Hike the Estero Trail

San Francisco Estero Trailhead

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An 8 mile out-and-back Point Reyes National Seashore hike (8.4 if you check out the rocky beach at the mouth of the Drake Estero) in full sun through rolling hills, grassy marshland, and a bevy of grazing cattle.

June sunshine blazes on your shoulders during this scenic stroll through the Point Reyes Seashore. The trail is alive and awash with colorful wildflowers around every corner.

Beginning at the trailhead, just off Home Ranch Road, with a convenient parking lot and bathroom, you'll wade through a half mile of waist high grass, until you reach an oasis of pine forest. Slather on the sunscreen, as this is the last shade you'll enjoy for the next 7.5 miles.

Exiting the pine forest, you'll come to a charming bridge perfect for a photo-op with your traveling companion. Make sure to check out the crabs that skitter in the shallows of the estuary below. You'll climb up and down several hills, with hundreds of scenic vistas available in every direction.

Around mile 2.5, the Estero Trail forks off to the south, eventually joining up with Drake's Head Trail, about .6 of a mile. If you continue west on the Sunset Beach Trail, you'll find yourself passing herds of docile Black Angus as you wind down towards the waves. Keep your eyes peeled, or else you'll almost certainly step in a cow patty.

Another 1.4 miles gone and the trail opens up to a vast grassland with the ocean visible in the distance between the sheltering bluffs of the estero. The trail runs out at a muddy strip of sand, where giant man o' war jellyfish are often washed up after storms. Pick your way carefully through the rocks, watching for otters who weasel in and out of the marine detritus, leaving telltale prints in the dark, soft sand. On a warm and windless day at low tide, you can splash in the shallows between the Limantour Spit and the jutting bluffs to meet up with the Drake's Head Trail to form a longer loop, or simply pick up Sunset Beach to head back north to your car.

On your way home, stop by the Marshall Store in Inverness for an eclectic selection of snacks to enjoy as the sun sets over Tomales Bay.

No permits or fees are required. Maps can be picked up at the Bear Valley Visitor Center (1 Bear Valley Rd, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956), or pick up Point Reyes Hiking and Biking Trail Map from REI (highly recommended for a variety of adventures), or refer to pg 67 of Jane Huber's "60 Hikes in 60 Days,' Menasha Ridge Press.

Pack List

  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Water (this entire hike is in the full sun)
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Activities:

Chillin, Photography, Hiking, Fitness

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

8 Miles

Elev. Gain:

200 Feet

Rating:

Features:

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

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How to Get There

3 months ago

Great Hike

Choose the sunset beach trail when you come to the fork 2.5 miles in. There are cows

3 months ago

Added by Aja Pete

I'm that girl you find on every trail crouched in the loam trying to get a macro shot of a banana slug.

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