Point Reyes National Seashore has some of the most diverse coastal scenery in the Northern California area. The park is huge, 111 square miles in fact. And within those miles, you can visit beaches both rocky and sandy, trails that meet the beach and others that traverse the rocky cliffs next to the crashing waves. You can also miss the water all together and hike the coastal hills. If you’re really adventurous and are willing to pack your camping gear, you can manage to do all three.
I have fond memories of Point Reyes. It’s one of the first places I ever took my boys backpacking. It’s also where we like to take my mother-in-law when she wants to reconnect with the ocean. And this latest trip, my mother wanted to share the hike out to Chimney Rock with me. It may not be home, but Point Reyes evokes strong feelings of family.
Although it was late spring, we were hoping to see some of the marvelous wildflowers that grow along the trail. With luck, we not only had wildflowers, we had beautiful clear skies and stunning aqua and marine blue water with only the occasional threat of incoming fog. It was near magical to watch the fog layer roll in across the cliffs, slowly pass us by and then obscure the headlands in the distance. At times, we could pretend that we were on a lonely island rather than on a spit of land jutting out in between the Pacific Ocean and Drakes Bay.
From the Point Reyes Visitor’s Center to the Chimney Rock trail head, there is a 45 minute drive through historic high coastal ranch land. It used to be that the best butter and cheeses served in San Francisco and Marin came from these farms. Today, at least one farm proudly advertises its Organic Clover Farms partnership and still operates a functioning dairy. Other ranches raise beef cattle. The National Park leases the land to these modern day ranchers, fostering a unique federal/local partnership that seems to work very well.
The actual trailhead is at the end of a one lane road. We visited early afternoon on a Tuesday and practically had the trail to ourselves. There were only a couple of other cars and we passed few people as we hiked. The hike itself is a short one, about 1.5 miles round trip. At the end of the trail, you feel like you’ve reached the end of the world. Only a fence stands between you and the ocean.
The wildflowers weren’t in peak bloom but we saw enough beautiful late flowers that we weren’t disappointed. Add to that the beautiful golden grasses blowing in the wind, the fresh sea air, the lone owl who launched himself from the branches of the stately cypress trees faster than we could take his picture, the tern that circled the coast hunting small fish, the sounds of the elephant seals, and the casual back and forth conversation that only take place on a casual hike in a beautiful place and it was a near perfect day.