Earthquake Trail - Interpretive Loop, Point Reyes: Bear Valley Trailhead, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California
Earthquake Trail - Interpretive Loop - 0.55 Miles
Point Reyes: Bear Valley Trailhead
Earthquake Trail - Interpretive Loop
|Round-Trip Length:||0.55 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||106' - 106' (119' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+13' net elevation gain (+26' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
The Earthquake Trail is a short, fully paved and handicap accessible interpretive loop that provides visitors with information on the unique geological forces that shape Point Reyes and Northern California. San Francisco is famous for being prone to earthquakes and there is good reason. But to understand why, one must first learn a little about plate tectonics.
While the core of our earth is solid, the outer core is actually molten - or liquid. Resting above the outer core and lower mantle are fourteen major tectonic plates, which ultimately comprise the solid surface of the earth.
These major tectonic plates include the Pacific and North American plates, which ride the molten outer core of the earth, colliding with each other to form continents, mountain ranges and deep-sea chasms. Each plate collision and subsequent grinding can produce fantastic geologic consequences such as earthquakes, tsunamis or the release of underground oil and gas. The incurring fracture, which occurs upon two plates colliding, is called a fault line.
San Andreas Fault
Riding the northern border of Point Reyes National Seashore and cutting through the floor of Tomales Bay is the San Andreas Fault. The fault itself is infamous - yet only recently has it become less of a geological mystery to scientists.
The San Andreas fault system is now known to be directly responsible for all the major earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay Area and is actually a series of multiple faults, which extend 780 miles south through California. Included in this complex system are the San Andreas, Hayward and Calaveras faults - all which enable tectonic movement between the Pacific and North American plates.
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N38 02.444 W122 47.933 — Earthquake Trailhead
- The San Andreas Fault enters the United States through Tomales Bay and runs south through California. The fault zone is 1 mile wide, 780 miles long and over 20 miles deep.
- The San Francisco earthquake on April 18, 1906, - which is directly attributed to the San Andreas Fault - took over 700 lives and caused millions of dollars worth of damage in California. This 8.3 magnitude quake was felt as far away as Oregon and central Nevada.
- 'Magnitude' is a measure of the size of an earthquake whereas 'intensity' is a measure of the strength of shaking experienced in an earthquake.
- Literally thousands of earthquakes occur along the San Andreas fault line every year - but few are large enough to be felt at the surface.
- According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) - studies show that over the past 1,400 to 1,500 years large earthquakes have occurred at 150-year intervals on the southern San Andreas fault. As the last large earthquake on the southern San Andreas occurred in 1857, that section of the fault is considered a likely location for an earthquake within the next few decades. The San Francisco Bay area has a slightly lower potential for a great earthquake, as less than 100 years have passed since the great 1906 earthquake; however, moderate-sized, potentially damaging earthquakes could occur in this area at any time.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Camping is by permit only, in designated areas 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 the Park fax form and fax number: 415.464.5149.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs and horses are not permitted on the Earthquake Trail.
- Fishing is not permitted on the Earthquake Trail.
- This is a day-use area only .
The Earthquake Trailhead is located on the southeast side of the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
From Highway 1, take Bear Valley Road west about 1/2 mile. Look for a big red barn on the left and a sign for Seashore information on the right. Turn left past the red barn and follow signs to the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Continue through the main parking lot to the far end and Bear Valley Trailhead parking area.
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