Sunday, April 14, 2024

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Point Reyes National Seashore Is Just Outside San Francisco, But Feels Worlds Away — Our Guide

Rephrase my Emily Hart
San Francisco has long been a top US tourist destination, with its celebrated food, architecture, nature, and cultural scenes. And while I love a visit to the Golden Gate City, what I love even more is crossing the bridge and heading north along the rugged coastline to Point Reyes National Seashore. Travel just around 40 miles north of San Francisco, and you’re transported into an entirely different world—a world of beaches, wildlife, rolling hills, small towns, and seafood shacks.
I’ve been visiting Point Reyes and Marin County for years, usually in the slower winter months, and am continually surprised by it — in the best way. In fact, after visiting nearly every major US National Park and hundreds of National Park sites, it is always on my list of top recommendations for domestic travel. Here is what to do, where to stay, eat, and drink while you’re there:
Walk Under The Insta-Famous Cypress Tree Tunnel
Emily Hart
If you’ve been on Instagram lately, or… ever, you’ve undoubtedly seen a photo of the Cypress Tree Tunnel at Point Reyes. Arguably the most iconic spot in the park, the nearly 100-year-old Monterey Cypress tree tunnel is a must-stop photo opportunity.
After you grab some cool shots, be sure to walk the length of the tunnel to the historic Point Reyes Receiving Station and back – the road is closed to cars, so you can meander down the road at whatever pace you’d like. Parking is on the shoulder of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. I recommend visiting early or later in the day for the best light and hopefully fewer crowds.
Observe Elephant Seals at Drake’s Beach
Emily Hart
If I’m being honest, I mainly keep returning to Point Reyes National Seashore in the winter months to observe elephant seals. While northern elephant seals can be found throughout the year on the Point Reyes coastlines, the peak season for activity is during the winter months when they arrive onshore for birthing and mating.
Drakes Beach is the main spot for observation, where you’ll find barricades and volunteer docents on hand to answer questions. Depending on where the colony settles and the time of year, the entire beach can be closed for some time (like this year — currently, you can only access the parking lot from 10 am to 4 pm and stay behind the barricades leading to the beach), and access can be limited. If that stymies you, head to the Elephant Seal Overlook for a view from above. Just don’t forget your binoculars.
Hike Or Backpack

With around 150 miles of hiking trails, Point Reyes has many options. From day hikes to backpacking routes, there is a trail for any experience level. The most popular trail is definitely the expansive Tomales Point Trail, which has breathtaking coastal views. Chimney Rock is a much shorter option with the same incredible views; just be sure to arrive early, as parking is limited.
Have A Relaxing Beach Day
Emily Hart
With 80 miles of shorel for better SEO. 

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