Tomales Point Hike: Seeing Tule Elk in Point Reyes National Seashore

Tomales Point, in the upper part of Point Reyes National Seashore, is one of the best hikes in the Bay Area. It has everything you could want in a hike: coastal views, massive vistas, historic structures and tons of elk. That last one my catch you off gaurd, but the area that Tomales Point is in is a large portion of the elk reserve at the northern tip of Point Reyes. This is one of those hikes you really want to do, as it is so unique to be with these massive creatures. Here is all the information so you can do it yourself.

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Details

  • 10 miles round trip
  • 1500 feet of elevation
  • At least 45 minutes from the visitors center
  • No shade

Getting There

The trailhead for the Tomales Point hike is located all the way at the northern tip of Point Reyes. The only thing further then it is McClures Beach. The road is windy and slow going, but the parking lot has room for two dozen cars, plus more parking in the dirt outside of it.

Video

The Trail

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The trial starts right next to the historic Pierce Point Ranch, which is fun to check out in its own right.

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I would recommend walking through the ranch at the start or end of your hike as there are a lot of old buildings and plaques to see. After exploring the ranch, you can start the trail that you will be on for the next 4.7 miles.

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The trail itself is well maintained and easy to follow. It makes its way along rolling hills with better and better views as you proceed along.

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The beginning of the trail hugs the hillside and lets you look down on McClure Beach.

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When you come around you will see the coastline up in front of you and a large hill you will have to climb.

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This section is the first popular place for elk. As you head down to the dip in the trail you can often see them off to the right relaxing.

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I saw a lone one off to the left walking along the hillside and it watched me as I headed up.

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When you get to the top of the hill you will be walking along a flat section for the next half mile. The views are largely blocked here and you mostly just see the trail in front of you.

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When you finally reach the end of this section you will be looking down on one of the most pretty parts of the trail.

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This area has the coastline stretching out in front of you along with a small lake for elk and a section of shade trees below.

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As you walk down the hill be sure to look at the watering hole at around the 3 mile mark. This is one of the best places to see elk on the entire trail because it is their source of fresh water.

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I knew I would see a few but I was blown away to be greeted by 15 or so of them. I took a lot of pictures before heading on.

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Passing the shade trees section you will start to climb again.

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This is how it will be until you reach the top of this small hill and walk along its ridge.

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You will then start walking through sand that is very annoying for the last mile of the hike.

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The sand is fine when you are walking flat but it is tiring as you head up. You can see the point out in front of you but it seems like it is closer then it is.

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During this section, look off to the left and you can see Bird Rock.

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Bird Rock is white in color; I’m guessing from the poop, as there were hundreds of birds perched on it.

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Heading on to the point you will reach the bluffs right before you get there.

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This is an awesome section for photos as you look down on this picturesque beach.

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From here you can head down the sandy trail to the point but be sure to be careful as it can be slippery.

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I made it all the way to the end, with the only thing in front of me being birds perched on a rock below and the ocean.

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It was a beautiful area with awesome beaches on both sides of the point. It’s one of those places you can just sit and relax at since there is so much to see.

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I ate my lunch here and watched the birds fly around. Also, I didn’t see anyone else on this entire trail until I started to head back, so it was pretty cool to be able to be all alone out there.

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After taking it all in I started the 5-mile slog back to the car. It was a beautiful hike and one that I highly recommend. Let me know if you have been on it and if you saw a lot of elk as well in the comments.

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  • Thanks for sharing your photos you got some great wildlife ones! What lens were you using?

    • frieders3

      100-400mm in addition to my wider angle 24-105mm. All Canon

      • Thats an awesome set up and it got you some great shots!