Backpack the Bear Valley to Coast Camp Loop

Rate this Adventure San Francisco Bear Valley Visitor Center

Added by Jeff Driscoll

Experience all that Point Reyes National Seashore has to offer with this loop that covers everything from sea level to the park's highest point.  

Permit and Trail Camp Info

To stay overnight in Point Reyes, you must stay at one of the Trail Camps.   Camping anywhere else in the park is not allowed.   

Permits for the Trail Camps can be booked up to 6 months in advance.  If you are looking to go on a weekend, then you'll want to start looking close to 6 months in advance.  If you are open to going on the weekdays, then you will find it much easier to get permits, sometimes as soon as the day before.   

To make reservations for a Trail Camp go to, www.recreation.gov

Day 1

Your first day begins with picking up your permit at the Bear Valley Visitor Center in Point Reyes.   They open at 9 am on weekends, and 10 am on weekdays, but you can arrange for an after-hours permit pickup if you contact them in advance.  For contact information, here is a link to their website, click here.  Please note, you can not reserve permits on their website and have to go to www.recreation.gov for permits.

Once you've picked up your permit, you'll set off along the Bear Valley Trail, which is located right next to the Bear Valley Visitor Center.   If you don't have a map, make sure to pick one up at the Visitor Center.   The first 1.6 miles of the trail will be a gradual climb along a wide fire road until you reach Divide Meadow.  You'll be hiking through the beautiful coastal mountains following a nice little creek so make sure to enjoy the shade and peaceful sounds of the forest (above).

Divide Meadow is a beautiful meadow with benches you can sit on to enjoy the scenery.  Divide Meadow is also the high point of today's journey so it will be mostly downhill from here to the coast.   Once on the coast you'll have some slight ups and downs as you hike along the coastline, but you won't climb back up into the mountains again until your hike out tomorrow. 

From Divide Meadow, it's about 2.4 miles to the junction with the Coast Trail.   Continue along the trail from Divide Meadow as you pass through the forest and follow a quiet little creek (above).  After about 2.4 miles of easy downhill hiking, you'll reach the junction with the Coast Trail and the trail to Arch Rock.

Arch Rock is beautiful and worth checking out, but as of 2016, the trail to Arch Rock is still closed due to a rockslide that killed someone in 2015.   

If you aren't able to make the side trip down to Arch Rock, you'll head right from this junction and begin following the Coast Trail all the way until you get to Coast Camp.  It's going to be approximately another five miles until you reach Coast Camp.   About a mile after turning onto the Coast Trail, you will encounter a side-trail for Kelham Beach.  This is a great spot to grab lunch!   The beach is beautiful, and there is a nice big tree near the junction for Kelham Beach that you can rest under if you want to get a break from the sun.

Once you are back on the trail, enjoy the breathtaking vistas of Drake's Bay as you hike the cliffs along the coastline (above).  If you happen to be hiking during the Humpback Whale migration season, keep your eyes peeled for them just off the coast as they come up for air.  We were lucky enough to see them migrating with their calves and saw them all day long.  

As you hike along the Coast Trail you'll eventually see a sign that leads down to Sculptured Beach, this means you are very close to Coast Camp and have maybe another mile and a half to go.  If the tide is low, you can head down to the beach here and follow it up to Coast Camp or stay on the trail.  I chose to remain on the trail and then visit the beach once I got to camp.  

As you roll into Coast Camp, you'll first pass the larger group sites, the restrooms, and the water spigot.  If you are staying in one of the smaller, more secluded sites, keep heading through the camp and the trail to these sites will be at the end of the camp on your right.   On your left at this junction is another trail that leads down to the beach (above).  I recommend setting up camp and spending the rest of the day on the beach until sunset. 

Day 2

Day 2 is going to have a lot more climbing than yesterday as you take a different way back to the Visitor Center by hiking up Mt. Whittenberg on the return loop.  Start your day by heading back along the Coast Trail until you reach the junction with the Woodward Valley Trail, approximately one mile from Coast Camp.  

When you reach the Woodward Valley Trail, turn left and start heading back up and into the mountains.  The Woodward Valley Trail will continue for two miles through some beautiful, lush, coastal mountains full of vegetation (above).  

After two miles on the Woodward Valley Trail, you will reach a junction with the Sky Trail.  Turn left here and follow the Sky Trail for .8 miles.  This will take you to a three-way intersection.  At the intersection follow the signs for Mt. Wittenberg and the Mt. Wittenberg Trail.   You'll proceed for approximately half a mile and reach another intersection.  You will have the option to follow a side trail up to the top of Mt. Wittenberg but due to the trees there is not much of a view, so don't expect the typical "summit views."  To get back to the trailhead, stay on the Mt. Wittenberg Trail and you'll eventually begin descending for another 2 miles until you reach the Bear Valley Trail.  From here turn left and it's a short .2 mile walk back to the trailhead and your car.    

Pack List

Required

  • Permits: www.recreation.gov
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Sun Protection
  • Extra Layers
  • Headlamp/Flashlight
  • First Aid
  • Fire Starter
  • Food
  • Water Bottle/Bladder

Recommended

  • Shelter/Tent
  • Charcoal
  • Frozen Hotdogs/Burgers
  • Adult Beverages
  • Camera
  • Swimsuit
  • Beach Shoes
  • Beach Towel

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Activities:

Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Year Round

Trail Type:

Loop

Distance:

15.09 Miles

Elev. Gain:

2834 Feet

Features:

Bathrooms
Beach
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Groups
Picnic Area
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Added by Jeff Driscoll

I want to help other people get outside and experience nature with their own eyes by using sites like this or my blog, www.frosworld.com. Just please leave nature as you found it by following leave no trace principles. Thanks!

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