"To cross this valley to the peninsula (Point Reyes) is to leave modern California and enter an island of wilderness, forgotten by progress, a quiet land misplaced in a noisy world." -Stephen Trimble
Its getting more and more difficult to find a beautiful and serene beach that isn't packed full of tourists and sunbathers. Furthermore, when such a place is "discovered" it is quickly devastated by an onslaught of resorts and tours. Yet, for the wayward adventurer who does not mind a walk in the woods, there is still Point Reyes.
|Lonely footprints on a wild beach|
Point Reyes is located only about 25 miles north of San Francisco and couldn't be more different than the hustle and noise of the city. Its a slice of Northern California that has been and will always be wild and uncivilized. Point Reyes National Seashore, preserved by the US Park System, encompasses a large stretch of rugged shoreline that contains rocky shoals, sandy beaches, dense forests, plenty of lakes and wildly green landscapes. Best of all, it is only accessible by long hikes; no roads, cars, airplanes, hovercrafts, rocket ships, UFO's or other motorized systems can reach these beaches. You can be sure that everyone at the beach is as much of a hiking enthusiast as you are.
|The actual Point Reyes on a particularly clear day|
Northern California coastal areas are characterized by a certain degree of rugged beauty. There are many beaches and areas that are completely inaccessible. Unlike the gently flowing beaches elsewhere in America, you can expect to be climbing a significant amount of elevation after leaving the visitor center before descending to the shore. Also, this is one of the wettest areas of the country; fog, rain, dew and mist are ubiquitous and the weather can turn foul instantly. However, while we may term this phenomenon as "bad weather", it has created a vibrant and lush ecosystem that displays every shade of green you could possibly imagine. Life near the shore is similar to a rainforest; it is dense, diverse, and very wet. Therefore a very unique beauty exists in the park and the website reports that over 1,000 species of plants and animals exist in a space that is about the same size as the Bay area. Hikers will be treated to both empty, serene beaches as well as noisy and bountiful forests. It is by far my favorite coastal area of the West and I've certainly seen my fair share of remote Pacific beaches.
|The quintessentially rugged coast of Northern California|
|You can have an entire beach all to yourself out here|
Backpacking is probably the best way to explore Point Reyes. This is because it usually takes most of the day to even reach the beach but also because the trails are scenic enough to prevent rushing. First, go to the National Park Website and find the park's map of Point Reyes. I've done every trail in the park and there really isn't a wrong way to go. I've loved hiking up to the tallest point in the park, Mt. Whittenberg (1,407ft) and then descending into Coast Camp. This camp is usually very empty. This also will put you in great position to do the Coast Trail which is an absolute must when visiting Point Reyes. From here, you can view both the sandy beaches and the rugged coast of the area.
|Looking Northeast from the actual Point Reyes|
So, if you live in San Francisco, or would just like to see a more solitary beach for once in a while, point your car north on highway 101 and just head 30 miles out of San Francisco. Pull in to the Bear Valley Visitor Center and tell them that Joe sent you.... well, just tell them you want to see the beach.
Read. Plan. Get Out There!