Backpack the Glen Camp Loop via the Palomarin Trailhead
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Added by Jeff Driscoll
Experience all that Point Reyes has to offer in this relatively easy overnight backpacking trip that will take you on a loop along the coast and back through the lush forests.
Before heading to the trailhead, make sure to stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center to pick up your permit. 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
Once you have your permit, it's time to head to the Palomarin Trailhead. If you need directions, ask at the Visitor Center and they can give you a map.
The Palomarin trailhead is a popular day use spot so expect to have to park on the dusty road and walk to the trailhead. This could add up to a mile to your hike, so be prepared.
From the Palomarin trailhead, you'll follow the Coast Trail for about 0.1 miles before you reach the side trail to Palomarin Beach. I chose to wait until Wildcat Beach to get some beach time so, I skipped this side trail. After the junction with Palomarin Beach, you'll hike for about 2 miles until you reach the junction with the Lake Ranch Trail. This is the trail you'll be taking on your way back so make note of it.
Continue following the Coast Trail and you're about to go by some beautiful coastal lakes over the next several miles. In the next 1.5 miles, you'll come across Bass Lake (above), and Pelican Lake (above), along with the junction for Alamere Falls.
During the time of year that I was here, the trail to Alamere Falls looked badly overrun with vegetation, and it would add about 1 mile to the trip, so we skipped it this time and figured we'd come back to see it on a future day hike.
We continued along the Coast Trail 0.6 miles until we got to the junction with the Ocean Lake Trail or the higher option that would take us to the Old Out Road. Both meet back up though at Wildcat Camp. We chose to take the Ocean Lake Trail, which made it 1.3 miles to Wildcat Beach and our spot for lunch. Be warned, the Ocean Lake Trail is an overrun, high grass, tick paradise, so check your clothing if you go through here when it is overrun.
Once you pass Ocean Lake, you will hike up a steep hillside to a gorgeous overlook with a bench. From here you have views back over the coastline, you have been hiking, and if you look closely on the beach, you can also see Alamere Falls crashing down on the beach (above). You also have views the other direction over the rest of Drake's Bay.
We took a small break at the top to take in the scenery and we were back off for Wildcat Camp. Once we got there, we ate lunch, drank our beer, and headed down to the beach to relax for a bit and check out the beach (see above).
You could camp at Wildcat Camp, making Day 1 much easier and break this loop up into a 2-night trip. However, the sites at Wildcat Camp are all in the middle of a grassy bluff that could get windy and doesn't have much privacy or shade. I prefer the longer day checking out the scenery and making it a hike I can easily do in a weekend.
From Wildcat Beach, it's a long uphill hike where you will gain approximately 750 feet over the next 2.5 miles on your way to Glen Camp, your destination for the night. From here the trail is also the Stewart Trail, which is basically a fire road used to pick up trash and do maintenance at Wildcat Camp.
Glen Camp has bathrooms and water down by an open meadow that also has several campsites. I like the campsites back up under the tree canopy that are out of sight, site 5 is my favorite (pictured above). Once you are at camp, you can hang out and relax. We brought some wine and enjoyed BBQ'ing hot dogs. It felt like a luxurious first day of a backpacking trip.
Wake up on day 2 to the sunlight filtering through the forest onto your campsite. You'll be spending a lot of time today in the forest, and the mountains as you begin your trip back to the Palomarin Trailhead via primarily the Ridge Trail and the Lake Ranch Trail.
Once you've eaten breakfast and are packed up and ready to hit the trail, you'll want to go back out to the fire road you came in on and head back up the hill approximately 1/2 a mile to the Greenpicker Trail which will come in on your left. Take the Greenpicker Trail for about 1 mile until you reach a junction. You'll take a short side trail to the left which will bring you back to the fire road, and the Ridge Trail will begin on the other side of the fire road.
You'll take the Ridge Trail for about 1/2 a mile until you reach another junction with the fire road. These last few junctions can be a bit confusing as there are short side trails here and there. Just make sure to take a map and you should be able to navigate these intersections easily. From the last intersection stay on the Ridge Trail for about another mile until you reach the junction with the Lake Ranch Trail. If you recall, you passed the Lake Ranch Trail on the way in and now you'll be heading back down from the mountains towards the Coast Trail. Don't worry though, you'll hike through lots of beautiful forests and scenery before you reach the Coast Trail.
Once you are on the Lake Ranch Trail, you'll take it for 3 miles until you reach the Coast Trail again. Within the first 1/2 a mile you'll head downhill to Mud Lake (above). Mud Lake actually should be called Reed Lake because of all the reeds that are growing from it. It's more like a swampy bog than a muddy lake, but it is still beautiful. After Mud Lake, you'll head back uphill for a short bit and then down through some beautiful tunnels created by the trees and overgrowth (pictured above)
As you continue down the Lake Ranch Trail towards the Coast Trail, you'll see the forest start to thin and the ocean will start to come into view. You'll also get a chance to see Crystal Lake which you missed on the way in.
Once you reach the Coast Trail, you'll turn left and take it for approximately 2.2 miles back to the trailhead and your car. If you're smart like we were, leave a few beers in an ice chest in the car and have a nice cold one to celebrate the beautiful hike. Enjoy!!!
- Permits: www.recreation.gov
- Sun Protection
- Extra Layers
- First Aid
- Fire Starter
- Water Bottle/Bladder
- Frozen Hotdogs/Burgers
- Adult Beverages
- Beach Shoes
- Beach Towel
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Hiking, Photography
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