Updated January 4, 2021
Just thirty miles north of San Francisco off Highway 1 is a magnificent stretch of natural wilderness. The 70,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore offers breathtaking ocean views, miles of natural coastline, and plenty of wilderness and wildlife. With 150 miles of hiking trails, you’ll never run out of terrain to explore at Point Reyes..
Picture yourself riding your mountain bike (or horse) through pastoral grasslands to the Inverness Ridge or the Bear Valley Visitor’s Center, getting the lay of the land and forming a plan for your visit. You’ll find plenty of scenic drives and trails to stroll along, but you'll also encounter dairy cows and a thriving dairy industry situated on NPS land. As a matter of fact the Bear Valley visitor center used to be the “W” or Bear Valley Ranch and was then designated as the new National Seashore’s headquarters. There are six working dairies and cattle ranches operating in the park. Some of the best cheese in the country and maybe the world comes from this area. Stop in at Cowgirl Creamery for delicious artesian cheeses and take home an unusual souvenir.
Many visitors enjoy taking a whale watching trip off the coast. Between January and April, visitors flock to the Point Reyes headlands to look for migrating gray whales and seabirds. Gray whales make one of the longest migrations in the world. Every year, they travel over 10,000 miles from the cold feeding waters of Alaska to the warmer seas of Baja and Southern California. In fact, a gray whales spends a third of its life migrating! Mid-January is the best time to see these giants of the ocean heading south to their traditional breeding grounds. Around mid-March, they’ll make the trek northward again. A little later in the season (April and May), mother whales and calves can be seen heading north at a slower pace, closer to shore.
You’ll also want to visit the grassland terrain of Bear Valley, home to kinglets, thrushes, hummingbirds, and owls, and the Limantour, a marsh, pond, and shore area that’s favored by wading birds and waterfowl. At the Bolinas Lagoon, pelicans, cormorants, kingfishers, and other waterfowl flock to the rookeries. Five Brooks Pond is where you’ll see green-backed herons, mergansers, and grebes. Ducks and raptors like the terrain of Abbotts Lagoon, and long-eared and great-horned owls nest along the Estero Trail.
Point Reyes is known for the marine wildlife that relies on the safety of the seashore for resting and mating. While you’re there, watch for Elephant Seals, sea lions, and several species of seals. In fact, every year, 7,000 harbor seals (20% of the California breeding population) haul out at Point Reyes.
Other wildlife are attracted to the abundance of Point Reyes. Tomales Point and the Elephant Seal Overlook are great places to watch for the resident tule elk ranging on the grasslands below. Nearly forty species of mammals, including bobcats, mountain beavers, deer, and long-tailed weasels, reside in the park.
With all its natural beauty and abundant wildlife, Point Reyes is an amazing place to explore. You can take a kayak trip around the coves and shallows, discover the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, or take your time getting to know this amazing piece of coastline.
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