50 mi / 81 km
San Francisco (SFO)
Whizz over the Golden Gate Bridge and enter one of the most dramatic coastal regions in the western United States: Point Reyes.
Our 50-mile route begins between the gigantic sequoia groves of the Muir Woods National Monument but finishes amid salt-sprayed beaches in the company of elephant seals. Sweeping views of the wild Pacific Ocean and visits to charming north Cali coast towns punctuate along the way.
We recommend starting with the long loop hike of Fern Creek. It's deep in the Muir Woods north of San Francisco, offering boardwalk sections that wiggle through thimbleberry and redwood forests to a hidden memorial to Franklin D Roosevelt.
Then the salt-filled airs of the ocean take over, as the route squiggles down the coastal mountains to hit the jaw-dropping Muir Beach Overlook. It's one of the most dramatic panoramic points in Marin County, set on a narrow bluff of rock between craggy stone stacks and tide pools. You might have to dodge some loved-up duos having their photos taken there – it's a favorite for wedding shoots!
The drive that follows takes you up the epic Shoreline Highway. Watch for the brave surfers doing battle with the waves on Stinson Beach. Notice the forest-clad Marin Hills rising to the east. See the rare seabirds that flock to the Bolinas Lagoon.
Your destination is some 15 miles onwards, at bijou Point Reyes Station. This is the gateway to the wonderful Point Reyes National Seashore and it has some vibrant farmer's markets and local boutiques to keep you going for a few hours.
It's from there that the road bends westwards around the top of Mount Wittenberg towards the ocean once again. Prepare to be wowed as you hit the edge of California at Drakes Beach, where elephant seals groan on the beige-tinged sands beneath the sandstone cliffs.
Wind-buffeted Point Reyes Lighthouse is also there. It's capped off the rocks like a limpet since 1855; the last bastion of human civilization before the endless Pacific blue.
In the 1990's a heartwarming story unfolded here around a tule elk named "Mr. Tule." This young elk ventured alone to Point Reyes and became a beloved resident, captivating the community. Despite the odds stacked against him as a lone elk, he thrived, finding sustenance and shelter within the protected lands of Point Reyes. People flocked to witness this extraordinary elk and he became quite the celebrity.
Tragically, he was struck by lightning in 1999, but his legacy lives on. Today, Point Reyes continues to be a sanctuary for tule elk, with multiple herds thriving in the area. Mr. Tule's story serves as a reminder of the profound impact a single creature can have and the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world. His presence in Point Reyes will always be cherished, inspiring efforts to conserve the remarkable wildlife that calls this coastal region home.
As the sun sets over Point Reyes, painting the sky with vibrant hues, you'll find yourself lost in the enchanting atmosphere that surrounds this coastal haven. Consider ending your day by indulging in the local culinary delights, sampling fresh seafood or artisanal cheeses from the area. Prepare to be captivated, inspired, and rejuvenated as you navigate the winding roads of this coastal gem.
If you're planning to visit many parks, a National Parks Annual Pass is recommended for access to more than 2,000 parks nation wide.If you want to see gray whales, visit between December and April during their annual migration. Elephant seals can be seen from December to March, and Tule elk are most active during their mating season in September and October. Birdwatching is good year-round, but the winter months are particularly good for spotting migratory birds. Got a tip to share for this route? Send us yours! All roads are sealed. View current alerts and warnings for Point Reyes and Muir Woods Forest. For other areas check with local authorities and on-site signage.
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