The Tomales Point Trail traces the ridge of the Point Reyes Peninsula, a narrow strip of land dividing Tomales Bay from the Pacific Ocean. Surrounded by water on three sides for the length of the trail, it feels like walking nature’s plank—but in a good way. The trail gently meanders over rolling hills for its entirety, with no shortage of views overlooking endless ocean, precipitous coastal cliffs, and what feels like a bird’s eye view over a unique geography. The resident population of native tule elk, easily spotted from the trail, provide visual variety if you tire of ocean views. Take your time, take a picnic, and experience the beauty of Point Reyes. A leisurely 9.4-mile out-and-and back hike, plus the scenic drive from San Francisco make the Tomales Point Trail a solid day trip.
What Makes It Great
Views of the pristine Point Reyes National Seashore that you can’t see from anywhere else, unique coastal ecology and marine life, the relaxing grade of the rail, and the promise of a nap on scenic McClures Beach at the end.
Description: Start at the trailhead on the west side of the parking lot, amidst the historic outbuildings of one of the oldest cattle ranches in Point Reyes. The trail begins as a wide path, mostly level for a mile before dropping towards windy gap. Here, look for tule elk congregated near the small pond. Hunted to the brink of extinction in the 19th century, native tule elk populations are recovering—the Point Reyes heard is one of the largest in California. Brushy vegetation and grasses dominate the windswept landscape.
The trail begins gently climbing to the ridgeline after windy gap. From the crest, catch a glimpse of the cliff-bracketed beaches below, and start to get a sense of the geography. Tomales Bay, a thin sliver of water formed by a submerged portion of the San Andreas Fault a mile wide and 25 miles long, lies to your east. The expanse of the Pacific lies to your west. To the north, Bodega Bay sweeps inward.
The trail rolls northward, eventually climbing to its highest point at about 2.5 miles. From here, you can clearly see Bodega Bay and the sweeping Sonoma Coast beyond. Observe the quaint hamlet of Dillon Beach, sometimes the only visible civilization. Take a minute to look out over Tomales Bay to spot kayakers visiting a small, round and sparsely treed island. At low tide, you can see the racks and bags of the oyster farm that belongs to Hog Island Oyster Company, named after the island.
On the Pacific side, catch a glimpse of bird rock, covered by perching cormorants and pelicans. Continue walking until you reach a grove of cypress and eucalyptus trees at about 3.2 miles. Rest in the shade or take shelter from the wind, depending on the day. Point Reyes Peninsula is exposed, though the weather in Marin County is usually mild year round. Some people choose to turn around here, shortening the hike. Beyond the trees, the trail becomes less defined and sandier. Side trails weave through the low dunes and yellow bush lupine, blooming bright in the spring and summer.
Though you have been spoiled by views the whole hike, reaching Tomales Point is well worth the effort. You feel like you are standing at the edge of the world. Double back, enjoying the views that were hidden behind you the whole time. The pristine sands of McClures beach await, accessible by a side road and short trail from the parking lot.
Who is Going to Love It
The gentle grade makes the Tomales Point Trail a long but reasonable family hike. The hike is perfect for refreshing yourself on a lazy Sunday. Because it’s out-and-back, you can make the hike as long or as short as you want.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking is free at Pierce Point ranch, at the end of Pierce Point Road. No dogs or bikes on the trail.