Point Reyes National Seashore & Tomales Bay


South of Bodega, Highway 1 takes you inland for a little while, before returning to the coast along Tomales Bay, a long, narrow inlet of water.  On the other side of the bay is the a huge, triangular land mass that’s mostly made up of the Point Reyes National Seashore, and underneath the bay lies the infamous San Andreas Fault.

As I traveled along the water heading south on Highway 1, I debated on whether to drive out to Point Reyes, which is on the southern end of that triangle.  I knew it would be a long drive, and for what? to see another lighthouse?  But, it was a beautiful day, and I didn’t need to be in San Francisco for a few more hours (and at this point I was already in Marin County, which is just north of the city).  So when I reached Point Reyes Station, I took a right, and headed for the point.

It turns out, it’s a longer drive than I thought.  After that right turn at Pt. Reyes Station, you make another right once you’re on the peninsula, and travel north–across the water and parallel to Highway 1, which you just traveled down.  (Note the picture above. Hwy. 1 is on the opposite shore).  After about six miles, you reach a left turn, which takes you into the heart of the peninsula.  The road arcs up, out, and eventually down to the end, stopping just short of the Point Reyes lighthouse.

The final 15 miles or so to the point is simply a beautiful drive.  Along the way, you’re passing through rolling hills and dairy farmland, past several barns and silos that are still in use today.  A side road (which you see above) leads out to one of those farms, and beyond it, one of the inlets that stretch out like a 3-fingered claw from the Pacific.

All of the roads out here are narrow and bumpy, and there are dips and unexpected turns everywhere.  If all that doesn’t slow down, the occasional cow in the road or rough cattle guard crossing definitely will.

After bumping along for what seemed like forever, I finally came to the end.  Or at least, almost to the end.  Because I had arrived later in the day, the last 1/4 mile of the road (which led to the lighthouse) was closed.  From the parking area at the gate, I couldn’t even see the lighthouse.  For a moment, I considered walking the final distance.  I had, after all, driven so far, it seemed a shame not to make it all the way.  Then, I stepped out of my car, and discovered the wind was howling across the point.  There was no way I was walking anywhere.

I did take shelter on the leeward side of the point for just a moment, only to find I was not alone.  Look closely in the picture above…

… and you’ll see this family of deer, which had built a nest on the slope, safe from that wind.

Again I braved the wind, just long enough to take this picture.  This beach stretches on for miles–as far as you can see.  And the best part is, it’s almost completely untouched by man.  There are a couple of roads that provide access to park visitors, but on a blustery day like this one, you’d likely have several miles of Pacific coastline, all to yourself.

So that was it for Point Reyes.  I drove back around the arc, down the edge of Tomales Bay, and back across to the mainland–all the while driving faster than I should have, negotiating all those bumps and dips with a limited amount of caution.  I was, after all, in a race with the sun, hoping to make it to the Golden Gate Bridge just after sunset.

Back On Highway 1

This section of Highway 1 is no different than any other part.  It twists and turns, with one curve after another.  Eventually it turns inland, and meets up with US 101 for the trip across the Golden Gate Bridge.  But just before I left the coast, I got to watch the sun sink into the water, with the silhouette of the Marin Headlands nearby.  It was great.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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