Location: Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, CA
Miles: 8.6 miles
Duration: Full day
Users: Hikers and horses permitted. No dogs or mountain bikes. No wheelchair access.
Features: Alamere Falls, Bass Lake, Pelican Lake, swimming, ocean views, beach, wildlife (deer, rabbits, fox, birds), eucalyptus forest
Click here for directions. From Shoreline Hwy, turn (left if coming from Stinson, right if coming from Pt. Reyes) onto the unmarked street across from a sign reading “Olema Valley Golden Gate” and a barn with a red roof located about 5 miles (before if coming from Pt. Reyes, and after if coming from Stinson) from Stinson Beach. If you miss the turn, there is another turn about 100 yards away. Once on this road, you will eventually come to a farm stand on your left. Turn left onto Horseshoe Hill Rd. You will eventually pass a white school house on your right. Next turn a sharp right onto Mesa Road. If you pass a volunteer fire station on your right, you are going the right way. This road will eventually turn into gravel. You will pass the Point Reyes Bird Observatory on your left. Keep going until you reach the parking lot for the trail at the end of the road.
Hands down, this is my favorite in Marin County. This hike gives you access to one of only two tidefalls* in all of California, the other being McWay Falls in Big Sur. Though this hike is on the longer end, coming in at around 8.6 miles, it is mainly flat. As long as you bring food and water, this hike is not too taxing.
The trailhead, the Palomarin Trailhead, is easy to find – right behind the restrooms you will see a staircase. Turn left at the start of the staircase and begin your hike along the Coast Trail. This trail will take you all the waterfall.
The first two miles there are several climbs and declines. On your left you will come upon Bass Lake. There is a short detour on your left to get to the lake if you’d like to swim (you will see a sign for Bass Lake) . There’s usually a rope swing that is occasionally taken down by rangers, but promptly replaced by rope-swing enthusiasts.
Continue on the Coast trail for another ~2 miles. The terrain in this portion is mostly forested and flat. The next lake you will come upon on your left is Pelican Lake, which is not accessible to the public.
Soon you will see a sign directing you to the waterfall. Turn left onto this unmaintained path, and be prepared to hold back branches and climb over bushes and ferns! Though unmaintained, the foot-wide, overgrown path will still be visible, so you won’t get lost. Once you see the clay-cliffs, you’ve reached your destination! Keep climbing down until you reach the top of the falls. You may have to use your hands to hoist yourself down, and on the return to help you climb back up.
Note that this trail sign reads “Unmaintained trail: dangerous conditions”. I suggest bringing protective clothing or trashbags to cover and protect yourself from poison oak.
An alternate (and safe) route is offered by continuing straight (instead of turning left onto the unmaintained path) 1.3 miles to Wildcat Camp. Once you’ve reached the camp, hike to the beach, turn left (South), and walk along the shore for a mile to the base of the waterfall. This will make your trip 13 miles round-trip.
*waterfalls so close to the ocean they are referred to as “tidefalls”. The only other tidefall in California is McWay Falls in Big Sur