A spectacular meeting of land and ocean, Point Reyes National Seashore is one of my favorite places anywhere. Point Reyes has incredible variety from rugged beaches to waterfalls to lush forests. With nearly 150 miles of trails to explore, there always seems to be something new to experience on each visit. Most of the trail miles are within the Phillip Burton Wilderness, the only federally designated wilderness along California’s coast aside from the King Range Wilderness at Humboldt County’s Lost Coast. Covering 33,373 acres of wilderness and “potential’ wilderness, the road-less land encompasses nearly half of the total 71,070 acres of Point Reyes.
On this day I did a 27 mile run through central Point Reyes (route on Strava here). The first 8 miles was entirely on new trails (for me) within the estuary zone characterized by open grasslands, coastal scrub shallow tidal estuaries. I had previously overlooked this network of paths, preferring the forests and rugged coast further south, but these trails are great fun. From the estuary zone I headed up to Inverness Ridge via the Bayview Trail, a relatively moderate climb (compared to Drakes View or Bucklin Trails) with some nice bishop pine tunnels. The pine tunnels are the result of the Vision Fire in 1995 that turned these hillsides into ash. I imagine there were more views along these trails in the years following the fire, but since then the bishop pine forest has regenerated. The forest is extremely dense, even impenetrable, and is characteristic of bishop pine forests aged 10-20 years after a fire. In fact, bishop pine regeneration is largely dependent on fire as the cones typically remain closed without extreme heat. It’s fascinating to watch the “stand replacement regime” in progress and walk through these amazing vegetation tunnels. Once on the Sky Trail I continued along the ridge through Douglas fir forest and occasional views to the ocean. I ultimately made my way down Old Pine Trail to Bear Valley Trail, which is easily the most popular trail in Point Reyes. I finished the run along the coast taking the Coastal Trail between Arch Rock and Limantour Beach with many stops to explore the gorgeous coastal scenery including Kelham Beach, Sculptured Beach and Santa Maria Beach. I’m already looking forward to the next opportunity to visit Point Reyes!