Point Reyes National Seashore

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hiking
  • Bicycling
  • Picnic

Amenities

  • Visitor center
  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Accessible Parking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hiking
  • Bicycling

Information

Website:
nps.gov
Address:
1 Bear Valley Rd.
Region:
San Francisco Bay Area
Phone:
Info: (415) 464-5137 BearValleyvisitorcen
Hours:
Park: Daily, sunrise to midnight.
Bear Valley visitor center: Daily 9:30 am-5 pm
Lighthouse visitor center: Fri.-Sun., 10 am-4:30 pm
Dogs:
On leash
Last Reviewed:
June 2023
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This magnificent expanse of parkland is one of the nation's great treasures. Its 71,057 acres include rolling grasslands, forested ravines that open onto steep, rocky blufftops, broad beaches, lush salt marshes, and 600-foot-high granite promontories at the Point Reyes Headlands. Wildlife abounds—including a herd of tule elk, once hunted almost to extinction, that can often be spotted at the end of Pierce Point Road—and hiking trails extend more than 140 miles, although the terrain makes many of them inaccessible to wheelchair riders. A hostel provides accessible accommodations for overnight visitors.

The weather varies dramatically around Point Reyes and sudden changes should be expected. A sunny day on the east side of Inverness Ridge may be foggy and cold on the ocean side, and clearing fog often signals the onset of strong winds.

Bear Valley Visitor Center: This is the park's primary visitor center and a good place to begin your exploration. It offers displays and specimens of native wildlife mounted in dioramas, as well as a seismograph station monitoring activity along the San Andreas Fault. The multilevel interior is ramped, and displays are well conceived for use or viewing from a seated position. Movies about the shoreline and area history are shown on request. A wheelchair is available to visitors.

Lighthouse Visitor Center: At the end of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, about 45 minutes from Bear Valley, the Point Reyes Lighthouse stands on a rocky promontory at the western tip of the Point Reyes Peninsula. Built in 1870, it was retired from service in 1975, when it was replaced by an automated light. The lighthouse is not accessible, but the visitor center, on a cliff 300 feet above it, is. The center's displays and photographs offer a chance to learn about maritime history, marine life, shipwrecks, and lighthouse keepers. A paved path extends 100 feet beyond the visitor center to an accessible clifftop observation platform from which you might see gray whales passing offshore on their annual migrations between December and April.

Trails and Pathways

Trail:
Bear Valley Trail
Trailhead Location:
West of the parking lots at Bear Valley visitor center
Trail Length:
Over 4 total miles
Typical Width:
4 ft. & above
Typical Grade:
Mostly gentle
Typical Terrain:
Moderately Firm
Trail Overview:

The Bear Valley Trail begins just past the upper parking lot by the visitor center and travels west a little more than four miles to Arch Rock and the ocean; all but the last mile or so is accessible to wheelchair riders. This wide, hard-packed dirt trail follows Coast Creek as it winds under Douglas fir and other trees amid fern undergrowth. For the first 1.5 miles, the trail slopes gently but steadily uphill, becoming moderately steep for the last several hundred feet of that stretch. Manual wheelchair riders will get a good workout, but there are several level sections where you can rest. Gloves are helpful during extended braking. There were a few deep ruts to negotiate around along this stretch of the trail.

At 1.5 miles out, the trail enters the large and beautiful Divide Meadow, a good place to loll around or picnic. Beyond the meadow the trail travels down a gentle slope, following the creek through dappled shade. On my visit in late April, I saw wild iris, sticky monkeyflower, woodland star, and bleeding hearts blooming along the trail. I also saw plenty of stinging nettle—be sure to keep bare legs and arms well away from foliage. Although this is the park's most popular trail, there were few other hikers on a warm spring weekday, and the only sounds I heard were the burbling creek and birdsong.

About three miles out, you come to a bike rack and a juncture with the Baldy Trail. Here bike riders who want to continue to Arch Rock must leave their bikes behind, and this also marks the turnaround point for wheelchair riders, as the trail to Arch Rock is badly eroded and impassable.

Accessibility Notes: The trail is likely to be impassable during wet weather, and may remain muddy and rutted in places even when it is mostly dry.
Trail:
Abbotts Lagoon
Trailhead Location:
Off Pierce Point Rd. a little over three miles from Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Trail Length:
1-2 total miles
Typical Width:
30 in. to 4 ft.
Typical Grade:
Mostly gentle
Typical Terrain:
Moderately Firm
Trail Overview:

If you plan to visit the lighthouse at Point Reyes, consider making a detour down Pierce Point Road on the peninsula's north side to look for tule elk and take a short hike on the Abbotts Lagoon Trail. It was accessible for about a mile out when I visited in late April, although erosion from a wet winter can make it impassable. The broad, decomposed granite-and-dirt trail takes off from the west side of the parking lot, across from the restrooms, and travels through rolling grasslands dotted here and there with cattle. In the distance you can see Abbotts, a dune-sheltered, freshwater lagoon, and if it's not foggy, you'll catch glimpses of the ocean beyond.

You soon cross a wooden bridge next to a small pond; on my trip, a red-necked phalarope was splashing in the reeds here. Abbott's is a good place for spotting birds—coots, western grebes, hawks, osprey, and quail are common, and if you're very lucky you may spot a golden eagle. After the bridge, the trail climbs moderately to a broad, flat area with a bench and a view of the lagoon in the distance. A sign provides information about the coastal dunes. The trail then curves south, heading toward some hills, then west again to cross a marshy drainage via a wooden boardwalk. On my visit, bright yellow buttercups bloomed thickly in the seep to the right of the trail; on my left were luxuriant clumps of marshy grasses. Past the boardwalk the trail climbs steeply uphill to a viewpoint over the lagoon, then turns south again and approaches a fence line, where it became too narrow to navigate in a wheelchair.

Accessibility Notes: In some stretches, weeds growing along the trail narrow it to less than 30" but are possible to navigate across The trail may be impassable during wet weather

Amenities

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Accessible Parking:
Yes – designated accessible parking, van accessible, firm, level or slope no greater than 2%; Bear Valley Visitor Center: Several accessible spaces are in the paved lot and two are in the gravel lot that serves the picnic area across the road. Lighthouse Visitor Center: The paved lot that serves the visitor center is .2 mile from the center. With prior permission, if you have a disabled parking placard you can park closer to the visitor center. (call 415-669-1534 or 415-464-5100, x2 x5)

Accessible Restroom:
Yes – Accessible restrooms are at the lighthouse visitor center, outside the Bear Valley visitor center (toilet height is 20"), and in a building near the picnic area; an accessible vault toilet (no sink) is at Divide Meadow along the Bear Valley Trail (you must negotiate a steep lip onto the concrete pad). The unisex vault toilets at the Abbotts Lagoon trailhead are accessible but have no sinks.

Accessible Picnic Table:
Yes – firm & stable path to tables, firm & stable surface, 27" or greater knee clearance

Accessible Visitor Center:
Yes

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