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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RT Distance 8 Miles
Elevation Gain 200 Feet
Activities Chillin, Photography, Hiking, Fitness
Skill Level Beginner
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Beach
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Groups
River
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Beautiful Off the Beaten Path Trail

Not as much of a review as an update on trail closure and predator sightings. On 3/31/18 I hiked a section of the Estero Trail starting at the from the Glenbrook Trail where it meets the Muddy Hollow Road. Hiking south the Glenbrook Trail joins and come the Estero Trail 0.67 miles from Muddy Hollow Road. From there the trail continues south before bending back north where is splits about 2.15 miles after crossing the Glenbrook Trail. During this section I was able to get some great up-close views of a few Northern Harriers and also saw a couple Garter Snakes and a bunch of Tule Elk. Where the Estero Trail splits south and north (2.15 miles from the junction with the Glenbrook Trail, GPS 38.0425, -122.8888) the section that goes south is closed. There is a fence and what little remains of the trail is overgrown. Do not plan on going this way! The section that goes north seems to be mostly traveled by horses as I saw no other footprints, only horse prints, that is in addition to multiple the Mountain Lion prints I saw. After reaching the next junction with the Muddy Hollow Trail and turning left (northeast) toward Laguna Road I saw a sign at the end of Laguna Road warning of a recent Mountain Lion sighting. The recommendations on the warning were to not hike alone, don't crouch down, and down hike near dawn or dusk. Mountain Lions are ambush predators, so wearing sunglasses on the back of your head might also not be a bad idea. Overall it was a beautiful hike and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a more remote hike. I look forward to hiking the more western sections of the trail in the near future.

Great Hike

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


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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

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