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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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Hiking
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Lake
Romantic
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Reviews

super close to the city and yet it feels a million miles away. great day hike, just make sure there isn't too much fog!

Alamere Falls is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Bay Area, and sees slightly less daily foot traffic than the Gold Gate Bridge. Despite its busyness, the hike from the Palomarin trailhead is nothing short of delightful. Things get intermediate when you hit the cliffs to climb down to the beach and the waterfall. Expect a backup on the single person trail that diverges from the Coast Trail down to the massive bluffs above the water. Be prepared to wait to climb down and to climb back up when your day is done. Plan for at least 2 hours to hike back to the parking lot. The weather is highly changeable, with the marine layer rolling in and dropping the temperature 20 degrees without warning. Camping can be found a few miles north at Wildcat, and is enjoyable in any season with the right gear. If you take this trail in late fall, you may just catch a glimpse of whales migrating to Baja through the Gulf of the Farallones, as well as the imposing profile of the islands beyond.

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