Thursday, March 31, 2011

Point Reyes National Seashore, Palomarin Backpack Loop

point reyes ocean lakes

Our first day in the south of Point Reyes was all climbing and hiking through thick forest on Bolinas Ridge. On the second we took in the sun on the open coastal trails and an unseasonably warm winter afternoon. We followed the Coast Trail through wildcat camp to Alamere Falls and past the many Ocean Lakes dotting the area finally arriving where we began.


Difficulty - Moderate
Length - 17.5mi
Crowds - Busy
Fees - Free
Best Season(s) - Summer, Spring, Winter, Fall
Get Directions

Day 2:

Alamere Falls & The Ocean Lakes

Jump to Day 1: Bolinas Ridge to Glen Camp

An obnoxious group near us kept me awake until 1am, somehow beylah managed to sleep through their yelling in the middle of the night but I awoke the next day groggy. Fortunately I had decided to experiment by dragging my heavy moka pot up the trail so I could have fresh espresso in the morning. (Side Note: At 3lbs for the stove top espresso maker, the decision was a good one. I probably couldn't afford the weight on a multi-day sierra trek but for a moderate trip in Point Reyes the weight was well worth it.)

Frost on early blooming Forget-me-Nots.

Beylah hiking down the trail first thing in the morning.

After coffee and breakfast we headed out with the morning fog still lifting. We hiked towards Wildcat Camp, another backpack camp along the coast. The trail did a short climb back up to the trail junction then continuing through the thick forest it slowly started crawling down the ridge. The rising morning sun lit the backs of the trees as it climbed its way up to its afternoon position giving the whole forest a golden glow.

The trail opened up and subsequently began to descend rapidly as we approached Wildcat camp. Through the fog we could see down into the bottom of the basin where the camp was, located in a small field.

Point Reyes Pines
Morning light filtering through the pines.

Wildcat Camp
Wildcat camp and ocean breakers through the fog.

Forest Canopy
Old Mans Beard draped off branches blowing in the fog.

By the time the trail finally leveled off in the camp our toes were thoroughly jammed into the front of our boots. We dumped our packs at the edge of the beach in a shady spot near the creek that ran through camp.

Wildcat Beach
Seagull flying over breakers on Wildcat Beach.

We lightly walked across the beach hiking roughly a mile up to Alamere Falls through the sand. The falls can also be reached from the top via the coast trail but we wanted to see it from the bottom where the water splashes down into the sand. Several groups hiked past us as we worked our way up the beach but by the time we reached the falls we had it just about to ourselves. With a massive group coming up behind us though (probably 50 people) we cleared out after snapping a few photos and enjoying the scenery for only about 10 minutes.

alamere falls and creek
Alamere Falls

alamere falls

wildcat beach
Beylah holding up a heart shaped rock.

Hiking through the sand took its toll on us. The sun was glaring down on us as well and we were overheating in our thermal base layers on the 70 degree January afternoon. We wolfed down a package of smoked salmon (which was delicious!) and a bag of trail mix while guzzling water.

After the exhausting Alamere detour we shoulded our packs and started up the coast trail. The trail climbed up a small hill and we forked off onto the Ocean Lakes trail gaining a few hundred feet to a small overlook which offered the best view we’ve found in Point Reyes. We relaxed for a few minutes before snaking our way down the hill again. We passed the first lake crawling over the ungulating terrain.

ocean lakes trail overlook
The view up the coast from the Ocean Lakes Trail overlook.

Mile after mile passed as we worked our way up the coast. We passed lake after lake and although they were all very interesting the tall grasses around most of them blocked any great views from the bank.

I was hiking faster than Beylah and was 20 seconds or so ahead of her when a Coyote suddenly popped out of the bushes about 20 feet from where I was paused. Both of us stopped dead in our tracks. We made eye contact for a second or two as we both processed the situation then before I had formulated my response he took off up the trail. Bey turned the corner a few seconds later once the trail was clear.

We kept moving on over the basically level terrain as we approached the last junction passing several small more small lakes. These last few, although the smallest were my favorites. Perhaps it was the afternoon light and the long shadows but the last lake in particular had an enchanting quality to it. We sat for a few minutes, resting our now pretty weary legs and basking sun.

Ocean Lakes
Twin Pines near the last of the lakes.

Ocean lakes 2
Beylah waiting patiently by the last lake while I take photos.

We continued on down the last leg of the hike, back over the terrain we began the hike on the previous day. We stopped to enjoy some of the first wildflowers of the season, the occasional poppy and iris dotted the trail.

Looking back over the landscape on the final mile of trail.

Finally we cruised through the eucalyptus grove and heard the honk of a car horn in the parking lot. It was a relief to get off the now crowded trail and back to the car. Beylah lead us as we stretched after the hike loosning up our calves, shoulders, and sore backs. A couple hours later and we were back home, refreshed and excited for the work week ahead.

Jump to Day 1: Bolinas Ridge to Glen Camp


  1. Lovely. And just think, this is practically my "side yard."

  2. Iris, are you located in Bolinas?

  3. It is nice to see how much water was flowing over Alamere Falls in March. We saw a much lower flow when we hiked there in May. I'll have to go back there earlier in the spring next time!
    Hiking the Coast Trail at Point Reyes to Alamere Falls - BRT Insights.

  4. I was actually there in late February the post is dated march because it usually takes me a awhile to get the post written, photos edited and selected, etc.

    The flow looked fairly strong still in your post - it turns into a trickle in the summer.

    I'd also highly recommended visiting Kelham Beach, there is another waterfall there that pours onto the beach (it's north along the coast trail) -