In the wilds of West Marin County, within two hours’ drive of Sacramento, the Point Reyes National Seashore is home to many windswept trails. This one is a favorite for its visible wildlife, historical value and beautiful scenery, all packed into one beautiful day.
Where: At the end of Pierce Point Road, off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard outside of Inverness.
Level of challenge: It’s more than 9 miles out and back to the far-north end of the peninsula, but hikers can truncate the distance as they wish. Good spots to turn around: At the 1-mile point, the trail overlooks White Gulch and beyond to Hog Island in the middle of Tomales Bay—watch the sunset here and you’ll have time to get back to your car before dark. At about 2¼ miles in, the trail turns upward to the ridgecrest, then drops down sharply. Turn around before the drop to avoid a steep climb back out. If you continue, you’ll reach Lower Pierce Point Ranch and the tip of Tomales Point.
Why go: What you’ll see, first of all: the Pacific Ocean, Tomales Bay and Bodega Bay. You’re literally surrounded. Also, come for the tule elk. The Tomales Point trail passes through the Tule Elk Reserve, and the 300-odd gray-brown grazers will gaze at hikers from various points along the trailsides. Don’t needle them or step off the trail and peace shall be maintained. Also, at the trailhead, Historic Pierce Point Ranch, which was a thriving butter dairy in the late 1800s, has been maintained as a visitor site. Check out the interpretive signage and various buildings, including barns, a schoolhouse and the main house.
Keep in mind: McClures Beach, a .4-mile walk from a lower parking lot, is a pretty little cove with steep cliffs and plenty of wind and wild waves. As all the signs say: Do not turn your back on the ocean. Especially here.