The hiking book: Hiking the San Francisco Bay Area (Falcon Guides)
The distance: 10.2 miles
The CityGirls rating: 7

Craving ocean and an escape from the city, we braved holiday-weekend crowds at Point Reyes National Seashore to hike Tomales Point. The weather was perfect as we drove up through Marin—a warm, sunny, spring-like day that reminds us just how lucky we are to live in the Bay Area.

Point Reyes National Seashore is a diffuse park with discrete sections of trails. We started at Pierce Point Ranch, an historic cattle ranch up near the tip of the park. While Piece Point Ranch is no longer operational, we passed a handful of other ranches, established in the late 1800s, that are still in operation.

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The hike up Tomales Point is pretty much a straight shot from the ranch. The trail begins by heading up to the top of the bluffs along the ocean’s edge, with an achingly beautiful view of the bright blue sky, the turquoise ocean, and the mottled green hills.

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As we got closer to the edge of the bluff, we could smell the salt and hear the surf against the rocks below. There’s something about sea air that invigorates and rejuvenates, and we soaked it in.

The middle part of the trail, once it left the edge of the bluff was much less exciting and clogged with other hikers, but we continued on, and the payoff was well worth it.

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We took the trail all the way out to the tip of Tomales Bluff, and it felt like the ends of the earth, with waves crashing, birds circling, wind whipping by, and the ocean stretching out endlessly to the west. There were a bunch of other people there, but the grandeur of the rocks and the waves eclipsed any feelings of crowding.

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It was beautiful and severe and wild and good for the soul.

birdsThe hiking book said this was a good trail for wildlife spotting, and spot wildlife we did. As soon as we got out on the bluff at the beginning of the hike, we saw a red tailed hawk darting and flitting above the scrub.

We often see vultures circling overhead when we go hiking, but hawk sightings are much more rare. This one flew along beside us and the beside the trail for a while, and we even saw it stoop and dive.

Out at the end of the Point we saw a whole bunch of shore birds sitting on the rocks, cleaning in the tidepools, and flying arcs along the bluffs.

The most exciting of these was the black oystercatcher, which has a bright orange beak. Really, what’s better than a bright orange beak?

Along with the oystercatcher, we saw cormorants and two species of gulls.

Tomales Point is also known for its population of tule elk, a subspecies endemic to northern California. The name tule elk comes from the marsh plant tule, on which the elk feed.

Tule elk were thought to be extinct in 1870s, when a small herd (less than 10!) were found near San Luis Obispo. The owner of the land where these elk were found protected them, and the population rebounded, leading to the need to resettle the elk elsewhere in California.

We were hoping to catch a glimpse of the elk, and as we hiked out to the point, we saw a couple herds of them on the hills in the distance.

On the way back we got an even better view, as the fog rolled in and the elk became less shy. We saw one herd that was just on the other side of a low rise from the trail—we could see their antlers and ears poking up behind the scrub. Farther along the trail, we came across another herd grazing not more than 50 feet off the side of the trail!

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HIKE NOTES
Ease of following designated hike: 10. There’s just the one trail from the ranch out to the end of the Point.
Best season to hike: Spring, fall, or spring-like days in mid-February. Definitely go when it’s clear.
Our hike time: 3.75 hours.
Solitude: 3. There were a couple spots early in the hike where we had the place to ourselves, but most of it was super crowded.