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Alamere Falls via Palomarin Trailhead

Palomarin Trailhead, California

4.5/5
based on 51 reviews

Details

Distance

13.54 miles

Elevation Gain

1614 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Description

Added by Jake Young

Alamere Falls via the Palomarin Trailhead is a hike to a beautiful and rare waterfall (tidefall), plummeting 40ft until it reaches the ocean. This is the tallest waterfall in the bay area. Enjoy stunning views of the pacific combined with varying terrain through forests, tall brush, and exposed dirt trails. If you hike to falls during the summer, take a swim in Bass Lake on the way back to the trailhead.

The hike to Alamere falls is a 13.5 mile out-and-back in Point Reyes National Seashore located near Bolinas, CA, just about an hour north of San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Start at the Palomarin Trailhead located in the parking lot near the restrooms. After about 2 minutes on the trail, you'll see a map on your right that lays out the trail to the falls as well as a few campground (Sky, Wildcat, etc.). Don't be afraid to take a picture of the map if you're worried about getting lost or bring a copy of the map from the NPS website (it never hurts to have a reference). From there, the trail connects with Coast Trail and is pretty straight forward as you head to the falls. For the first couple of miles, the trail is fairly exposed and can get warm on sunny days. The second half of the hike prior to reaching the coast is covered and wooded.

To help maintain the natural area around the falls and to ensure a safer hike for you and anyone with you, the National Park service recommends that you hike to Wildcat Camp and then take the beach south back toward the waterfall. Once you get to the falls, take in the scenery, snap a few photos, and refuel, then it's back on the trail the way you came. If you want to cool off on the way back, stop at Bass Lake and go for a swim!

There is an optional shortcut to this hike, but it is not recommended or maintained by the National Park Service. There is a small trail with shrubbery and potential for contact with poison oak. As you get to the top of the falls, there are two steep parts. The first takes you just above the main part of the falls, where there are a few smaller waterfalls. From here, head further down the trail to get to the beach; this is where the main waterfall is located. This last descent is slippery with loose gravel and can get very crowded at times making this a very challenging area. 

If you're looking to grab a bite after this long trek, head to Mill Valley, specifically Avatars for some Punjabi burritos.

This hike is NOT dog friendly. No drones are allowed at Alamere Falls.

TIPS:

  • The parking lot at the trailhead can get pretty crowded and is often ticketed if you park improperly. Be sure to get there early (before 8am) or go on a weekday for a smaller crowd
  • The last mile driving up to the parking lot on Mesa Rd in Bolinas has many potholes, so higher clearance vehicle with AWD is preferred
  • Palomarin trailhead has pit toilets and a trash can
  • Remember to check the tide levels before hiking from Wildcat Camp to Alamere Falls to ensure a lower tide and more accessible coastline
  • This is not a family-friendly hike given the distance and full-day of hiking 
  • If you want to make this an overnight trip, check the NPS website for updates on available campgrounds as well as permits. 
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Features

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Reviews

The turnoff to Alamere Falls is actually really easy to miss. We were caught up in conversation on the Coast trail and didn't see the mini sign on the left (also it has a ton of graffiti on it which doesn't help with visibility), and it's a pretty small gap between the bushes. We were pretty much almost to Wildcat camp before we asked someone for directions and were told to turn around. So keep your eyes peeled! Other than that--really beautiful hike with varied scenery. Awesome weather on a spring day. Highly recommend.

Five hour round trip (we took our time, you can definitely do it in way less). Fantastic hike about an hour north of the Golden Gate. Windy road to get to the trailhead (if you're coming from the south) and last mile of the road is gravel. Decent amount of parking space, but always better to start early. Trail begins with spectacular views of the ocean from high above the cliffs - you are exposed to the sun for the first half of the hike. Second half of the hike is mostly wooded and covered. No steep uphills or downhills until the very end by the waterfall. Be careful here: use all fours, common sense, and you'll be fine :) The waterfall is about 40 feet high, located on a pretty beach, and drains into the ocean which makes this fall unique. The water is cold but very refreshing (can't keep me out of the water). Take your time at the beach and soak it in. It's a really nice reward! Bring a snack/lunch for the beach, check weather for Bolinas, CA before you go, wear sunscreen, wear good walking/hiking shoes, and pack water (duh)!

No dogs allowed! We went on this app and the link and nothing said no dogs allowed but when we got there the ranger handling parking would not let us in with them. They are not allowed on the trail which we drove two hours to go to. We found another one to go to clearly not as amazing as everyone says this is but I wish that it has stated that somewhere when giving all the information

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Nearby

Glen Camp Loop via the Palomarin Trailhead

Bass Lake via Palomarin Trailhead

Point Reyes' Wildcat Camp via Coast Trail

Backpack to Coast Camp in Point Reyes via Palomarin Trailhead

Cataract Falls

Relax at Stinson Beach