging herds is an important step in the ecological restoration of the Park.
At 3.85 miles, the informal, sandy trail begins. Weaving quickly with occasional randomness through diminutive coastal scrub, the trail crests one last time (4.3 miles) with sweeping views of the ocean, Bodega Bay, Tomales Bay, Dillon Beach and Tomales Point. Rocky outcrops and sea stacks attract scores of birds and seals, visible to the naked eye but more intimately observed with binoculars. Just off the coast to the left, you we will see Bird Rock, frequently populated with cormorants.
Finally, at 4.78 miles, we’ll reach Tomales Point. Steep, unfenced bluffs drop straight to the sea. There is a path that continues downhill to the tip of the point but can be a bit challenging to follow, so please be cautious if you decide to pursue it.
Once we absorb all the beauty and the wonderful views from the point , we’ll hit the trail back to our cars.
From US 101 in Marin County, exit Sir Francis Drake/San Anselmo. Drive west on Sir Francis Drake about 20 miles, to the junction with CA 1, turn right, drive 0.1 mile, and then turn left onto Bear Valley Road. After about 2 miles, Bear Valley Road ends at Sir Francis Drake; turn left. Continue on Sir Francis Drake about 5.5 miles, then turn right onto Pierce Point Road. Drive about 9 miles on Pierce Point Road to the signed Tomales Point Trailhead, a short distance from McClures Beach, at the end of the road.
No entrance or parking fees. Small dirt parking lot, with some overflow along the road. No water or toilets but there are toilets down the road at the McClures Beach trailhead. There is a map on an information signboard and a pay phone. The Bear Valley Visitor Center (look for the sign on Bear Valley Road) has maps and drinking water.