Tomales Point Trail, Point Reyes: Pierce Point Ranch Trailhead, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California
Tomales Point Trail - 9.5 miles
Point Reyes: Pierce Point Ranch Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||9.5 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||320' - 45' (550' max elevation :: 95' lowest elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-275' net elevation loss (+1,090' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Tomales Point is the northernmost tip of Point Reyes National Seashore, where the Pacific Ocean meets Bodega Bay. This iconic trail runs along coastal bluffs and through the Tule Elk Preserve en route to its climactic end atop the Seashore's wave-battered cusp. Visitors will enjoy miles of pristine coast and wildlife viewing on the Tomales Point Trail:
The trail rises over Pierce Point Ranch to a steep bluff overlooking McClures Beach and Driftwood Beach. The trail bends north and levels for nearly one mile above the coast before curling inland and dropping through Windy Gap (1.0 mile : 285'). It climbs steeply back into open grasslands along the apical north-south Tomales Point ridge (1.7 miles : 545').
The next half mile runs along the route's highest points with emerging views of Tomales Bay. This segment generally shades east of the high center ridge that limits ocean views, however social trails lead to its apogee with panoramas across idyllic (but largely inaccessible) beaches and coves.
The trail crests once more (2.2 miles : 540') before dropping steeply into the heart of the Tule Elk Range, California's largest congregation 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-range herds is an important step in the ecological restoration of the Park.
The trail nadirs just by a pocket of Monterey Pine and eucalyptus (3.25 miles : 95'), then climbs steeply to a signpost directing you straight ahead on an unmaintained path (3.85 miles : 190').
This now variously sandy and braided track is obscured by overgrowth, game trails and false spurs. Directional vigilance should offset minor navigational challenges. Note of greater floral diversity as you travel, particularly cobweb thistle, buttercup, paintbrush and California poppy.
The trail weaves quickly through diminutive coastal scrub to a crest with commanding views of two coves, the ocean, Bodega Bay, Tomales Bay, Dillon Beach and Tomales Point (4.3 miles : 260') . Outcrops and sea stacks attract scores of birds and seals. Of note is Bird Rock, famously coated white by layers of avian droppings.
The headland tapers rapidly on the final run to Tomales Point (4.75 miles : 100'). Cliff edges surround you, are perilously unstable and should be avoided. If conditions permit, it's possible to safely follow a rutted path down to an open point at the juxtaposition of Tomales Bay and Pacific Ocean. (4.85 miles : 45'). Look for seals, Oyster Catchers, gulls, pelicans and cormorants on Tomales Point.
Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View Interactive Google Map
- N38 11.350 W122 57.256 — Pierce Point Ranch Trailhead
- N38 11.877 W122 57.752 — 1.0 miles : Begin drop through Windy Gap
- N38 12.414 W122 58.031 — 1.7 miles : Level out atop N-S Tomales Point ridgeline
- N38 13.462 W122 58.739 — 3.25 miles : Trail nadirs in pine-eucalyptus stand
- N38 13.795 W122 59.173 — 3.85 miles : Begin unmaintained portion of trail
- N38 13.904 W122 59.186 — 4.3 miles : Final crest - begin descent to Tomales Point
- N38 14.434 W122 59.714 — 4.75 miles : Tomales Point
- The Tule Elk is a subspecies of North American elk found only in California. They're smaller and lighter in color than other subspecies of elk. For thousands of years vast numbers of Tule Elk thrived in the grasslands of central and coastal California; in the mid-1800s, following the gold rush, uncontrolled market hunting and rapid agricultural development nearly drove them to extinction. They were extirpated from the Point Reyes area by the 1860s.
- In 1874, the last surviving Tule Elk (possibly as few as two individuals) were discovered and protected in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Conservation efforts, including reintroduction programs, have increased the statewide population to more than 3,000.
- Mountain Lions inhabit this area. Be vigilant and avoid hiking alone or running at dawn and dusk.
- Cliff edges are unstable and may crumble at any time. Keep a safe distance from cliff edges.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Camping is not permitted on the Tomales Point Trail.
- General Information: Camping is by permit only. Permits must be obtained from the Bear Valley Visitor Center before starting your trip. If you have made a reservation and are arriving after 5 p.m., a permit will be left for you in a small wooden box on the back side of the information board outside the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
- Campsites may be reserved up to three months in advance. To obtain a reservation, call 415.663.8054 between 9 am and 2 pm, Monday - Friday. Reservations by phone are not accepted at any other time. You may make reservations in person 7 days a week at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. You may also fax your reservation using our fax form and fax number: 415.464.5149.
- Wood fires are prohibited in hike-in campgrounds. Only gas stoves, charcoal or canned heat may be used for cooking. Downed wood may not be gathered and burned.
- Camping is limited to 4 nights per visit, with a maximum of 30 nights per year.
- The minimum age of any camper is 18 unless accompanied by an adult.
- Pets are not permitted in campgrounds. The maximum number of horses or pack animals in any campground is eight. Pack animals and horses must be tied to hitch rails.
- Sky Camp is located on the west side of Mt. Wittenberg in open rolling meadows, 1.4 miles from the Sky Trailhead on Limantour Road. The site is located at 1,025'. On clear days it provides sweeping panoramas across Drakes Bay. Sky Camp has 11 individual sites and 1 group site.
- Wildcat Camp is located in a coastal meadow between bluffs and the ocean. It's located 5.65 miles from Palomarin Trailhead, 7.8 miles from Bear Valley Trailhead, and 6.7 miles from Five Brooks Trailhead. There are 5 individual sites and 3 group sites; three of the individual sites only hold up to four people. Each individual site has a picnic table, food storage locker and charcoal grill. Group sites have two picnic tables, two food storage lockers and one large or two regular charcoal grills.
- Glen Camp is located in a quiet wooded valley, 4.6 miles from the Bear Valley Visitor Center via the Bear Valley Trail and Glen Trail. To access via bicycle, start at the Five Brooks Trailhead and follow the Stewart Trail to the Glen Trail, then north to the Glen Camp Loop. This is 6.3 mile bike ride. No groups, horses, or pack animals are allowed at Glen Camp. There are 12 individual sites at Glen Camp.
- Coast Camp is nestled in a coastal valley with easy access to Santa Maria Beach. It's located 1.8 miles from Laguna Trailhead via the Laguna and Firelane trails. It's also accessible from the Coast Trailhead for a longer but easier 2.7 mile route that's also open to bicycles. Coast Camp is located approximately 9.5 miles from the Bear Valley Visitor Center via the Bear Valley and Coast Trails. 12 individual sites and 2 group sites are available. Sites 1-7 are in a semi-protected canyon.
Sky Camp - Campground Information
Wildcat Camp - Campground Information
Glen Camp - Campground Information
Coast Camp - Campground Information
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs are not permitted on the Tomales Point Trail.
- Camping is not permitted on the Tomales Point Trail.
- Bikes are not permitted on the Tomales Point Trail.
- Fires are not permitted on the Tomales Point Trail.
Directions to Trailhead
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.
Point Reyes National Seashore
1 Bear Valley Rd.
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Visitor Information: 415.464.5100 x2 or 415.663.8522 x2
Headquarters: 415.464.5100 x 1
Volunteer Information: 415.464.5145
Education Programs: 415.464.5139
Special Use Permits: 415.464.5111