Point Reyes National Seashore
Not too far north of San Francisco, on the beautiful coast of California, a surprise seashore sits. The Point Reyes National Seashore holds so many surprises and so much beauty. It requires a bit of a drive to reach the furthest points on the coast, but it is absolutely worth it. We stopped in at this destination while on our way from San Francisco to Mendocino and Fort Bragg .
While this park is just a short distance from some pretty busy city space, it feels like an escape deep into nature. The area is a preservation and protection area, and is a part of the National Park Service. There is a great deal of nature to take in along the route - from plants and animals, to ecosystems and history. There are visitor centers to visit and a lighthouse to explore, as well as fields and fields of beauty. As you approach the coast, the views are sweeping and distant.
If you’re in a better position than we were in, they also have some wonderful backcountry hiking and camping options. Due to an injured knee, we were not able to fully explore these paths, but after a visit with a Ranger, we know we will be returning in the near future.
We hit some of the easy to reach highlights along the way. First stop, Bear Valley Visitor Center. This building has restrooms, a gift shop, and some very friendly and knowledgable rangers. We chatted with one for a few minutes and left with some great ideas for a return visit, as well as a clear list of options for our current visit with an injured leg that greatly restricted us. Worth noting - there is no admission fee for this park, and they do have the Passport stamps, if you’re interested in stamping your book!
Our next stop was the very popular photography spot under a cypress tunnel. This grove is right off of the main road through the park, though not marked on the maps. If you hit this spot at sunset, you’re sure to get some beautiful photos - and may deal with quite a crowd. We happened along in the mid-morning, and had the spot to ourselves. If you follow many travel bloggers or Instagrammers, you’ve likely seen this spot. It lives up to the hype - it’s beautiful. The huge cypress growth provides a natural tunnel that you can drive through, walk through, and have fun photographing!
A bit of history - the building at the end of the tunnel, Marconi Station, was a telegraph station in the 1900’s. Messages were sent to and from ships at sea via Morse code. Obviously, Morse code has been mostly replaced by new technology, so the station retired in the late 90’s and is now a protected part of the Park Service.
We continued from here towards Drakes Beach. This beach is located near the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center. There is a large parking area, and the visitor center offers restrooms, gifts, and snacks. This is a beautiful beach to explore. We strolled out the obvious path, and then along the shore for a bit. Beautiful plants grow along the beach, and the cliffs alongside the ocean are dramatic and beautiful. The ocean here seems a bit more blue than our southern California ocean, adding to the beauty of this spot. This is a great spot to pause for a snack or lunch, enjoy the waves rolling in and the beauty at just about every angle.
The next stop for us was the Point Reyes Lighthouse. We had several opportunities to pull over along the side of the road along the way - there are some amazing coastal views out here. At the end, you reach a parking area. There is a paved path, with a long set of stairs, to the lighthouse, but we didn’t take that route. This route, including the actual lighthouse, has some restricted visiting times, so definitely check in at a visitor center before your visit if you plan to go all the way out to the lighthouse. We opted to go the other direction out of the parking area and found some quiet cliffs to explore. It was exceptionally warm out here on the day we visited, which we were told is somewhat uncommon. It was hot. We spent some time walking around with our cameras and trying to catch the view from every angle. There was one short trail that we spotted - which took us out to a fenced lookout. This was short and easy, even with a busted knee. The views out here are worth walking in every direction you can find, so spend some time and soak it in.
We left from this point and aimed our GPS at Mendocino for a relaxing weekend. The views along the drive, even outside of this park, are worth the stories you hear. From Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, to Highway 1, around Tomales Bay, up the cliffy coast to Mendocino - it’s beautiful, scene after scene.
This park has much more to offer than meets the eye, including a plethora of backpacking options. If you’ve had the chance to explore this park, let us know! We’d love to hear from you as we definitely plan to visit again!
Cameras Used: Mamiya 645, Yashica 124G, Nikon F100, Nikon D750
Film Used: Kodak Ektar 100 and Portra 400