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The Tomales Point Trail is breathtaking. Make Tomales Point Trail your sole trek in Point Reyes National Seashore if you only have time for one.
You don’t even have to go all the way to the finish of the path to appreciate its beauty; the views are breathtaking from practically the beginning. Plus, you’ll almost certainly encounter tule elk along the route.
Tomales Point Path is the walk to choose if you’re searching for a trail that captures the spirit of Point Reyes’ windswept, untamed splendor. One of the most interesting things to do in Point Reyes is hike this route. From San Francisco, it’s a simple day trip!
The Tomales Point Trail from above.
On a beautiful day, you’ll almost certainly come across other hikers of various ages along Tomales Point Trail. It’s the most well-known trek in Point Reyes.
Are you planning a walk on the Tomales Point Trail? Read on to find out what to anticipate and what you should know before you go!
On the Tomales Point Trail, what can you expect?
Fantastic views of the lake, animal sightings, wildflowers in bloom, a historic ranch, and more!
The Pacific Ocean to the west, Tomales Bay to the east, and Bodega Bay to the north are all visible from Tomales Point Trail, which is located at the northern extremity of the pickaxe-shaped Point Reyes peninsula.
Tomales Point is the extreme northern point of the axe’s head, and it’s so thin that the hoo-koo-e-ko, the region’s original inhabitants, named it kal-loo-pis — “the hummingbird’s beak.”
At Tomales Point, the peninsula is narrow.
Enjoy the seaside vegetation and a profusion of wildflowers in season as you make your way to the point (spring and early summer). The bush lupine, which blooms in May, is a sight to see.
Peer down into beautiful beaches and marvel at the sheer grandeur of the cliffs that jut out into the sea. You’ll find yourself reaching for your camera or smartphone every few minutes to snap yet another picture since the landscape is so stunning.
Along the path, there’s a glimpse down onto a beach.
Pierce Point Ranch is a historic property.
Historic Pierce Point Ranch is located near the Tomales Point Trail beginning. Start your trek by touring the ranch to see the structures and read the educational plaques to learn more about the ranch’s history.
The ranch was founded in 1858 by the Pierce family. Pierce Point Ranch is one of the area’s oldest ranches, as well as one of its most profitable. It has a reputation for having the best butter in the world. After the Pierces, the ranch was run by the McLure family until 1973.
Taking a walk at Pierce Point Ranch
The ranch was listed to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, and the National Park Service now maintains the rebuilt ranch structures.
The rebuilt ranch includes the main house, the slaughterhouse, barns, a school, a blacksmith shop, and a carpenter shop, among other structures.
Around the property, there are few Monterey cypress trees; they are the sole trees along Tomales Point Trail. The ranchers planted the trees to use as windbreaks.
Through the woods, a view of Tomales Bay
Keep an eye out for Tule Elk.
The Tule Elk Reserve is situated near Tomales Point, and you will almost certainly encounter tule elk when hiking the Tomales Point Trail. About a mile into the walk, Windy Gap is an excellent spot to look for elk in the gulch below the path.
Tule elk were abundant in the area until the arrival of Europeans, when they were driven to near extinction.
At Point Reyes, a bull elk
The park authorities introduced a few elk to the reserve in the late 1970s. Now that there are many hundred elk in the park, one of the pleasures of hiking Tomales Point Trail is watching them (from a safe distance).
While you may see tule elk at Pierce Point at any time of year, coming in the late summer or early autumn enables you to hear the males bugling and, if you’re fortunate, witness them clashing horns.
Look for elk in the bushes along the path as you walk. Males in particular, many of whom have massive racks, are excellent photographic subjects.
A male elk approaches the fence.
We spotted a lot of elk on the slopes near Tomales Point Trail when we walked it in August. We lost count after a time of solitary males, single females, males with harems, and males with calves!
Keep an eye out for birds and marine life.
While tule elk are the main attraction on Tomales Point Trail, the park also has a diverse range of animals and a significant number of bird species: close to 500 kinds of birds have been seen in the park and on the nearby seas.
A quail with a man!
Cormorants, murres, gulls, and pelicans may all be seen at Bird Rock, which is situated near the peninsula’s western point. The ashy storm petrel is said to nest near Bird Rock, although the birds are said to come after nightfall and leave before dawn.
Land birds may be seen in the Monterey cypresses at Pierce Ranch and in the vegetation along the route. When we walked the path in August, we observed many California quail, sparrows, a spotted towhee, and several finches.
A sparrow is on the lookout for food.
Land animals such as fox, bobcat, coyote, and black-tailed deer have been seen, particularly early and late in the day. Mountain lions may also be seen at Point Reyes, although sightings during the day are uncommon.
Porpoises may be seen near to the coast, while whales can be found farther out in the ocean. Although there are better places to view whales at Point Reyes, you may get lucky and see them from this route. In the winter, California gray whales travel south to Baja California, and in the spring, they return to the Arctic Seas, passing via Point Reyes both times.
The most important information regarding the Tomales Point Trail in Point Reyes
Tomales Point Route is a 9.7-mile round-trip out-and-back trail with a 1,200-foot elevation rise. The path runs down the narrow peninsula’s spine and is maintained until it reaches Lower Pierce Point Ranch, approximately three miles from the start.
For the most part, the route is packed dirt, with occasional sandy sections. The last 1.7 miles of the trip are extremely sandy, making this portion of the journey more difficult. If you intend to walk the whole length, be aware that it may be overrun with bush lupine and other plants. In certain places, the sand is deep enough that your feet will sink into it.
The path is sandy in places.
The first mile or two is very level and broad, making it accessible to a large number of park visitors. On a clear day, the first mile from the trailhead to the crest over the coast provides magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean.
If you come in the dark on a foggy day, the first mile is also a wonderful stretch to walk. If you are quick, you can catch the sun setting over the lake and return to your car before it becomes dark.
The path begins to rise after one mile, but it is not very steep. At 2.25 miles, the path reaches its highest point. From here, the path falls fairly steeply to a pond at the Lower Pierce Point Ranch property; if steep uphill sections are not your thing, you may want to turn around before this drop.
As you walk to the point, the climb is not difficult.
The path becomes fine sand beyond Lower Pierce Point Ranch. Some of the shrubs here are shoulder high, making it difficult to see which route to follow. However, the paths eventually merge in the last stretch to the finish, where you can enjoy a breathtaking vista of waves smashing on the cliffs.
The path narrows as the peninsula becomes narrower. It’s worth noting that California’s coastline cliffs are prone to collapse. In reality, in 2017, a portion of Tomales Point Trail at the peninsula’s tip collapsed.
Tomales Point Trail does not allow bikes or dogs.
Returning to the trailhead
How to get to Tomales Point Trail’s trailhead
Pierce Tip Road leads to Tomales Point, the northernmost point of the Point Reyes peninsula. Drive to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from Point Reyes Station to the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Sir Francis Drake Boulevard will take you about 5.6 miles to the intersection with Pierce Point Road.
At the trailhead, there is an informative plaque.
To get to the Tomales Point Trail parking area, go north on Pierce Point Road for approximately 9 miles. The Tomales Point Trailhead is signposted and located immediately off the parking lot. You may also take a tour of the property and stroll from the ranch to the path.
Because Pierce Point Ranch’s parking lot is small and the path is popular, it may fill up by mid-morning, particularly on weekends or during the summer. Arrive early in the day to avoid having to wait for a parking space.
Pierce Point Ranch is close to the trailhead.
You may also park along Pierce Point Road, although the shoulders can be soft during the rainy seasons (winter and early spring) and cars have been known to become trapped. If you’re parking along the road, make sure you’re off the pavement entirely.
How long does it take to walk Point Reyes National Seashore’s Tomales Point Trail?
If you walk quickly and don’t stop too much along the route, you should be able to finish the trek in approximately 3 to 3.5 hours. Keep in mind that the sandy section at the northern end of the path is slower than the dirt section.
You’ll certainly want to stop along the route to soak in the scenery, take pictures and film, and watch the birds and animals. We suggest stopping for approximately an hour.
Tomales Point Trail offers expansive coastal vistas.
We hiked out to Lower Pierce Point Ranch and returned in approximately 4.5 hours on our most recent visit to Tomales Point, but we took our time and stopped often! We also had a leisurely tour of Pierce Point Ranch.
Allow time to appreciate the splendor of the sunset if the day is not foggy if you walk the route later in the day. Sunsets here may be beautiful, particularly if colorful clouds arrive shortly after the sun has set.
It’s worth noting that the journey from the Bear Valley Visitor Center or Point Reyes Station to the trailhead, as well as the return trip, may take 35-40 minutes. Pierce Point Road is known for being a sluggish road.
On a clear day, the ocean is breathtaking!
What to Bring for the Hike to Tomales Point
In the Tomales Point Area, there is no drinking water, and bottled water is not available in park visitor centers or bookshops. Bring plenty of water with you on your trek to keep hydrated.
Bottled water may be bought at Point Reyes Station, and refillable water bottles can be filled at Bear Valley Visitor Center.
In August, a straggler bush lupine blooms.
Snacks and Food
Plan to walk Tomales Point Trail in the morning or afternoon so that you may have a sit-down meal in Point Reyes Station or Inverness after or before your trek.
We didn’t notice many places to sit and dine along the route, so pack something to eat on the move if you climb around lunchtime. There is a seat at the very end, but it can only accommodate two or three people, and you’ll be fortunate if it’s empty.
Snacks are an excellent idea, particularly if you want to hike the whole route. Protein bars, trail mix, and fruit that can be eaten on the move are among the items we carry.
At Tomales Point, a female elk stands on a hillside.
Bug Spray and Sun Protection
The whole length of Tomales Point Trail is open to the elements. The Monterey cypresses at Pierce Point Ranch are the only trees you’ll see. So, don’t forget to bring your sunscreen and sunglasses. This sunscreen is fantastic! Bring SPF lip balm (we adore this 3-pack!) as well.
Additional protection may be obtained by wearing a wide-brimmed hat with SPF protection that can be securely fastened below your chin. On Amazon, you can get a women’s hat here and a men’s hat here.
Much of the route is open to the elements.
We wore sun-protective clothes for the Tomales Point trek since it was a lengthy hike. Men’s and women’s sun-protective long-sleeved shirts are available on Amazon.
If you’re allergic to insect bites or want to keep ticks away, apply bug spray. When we walked the Tomales Point Trail, we utilized a natural insect spray.
Lightweight Warm Jacket or Windcheater
Tomales Point Trail may be windy and foggy at any time of year, with chilly temperatures, particularly early and late in the day. On the trek, dress in layers or carry a windcheater or light warm jacket.
Tomales Point may be chilly and windy.
Zoom lens on a digital camera
If you walk the route on a nice day with excellent light, your smartphone will most likely take good pictures of the landscape. However, if you like shooting birds and animals, you should carry a camera with a zoom lens so you may catch tule elk and other wildlife on the path.
On treks, we always bring our Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70. It’s a little camera that fits in a jacket pocket, yet it’s equipped with a high-quality Leica lens and a strong 30X zoom. It allows us to take amazing pictures of birds and animals.
It’s worth noting that Tomales Point is a no-drone zone.
In August, a yellow bush lupine blooms near Tomales Point.
Tule elk may be seen near to the path if you’re fortunate, but they’re much more likely to be seen grazing on the slopes away from the trail.
Bring binoculars with you so you can see them well! The Celestron Trailseeker small binoculars are our go-to binoculars. They’re not too heavy, and they work well in low light, which is when birds and animals are most likely to be seen.
Tomales Point Trail tule elk photography
Hiking Tips for Tomales Point in Point Reyes
stick to the park’s safety rules
The Point Reyes National Seashore is a natural wonderland. For a safe and pleasant walk, learn about and observe all park safety rules.
You must, for example, remain on the path. Coastal cliffs in California are unstable and prone to collapse. A portion of the Tomales Point Trail did collapse in 2017. Be very careful after the path narrows.
According to the park website, if you remain on the path, the tule elk in the reserve will leave you alone. Keep a safe distance from animals at all times.
Keep a safe gap between you and the elk.
For clear water views, choose a day when there isn’t any fog.
Because the vistas and animals are two of the most compelling reasons to walk Tomales Point Trail, you’ll need a clear day to really enjoy both. On clear days, the sunsets are spectacular.
The views of the coastal cliffs and the Pacific Ocean are spectacular on clear days. You may gaze into the beautiful coves, watch for marine birds, and appreciate the tule elk you’ll probably encounter along the route.
If you decide to walk all the way to the finish, select a clear, bright day for the greatest visibility.
The shoreline of Point Reyes is breathtaking!
For that mysterious vibe, try a foggy day.
Having said that, we’ve walked Tomales Point Trail on a foggy day and had a great time. The spooky atmosphere is created by the fingers of mist whirling around the rocks. Although you can’t see the water, you can hear it crashing below you.
If it’s foggy, check with park officials before going out, and return if visibility worsens. We limited our foggy-day trek to the peninsula’s outer reaches, up to the ridge’s summit.
Whether you start your walk early or late, it will be a memorable experience.
Tomales Point Path is quite popular, and on weekends and clear days, a large number of hikers may be seen on this lovely trail. Arrive early or late in the day to ensure that you obtain a parking spot.
On peak days, the parking lot is usually crowded from mid-morning until early afternoon.
Hike early in the morning for peace and quiet.
Put on a pair of sturdy walking or trekking shoes.
For the first three miles, the route is packed dirt, and the latter 1.7 miles are fine sand. You should use strong walking or hiking shoes that do not allow sand to enter.
If you intend to walk the unmaintained section, dress properly.
If you intend to walk the unmaintained section of Tomales Point Trail, dress in a long-sleeved shirt, long trousers, thick socks, and excellent closed-toed shoes. The foliage is very dense in the unmaintained area.
A stunning view of Tomales Bay!
Allow for more time than you believe you’ll need.
Tomales Point Trail is so gorgeous that no matter how focused you are on getting to your intended finish point, you will most likely be unable to resist slowing down in spots or stopping often for pictures or to watch the elk.
Allow 5-6 hours to complete the whole trek. The return journey is more difficult than the journey in.
Take your time driving to Tomales Point.
Allow plenty of time to go from Pierce Point Road to the trailhead and back. We spotted quail crossing the road many times, and a bull elk looked at us from just beyond the fence at the trailhead, his magnificent rack a sight to see.
The journey is stunning at any time of year, but particularly in the spring when the greenery is lush.
In August, a few wildflowers are still blossoming.
You can’t rely on mobile service.
Cell service is almost non-existent along Pierce Point Road and in Tomales Point. Before you go, remember to download maps and brochures.
Fill up your tank of petrol
After Point Reyes Station, there are no further gas stations. Before venturing farther north on the peninsula, make sure you top up your tank.
The Tomales Point Trail is very lengthy, so take it slowly.
Hike for wildflowers in the spring or early summer.
While the Tomales Point Trail is lovely all year, wildflowers provide a special touch in the spring and early summer. You won’t be able to stop snapping pictures if you walk it while the bush lupine is in bloom!
Hike late in the summer or early in the fall to hear tule elk bugling.
Elk rutting season runs from August to October in Point Reyes. You will be treated to elk bugling if you walk Tomales Point Trail at this time.
You may even witness a couple of male elks fighting over their harems with their horns clashing!
Tomales Point Trail is a great place to look for tule elk.
Before you begin, use the facilities at McClures Beach.
The McClures Beach parking lot has the only toilets near Tomales Point. There are none along the path and none in the Pierce Ranch parking lot that we observed.
Do the walk to McClures Beach as well!
If you have the time, walk down to McClures Beach on the short (but steep!) path. It’s just 0.4 mile one way. The beach is tiny but lovely, with towering cliffs and strong wave action as a background.
It’s important to keep in mind that the surf here may be hazardous, with rogue waves. Keep your back to the ocean, keep far back from the water’s edge, and take in the scenery from a safe distance.
Other hiking routes in California that you may like
Hike to Rainbow Falls in Mammoth Lakes Hiking Joshua Tree National Park’s Hidden Valley Nature Trail Hike the Garrapata State Park Bluff Trail or the Point Lobos State Reserve’s Bird Island Trail. Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in Cambria, California Sea Lion Point Trail near Point Lobos Hike through Death Valley National Park’s Mosaic Canyon! June Lake, California’s Best Hikes!
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Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the Tomales Point Hike?
The Tomales Point Hike is a 0.6 mile hike that takes about an hour to complete. Q:
Can you hike in Point Reyes?
Yes, the Point Reyes National Seashore has over 100 miles of trails that are open to hikers and bikers. Q:
Can you bike Tomales Point Trail?
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