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, historic structures, and tons of elk. That last one may catch you off guard, but 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 definitely 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.
- 10 miles round trip
- 1500 feet of elevation
- At least 45 minutes from the visitors center
- No shade
- This information is from my visit in 2016
- Read more about Point Reyes National Seashore here.
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.
Here is a video I made on the trail.
The trail starts right next to the historic Pierce Point Ranch, which is fun to see at the start of the hike.
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.
The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. It makes its way along rolling hills with better and better views as you continue.
The beginning of the trail hugs the hillside and lets you look down on McClure Beach.
When you come around the bend, you will see the coastline in front of you and a large hill you will have to climb.
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.
I saw a lone one off to the left, walking along the hillside, and it watched me as I headed up.
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 primarily blocked here, and you mostly just see the trail in front of you.
When you finally reach the end of this section, you will be looking down on one of the most beautiful parts of the trail.
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.
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 freshwater.
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.
Passing the shade tree section, you will start to climb again.
This steep portion is how it will be until you reach the top of the small hill and walk along its ridge.
You will then start walking through sand that is very annoying for the last mile of the hike.
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.
During this section, look off to the left, and you can see Bird Rock.
Bird Rock is white in color, I’m guessing from the poop, as there were hundreds of birds perched on it.
Heading on to the point, you will reach the bluffs right before you get there.
This is an impressive section for photos as you look down on this picturesque beach.
From here, you can head down the sandy trail to the point, but be sure to be careful as it can be slippery.
I made it to the end, with the only thing in front of me being birds perched on a rock below and the ocean.
It was a beautiful area with excellent 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 take in.
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.
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, but it is a long journey at 10 miles total. Let me know if you have been on it and if you saw a lot of elk as well in the comments.