The Tomales Point trail at Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the most amazing hikes on the California Coast – it takes you along amazing vistas over the ocean, and most days, you can spot some elk grazing amongst the wildflower meadows!
This guide will tell you everything you need to hike the Tomales Point trail, including what to bring, how to prepare, and more!
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About the Tomales Point Trail
Here’s what you need to know before you hit the trail!
Tomales Point Hike Stats
Distance: 9.4 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,177 feet
Leave No Trace on the Tomales Point Trail
Anytime you’re outdoors, whether you’re a beginner hiker or an experienced adventurer, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to the environment that will take the earth years, even decades to repair.
This trail is fairly popular – and while I firmly believe everyone deserves to enjoy these amazing spots, do your part to make sure it stays clean and beautiful!
Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature, as much as it’s possible to do so. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you hike the Tomales Point trail!
- Plan ahead and prepare – read this guide, make sure you know have the right gear, and be prepared for the hike!
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces – stay on the trail to avoid trampling grasses and plants! Sections of it can be overgrown, so try to stick to established wider paths when possible to preserve the plantlife.
- Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash, or anything else, behind. Pack it out!
- Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock or leaf, but leave these things where they belong! Animals often use these, and if everyone takes one, the trail won’t be as pretty.
- Minimize campfire impacts – no campfires are allowed on the trail.
- Respect wildlife – there’s a lot of wildlife on this trail. Never approach them, and never feed the animals!
- Be considerate of other visitors – yield to uphill hikers, and be respectful – no speakers or loud music.
The Best Time to Hike the Tomales Point Trail
The weather is pretty ideal year round on this hike! It’s close to San Francisco, and the Bay Area climate is pretty mild. Summers are typically the most popular time for hiking, but I think the best time to hike the Tomales Point trail is spring or fall, when it’s less hot out! You can also enjoy this trail in the winter, but it’ll be a little chilly, and there are more rainy days. No matter when you hike, the coastal breeze makes it feel colder, so a windbreaker is always a good idea!
What to Bring to Hike the Tomales Point Trail
When you hike the Tomales Point trail, here’s what you’ll need to bring!
This hike isn’t very technical, but with the long distance, comfortable hiking boots or shoes will definitely help!
My favorite hiking boots are my Danner boots – they’re cute, comfortable, and waterproof! I also love hiking in my Chacos, but for this hike I went with Luna sandals – they’re a barefoot shoe designed for adventuring, and can provide better ground feel.
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When you’re exploring on the California Coast, layers are always a good idea! Being near the ocean can mean there’s often a breeze, which can be pretty cold, even on warm days.
The North Face Class V Windbreaker is a great lightweight, packable option for exploring. The RVCA Meyer Packable Anorack Jacket is another cute windbreaker , and folds up nice and small! For added warmth and layering, add a a Patagonia fleece.
When I’m bringing my camera gear, my favorite backpack is the Alex Strohl Mountain Light. It’s definitely the best camera bag out there for hiking with photo gear. If you don’t need storage for camera stuff, I recommend an Osprey Hikelite. If you aren’t bringing very much and just want a day bag, I love my Topo Designs Y-Pack for carrying everyday essentials!
Especially when you’re hiking or exploring outdoors, it’s important to stay hydrated! Single use water bottles are, of course, terrible for the environment, so avoid that and bring a reusable one!
For hiking, the CamelBak water reservoirs are convenient and easy – they can fit in your hiking backpack for water on the go. Nalgene water bottles are great for day to day, and if you want an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold and refreshing, Hydro Flasks are the best!
Tomales Point Trailhead
The Tomales Point trailhead is located at the northernmost point of the Point Reyes Peninsula. From San Francisco, it’s about 60 miles north. Once you turn off of Highway 1, the road is pretty remote, so you’ll get some good views along the way! Follow Sir Francis Drake Blvd until it joins Pierce Point Road, and keep driving until you get to the very end of the road, where there’s the parking lot and a sign for the Tomales Point trailhead.
Tomales Point Trailhead Coordinates: 38.18916,-122.95418
Hiking the Tomales Point Trail
Once you’re ready to start hiking, here’s what you can expect on the trail!
The hike is pretty long, but there isn’t too much elevation gain. It’s a nice challenge, but not too difficult if you have some hiking experience!
The Tomales Point hike begins at the parking lot, where you’ll see the historic Pierce Point Ranch. You can learn a little about the history of the ranch by looking around the buildings and reading some of the plaques. Then, start hiking on the sandy trail!
The first mile is pretty flat, and you’ll have amazing view right away. The ocean is to your left, with gorgeous cliffs towering over it.
After the first mile, you’ll climb up a little incline. At the top is the highest point of the trail – after this, you’ll go down, and this is where the trail is pretty steep! No problem on the way there, but you’ll be going uphill on the way back :).
Down in this valley is the most common place for elk to hang out, though they can often be seen along the entire trail.
It’s important to know that elk aren’t like deer – they can get aggressive! Don’t worry – the elk on the Tomales Point trail are pretty used to seeing humans around, and they won’t bother you as long as you don’t bother them, and they likely won’t care that you’re there at all. But, always be cautious! Never, ever approach wildlife, don’t feed them (it’s terrible for their stomachs, and can cause aggression), and stay at least 100 feet away.
Sometimes, the elk do walk right on the trail! If this happens, give them space and walk around if possible, or wait for them to pass if they’re already on the move. A good rule of thumb with wildlife is that if they’re reacting to your presence, you’re too close – if you notice that they’re paying attention to you, keep walking quietly and try to get farther away.
At about 3.2 miles into the trail, you’ll start going uphill again. Up until now, the trail has been pretty well maintained and easy to walk on, but here it gets soft and sandy, and is overgrown in spots! Try to stick to wider paths when possible to avoid damaging the plants, and make your way up – though the soft sand can make this part challenging, you’re close to the end and it’ll be so worth it.
At the top, be careful when you’re close to the edge – the cliffs can be fragile. There are a few overlooks, so be sure to walk around and enjoy the views!
Once you’re ready, head back to the trailhead!
Where to Stay Near The Tomales Point Trail
You can turn your hike into a little getaway, and stay somewhere close by! Here are my favorite options for places to stay close to this hike.
Glamping, Cabins, & Yurts
You can even get $10 off your first booking here!
A Camper van
With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb – you can rent vans, RVs, and trailers from people who live nearby!
Find a Campsite
Whether you car camp, tent camp, or rent a tiny home on wheels, The Dyrt is the best way to find campsites! There are some options for campsites at the Point Reyes National seashore, and you can also find free camping nearby.
An Oceanfront HomeThere
There are lots of places to stay near the Tomales Point trail and at the Point Reyes National Seashore! Check out this hostel right on the peninsula, stay in a unique tree house super close to the hike, or rent a vacation home with a view of the beach.
For more places to stay near the hike, look around this map:
More Adventures Near The Tomales Point Trail
The Tomales Point hike is a great stop on a road trip along the California Coast, and it can also be a great day trip from San Francisco! The Land’s End trail is a great place to check out if you’re in the city, and Monterey is one of the best places in the country for scuba diving!
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