Camping at Point Reyes Seashore, CA

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Best of the Adventure Adviser
Week of July 3-9, 1996

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Camping at Point Reyes Seashore, CA

Camping at Point Reyes Seashore, CA
Q: I have a boyfriend who's a workaholic. I'd like to take him hiking, mountain biking, and camping nearby, but I don't know of any places. I was thinking of Santa Cruz, but I wouldn't know where to take him. Since he works so much I'd like to show him as much as possible in as little time as possible. Any ideas?
Irma Franco
San Jose, CA
[email protected]
The windswept headlands of Drake's Beach at Point Reyes
A: You may want to forego Santa Cruz for a trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, a hilly, windswept headland about an hour's drive north of San Francisco. With six major beaches (there are plenty of secret beaches that come and go with the tides), four free hike-in campgrounds, and more than 140 miles of hiking and biking trails in neighboring Samuel Taylor State Park, you'll have to move quickly if you want to pack it all into an overnight trip. Your first stop should be Limantour Beach, on the peninsula's southern coast--one of the loveliest stretches of sand on Point Reyes. Once there, stretch your legs on a three-mile walk north for a view of Drakes Estero and its harbor seals, or hike south on the 20-mile Coastal Trail.

You can launch your kayak or canoe into Drakes Estero year-round, except during the March 15-June 30 seal pupping season. If you want to explore the area's network of fat-tire-friendly trails, stop by Trailhead Rental in Olema, about a half-mile south of the Bear Valley Visitor Center. They rent all-terrain bikes for $17-$20 a day (call 415-663-1958). Whale-watching is particularly good from the Point Reyes lighthouse at the end of Sir Francis Drake Highway. Built in 1870, the lighthouse is a quick ten-minute walk from the beach parking area. Before you go, be aware that last October a forest fire swept through about 12,000 acres of Point Reyes National Seashore; while this amounts to only about 16 percent of the park's total area, two campgrounds were closed due to damage. The good news is that the park's vegetation is well-adapted to fires, so there's already been considerable regrowth.

Because it's such an easy weekend trip from San Francisco, Point Reyes is a popular destination and its 44 campsites are usually reserved as much as two months in advance. To book your site, call the visitor center anytime Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon (415-663-1092 ). For more details, check out "Bona Fide Beaches" in the Destinations section of our June 1992 issue.

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