Welcome to the breathtaking world of Point Reyes, a stunning slice of California’s coast that’s a perfect getaway from San Francisco. There are so many things to do in Point Reyes—you’ll need a week to see it all!
Point Reyes National Seashore is like a magical playground with wild cliffs, awesome beaches, wildlife galore, and epic trails to wander. We love Point Reyes National Seashore, and we are going to show you everything you should check out during your visit (and we mean everything).
Things to Do in Point Reyes National Seashore
Below is a list of the best things to do in Point Reyes, but here are our other guides about Point Reyes to check out when you’re done reading!
1. Make a Pit Stop at Point Reyes Station
In the heart of Point Reyes, you’ll find the charming town of Point Reyes Station. This is where your outdoor adventure begins! The town is a hub for starting your trip, offering a range of quaint shops, art galleries, and delicious eateries to fuel up before your day(s) of exploration.
Don’t forget to check out the Point Reyes Farmer’s Market on Saturdays for a taste of local flavors. It’s the perfect starting point to get all your supplies, snacks, fuel, and last-minute items before heading out onto the peninsula. There’s almost nothing on the peninsula after here!
2. Get The Low Down at The Bear Valley Visitor Center
The Bear Valley Visitor Center serves as an excellent starting point for your Point Reyes adventure. Here, you’ll find a ton of information, maps, and friendly park rangers ready to assist you in planning your visit. Explore the exhibits to learn about the park’s diverse ecosystems and wildlife.
Don’t forget to ask the rangers for their recommendations, info on closures, and maybe even join a guided nature walk or talk to enhance your understanding of the park’s natural wonders. It’s an essential stop to kick off your Point Reyes trip.
3. Spot The S.S. Point Reyes Shipwreck
Venture out to the iconic S.S. Point Reyes Shipwreck, a fascinating piece of local maritime history. This picturesque shipwreck, perched on the Inverness shoreline, has become a beloved subject for photographers.
You can admire the scene with its rustic, weathered body against the backdrop of Tomales Bay and the rolling hills. It’s a cool spot, but it’s a bit weird to essentially hang out behind a grocery store because that’s where the shipwreck is. So maybe just swing by for a quick visit!
4. Stroll Under The Cypress Tree Tunnel
Make your way to the enchanting Cypress Tree Tunnel, a dreamy pathway that feels straight out of a fairytale. This photogenic spot features a canopy of towering cypress trees forming a natural arch over the road.
As you stroll through the tunnel, you’ll either get a glow of sun through the branches or have a moody grey setting. Luckily this is a walking-only road, so you can walk into a fantasy for just a moment in time without cars. At the end of the road is a marine radio station.
5. Take in the Views at Point Reyes Lighthouse
One of the crown jewels of Point Reyes is the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Perched dramatically on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it’s a historic site with breathtaking views. Head down the steep staircase and experience the powerful beauty of the rugged California coastline!
Marvel at the crashing waves and, if you’re lucky, spot migrating gray whales. It’s a fantastic spot for a dose of nature and history in one visit.
6. Go Bird Watching
Point Reyes offers fantastic birdwatching opportunities. Head to Abbotts Lagoon, where you can spot a variety of shorebirds, waterfowl, and raptors.
The Estero Trail near Drakes Estero is another great location, especially during the winter when thousands of ducks and geese migrate through. For a mix of forest and coastal birds, explore the Bear Valley Trail and keep an eye out for woodpeckers and hummingbirds.
7. Just Beach It
Point Reyes National Seashore has tons of diverse and beautiful beaches. You’ll find rocky coastline adventures, serene spots for beach picnics, and opportunities to witness incredible wildlife. Let’s just say the beaches in Point Reyes aren’t your average beaches! Here are our favorites:
- Point Reyes North & South Beaches: These beaches provide drive-up access to an 11-mile stretch of coastline, perfect for long walks and gray whale watching. You can get views of the beach at the parking area for the lighthouse as a preview!
- Kehoe Beach: While requiring a short hike, this beach is worth it with its stunning rocky bluffs and long sandy shore.
- McClures Beach: Ancient exposed rocks and geological wonders await you here after a half-mile hike. It’s a perfect beach for a picnic too!
- Marshall Beach: A small, secluded beach accessible after a 1.2-mile hike, often visited by boaters and kayakers too. You can also overnight camp at this beach if you come by watercraft!
- Heart’s Desire Beach: This is the most accessible beach with picnic areas, safe swimming conditions, and a good spot to put in for a kayak trip.
8. Look at Some Adorable Elephant Seals
Prepare for an awesome encounter with these blubbery marine mammals at the Elephant Seal Overlook. Just a short hike from the parking lot at Chimney Rock Trail (more on this soon), you’ll find a vantage point offering incredible views of the beach below, where elephant seals come to rest, molt, and give birth.
During different times of the year, you can witness various seal behaviors, from boisterous males competing for territory to cute seal pups waddling around.
It’s a remarkable opportunity to get up close and personal with these creatures while respecting their natural habitat. Don’t forget your zoom lens or some binoculars for this wildlife spectacle as they blob on a beach in the distance.
9. Spot Critters in Tide Pools
For some fascinating pools to poke your head around, head to Agate Beach. During low tide, the pools here reveal a hidden universe of colorful sea anemones, hermit crabs, and other marine life. Be sure to tread lightly and handle creatures with care to preserve this delicate ecosystem.
Another excellent spot for tide pooling is Sculptured Beach which is a bit of a hike to reach. Here, you’ll find pools filled with sea stars, mussels, and even the occasional octopus, but if the tide is coming in, don’t go out there!
10. Make a Beach Bonfire
End your adventurous day with a cozy beach bonfire. Many of Point Reyes’ beaches allow bonfires but remember to grab a permit, bring your own firewood (that was purchased nearby), and follow local regulations to protect the environment. Read this for all the details.
Enjoy the crackling flames, the sound of the waves, and maybe even some smores if you really came prepared!
11. Kayak in Tomales Bay
Tomales Bay offers two incredible kayaking experiences. By day, paddle along the tranquil waters of the bay, surrounded by serene landscapes and abundant wildlife. The bay is teeming with birdlife, and you might spot harbor seals lounging on the sandbars.
For a truly magical adventure, consider a nighttime kayaking trip during the bioluminescence season (summer and fall). When you dip your paddle into the water, you’ll witness the bay come alive with bioluminescent plankton, creating a mesmerizing light show. As the water sparkles with every stroke, it’s like kayaking through a starry galaxy on Earth!
READ MORE: Your Guide to Tomales Bay State Park
12. Go on a Ranger-Led Walk
Joining a ranger-led walk is a nice way to explore Point Reyes. These knowledgeable guides will take you on a journey through the park, sharing fascinating insights about its history, geology, and wildlife.
Choose from a variety of FREE ranger-led walks, like those that delve into the coastal habitats, birdwatching excursions, or even moonlight walks to experience the park after dark. Each walk is a chance to learn more about the park’s natural wonders and ask questions.
It’s an opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation for Point Reyes and enjoy an educational and interactive experience. Be sure to check the park’s schedule for upcoming ranger-led walk details.
13. Hike With Elk at The Tule Elk Preserve
Visit the Tule Elk Preserve to witness a remarkable conservation success story. Tule elk, native to California, were once on the brink of extinction. Thanks to dedicated conservation efforts, their numbers have rebounded. The preserve offers you a chance to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
Head to the Tomales Point Trailhead, which leads to the preserve. The trail winds through beautiful landscapes with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. As you journey to the tip of the Point Reyes Peninsula, you’ll likely encounter herds of tule elk grazing peacefully in the rolling grasslands.
Remember to maintain a respectful distance and observe them without disturbing their natural behavior.
14. Catch a Whale Breeching
For an unforgettable marine adventure, set your sights on whale watching in Point Reyes. The park is one of the best places on the California coast to spot migrating gray whales. These gentle giants make their way past Point Reyes during their annual migrations.
The prime whale-watching season typically runs from December to April when gray whales are on their southern migration, followed by the northern migration in March to May. Bring your binoculars and head to one of the many excellent whale-watching spots along the Point Reyes shoreline.
Point Reyes Lighthouse and Chimney Rock are both excellent locations to scan the horizon for spouts and breaches. Keep an eye on the water’s surface, and you may be rewarded with the sight of these magnificent creatures on their epic journey. Of course, for an up close look, you’ll need a boat tour!
15. Take a Hike
Explore the rugged beauty of Point Reyes National Seashore through a series of unforgettable hikes. From cascading waterfalls to historic lighthouses, here are our favorite stunning trails Point Reyes has to offer!
– Alamere Falls via Palomarin Trail
Distance: 13.6 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 1,818 ft.
This challenging hike takes you to the stunning 40-foot Alamere Falls, a waterfall cascading down a cliff into the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy ocean vistas, a swampy forest, and a visit to Wildcat Beach.
– Kule Loklo Trail
Distance: 1.7 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 144 ft.
This easy and flat trail near the Bear Valley Visitor Center leads you to the Miwok Village, a recreated village providing insight into the Coast Miwok’s way of life.
– Elephant Seal Overlook and Chimney Rock Trail
Distance: 2.4 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 226 ft.
This hike offers two attractions: the Chimney Rock lookout with potential whale sightings and the Elephant Seal Overlook, where you can observe elephant seals in their natural habitat! This is one of our favorite hikes in the park for views!
– Abbotts Lagoon Trail
Distance: 3.3 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 187 ft.
This hike provides solitude, wildlife spotting opportunities, and a bridge over Abbotts Lagoon. Look out for otters, snakes, and various bird species. This was our favorite hike for birdwatching!
– Tomales Point Trail
Distance: 9.3 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 1,178 ft.
This hike offers incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, Tomales Bay, and Bodega Bay. Enjoy wildflowers in spring and the chance to spot tule elk.
– Laguna Trail and Coast Trail Loop
Distance: 6 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 502 ft.
This trail is a lovely day hike with great views and amenities. Explore grassy meadows, coastal cliffs, and access the beach from Coast Camp.
16. Go on a Backcountry Camping Trip
For true adventure seekers, backcountry hiking and camping in Point Reyes offer a fun way to get yourself in the park’s pristine wilderness. With miles of trails and designated backcountry campsites, you can plan a multi-day journey into the heart of Point Reyes.
Hike through diverse ecosystems, from lush forests to open grasslands, and explore remote beaches where you may find yourself entirely alone with the wildness.
Grab a backcountry camping permit in advance to nab a spot at your chosen campsite. Please remember to follow Leave No Trace principles and pack in everything you need, including water, as potable water may not be available at backcountry campsites. It’s a challenging but rewarding experience for those looking to truly get out there in Point Reyes!
Where to Stay in Point Reyes
So, if backcountry camping isn’t your thing, but you still want to camp, we found Olema Campground to be pretty decent, and it’s the closest to the park. There is no other drive-up camping closer than this one in the park!
For hotels, there isn’t too much IN the park. If you want to stay the closest possible, you’ll want to get a vacation home as the hotels tend to be a bit further out. Here are the best options without getting too far…
- Olema House – This stunning hotel is in the closest little town at the doorstep of Point Reyes. It’s your best bet for a hotel in the area.
- Point Reyes Vineyard Inn – A bit further out than the town of Olema, but you get the added bonus of staying at a vineyard.
- The Cabin – If you want to stay closer and have your own vacation home, this is the perfect getaway in the woods, and Point Reyes is your backyard!
Tips For Visiting Point Reyes
- Weather Awareness: The weather at Point Reyes can be quite unpredictable, so it’s wise to dress in layers. Even during summer, the coastal fog can roll in, making it chilly. Bring a jacket, even if it seems sunny when you start your day.
- Hiking Essentials: If you plan to hit the trails, wear comfortable, sturdy shoes and carry plenty of water and snacks. Cell phone reception can be spotty, so download your offline maps.
- Wildlife Etiquette: When encountering wildlife, maintain a safe distance and never feed or approach animals. It’s essential for their safety and yours.
- Tides Matter: If you’re exploring beaches or tide pools, check the tide schedule. Some areas might not be accessible at high tide.
- Reservations: If you plan to camp, consider making reservations in advance. Campsites can fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons.
- Respect Nature: Embrace the Leave No Trace principles. Show respect for the natural beauty of Point Reyes.
- Visitor Centers: Make a stop at the Bear Valley Visitor Center for valuable information, maps, and to get answers to any questions you might have about the park.
- Fuel Up in Point Reyes Station: As you prepare for your Point Reyes trip, remember that the only gas station in the area is located in Point Reyes Station. Fill up before you head out.
- Driving Conditions: Two notes here, this area is bigger than you think. It takes an hour to drive from north to south on the peninsula. Not to mention the roads are quite narrow and bumpy so add on a bit more time for navigating that too.
We hope this helped you plan all the things to do in Point Reyes for your trip!
I’ve been perpetually traveling and living around the world for years but it’s hard to beat California and the PNW. After years of road-tripping the area, I guess you can say I know it pretty well! When I’m not writing guides for you, you can catch me somewhere petting a dog, attempting to surf, hiking a volcano, or stuffing my face with bread and cheese.