What’s Best: Coastal wilderness, with rugged beaches, a bird observatory, forested slopes pocketed with lakes, and a waterfall that empties into the sea.
Parking: From southern Marin: Take Hwy. 1-Stinson Beach exit from north of Sausalito and follow to north of Stinson Beach. Turn left on Olema-Bolinas Rd. From central Marin: Take Sir Francis Drake Blvd.-San Anselmo exit and follow through Fairfax to Hwy. 1 at Olema. Go south on Hwy. 1 for about 7.5 ml, and turn right on Olema-Bolinas Rd. From Bolinas Rd: Go left at Horseshoe Rd. stop sign, toward Bolinas. Turn right at Mesa Rd. stop sign and follow for 4 ml. to Palomarin parking at road’s end. Agency: Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes Bird Observatory loop (1 ml.); Palomarin Beach (up to Hike: 1.25 ml.); Palomarin Trailhead to: Abalone Point view (1.75 ml.), or Crystal Lake (7 ml.), or Alamere Falls (8 ml.)
The Point Reyes Bird Observatory is on your left about .75-miles after passing the seashore boundary on the way in to Palomarin parking. At the modest field station for this nonprofit research and conservation organization is an interesting interpretive display. From the observatory’s parking lot, the Fern Canyon Nature Trail dips down into a mossy Arroyo Hondo Creek canyon and loops back through dry woodland.
Palomarin Beach is rock-strewn, gravelly, and set against crumbling cliffs. You’ll find access about .5-mile beyond the bird observatory, before the parking lot at road’s end. Interpretive signs on the eroded road down explain the beach’s ecology.
For all Palomarin Trailhead hikes, head up the stairs from the parking area and go left on the Coast Trail. You start out among massive eucalyptus trees. Very soon you’ll pass a road on the left that leads to Palomarin Beach. After that, the trail emerges from the grove to open hills, with dwarf vegetation and big Pacific views.
PALOMARIN MAP SAN FRANCISCO Photo Gallery
The trail enters the Philip Burton Wilderness Area named for a congressman who, along with his brother then-Assemblyman John Burton, and many others, helped establish the GGNRA. Less than a mile from the trailhead, on an outside bend in the trail, you have a view of Abalone Point down to your left.
After crossing a bridge at the creek and heading inland about .75-mile, you pass the Lake Ranch Trail on your right keep left. For a mile-long stretch the trail stays away from ocean views, beginning up a rocky ramp and then burrowing through a forest with Douglas fir growing up from a jungly undergrowth. A series of lakelets, and then big Bass Lake will appear on your left, set well below the trail in a conifer forest. Crystal Lake is off-trail between two steep, forested ridges. Take the Crystal Lake Trail to your right, after passing Bass Lake but before reaching Pelican Lake.
To continue to Alamere Falls best seen in late winte or early spring bear left, passing Pelican Lake, which sits in open lands next to sea cliffs. Immediately after dropping down from the saddle at Pelican Lake, look to your left for a spur trail and don’t be confused by a preceding erosion ditch. The trail goes down the ravine above Alamere Creek. You come in above Alamere Falls, where several cascades fall into pools, before the runoff takes a three-
Only deer trails lead down to cascades and the beach; the last one is way to the right as you face the water. The big rock offshore is called Stormy Stack. Be Aware: The cliff edge at the falls is extremely unstable, as are the trails leading to the beach.