Point Reyes

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Point Reyes National Seashore is located about an hour north of San Francisco. Here lies a stretch of road-free coastline that is virtually unimpacted by humans. Aside from natural forces, it largely looks the way it did hundreds of years ago. The southern portion of the park contains the majority of the 150 mile trail network with lush forested mountains meeting rugged coastline. Much of this section of the park is designated as the Philip Burton Wilderness under the Federal Wilderness Act which, among other things, precludes organized trail runs.

Arch Rock

Arch Rock

I¬† studied the trail map and satellite in designing a long run that seemed to hit most of the highlights in the southern portion of the park. Reading hikers’ reports, it seemed improbable to cover the stretch of coastline from Sculptured Beach all the way to Alamere Falls in one day, but this is the beauty of adventure running!

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls

The run ended up being around 22 miles with 4,000+ of elevation gain and is definitely one of my favorites (map of route). The contrast between the fir-covered mountains and rugged coastline is a treat. I found the views to be even more stunning that I had imagined and the quality of trail running superb.


I started the run a little after 1 pm and the biggest hill climb in terms of elevation gain commenced almost immediately up the slopes of Mount Wittenberg. Mount Wittenberg  itself is overgrown precluding views, however, a path heading south from the saddle leads to an open area with magnificent views of Drakes Bay.

Mount Wittenberg Trail

Mount Wittenberg Trail

View of Drakes Bay near Mount Wittenberg

View of Drakes Bay near Mount Wittenberg

I continued from Mount Wittenberg down the forested Sky Trail and then the Woodward Valley Trail, which actually runs along a ridge as opposed to a valley. The views are great, especially towards the bottom of the Woodward Valley Trail. Once I reached the Coast Trail, I found 3.5 miles of relatively flat and fast running. I made two side trips to Sculptured Beach and Kelham Beach. Kelham beach is probably is one of the most remote beaches in Point Reyes. There is no sign for the beach, but the use path off the Coast Trail starts from a giant solitary eucalyptus tree.

Sky Trail

Sky Trail

Lower part of Woodward Valley Trail

Lower part of Woodward Valley Trail

Sculptured Beach

Rockery and sea cliffs

Sculptured Beach

Sculptured Beach

Rugged scene near Sculptured Beach

Rugged scene near Sculptured Beach

Kelham Beach

Kelham Beach

In low tide you can walk from Kelham Beach all the way to Arch Rock, but the tide was still too high so I climbed up the path back to the coast trail and continued to Arch rock. As the terminus of the popular Bear Valley Trail, Arch Rock is probably the most visited site in the southern portion of the park. However, the trail itself ends on top of the arch. The views are great, but to actually see the arch, you must scramble down another use path to the small cove. The tide was now just low enough that I didn’t have to get wet to snap some photos of the awesome arch.

View from atop Arch Rock

View from atop Arch Rock

Rugged coastline

Rugged coastline

Spectacular arch

Spectacular arch

The next section of the coast trail from Arch Rock to Wildcat camp is more difficult featuring a substantial hill climb of nearly 900 vertical feet but nice single track and views. The elevation is lost on the descent down to Wildcat Camp, which is situated in a small valley near the ocean and a nice spot to refill the water bottle. I was hoping to be able to run to Alamere Falls via Wildcat Beach and was happy to find that the tide would not be an issue. The section along the beach was awesome with views in every direction and the tumbling falls coming into better view as I approached it. Alamere Falls is truly picturesque!

Arch Rock

Arch Rock

View from Coastal Trail

View from Coastal Trail

Wildcat Beah

My tracks on Wildcat Beach

Alamere Falls and Wildcat Beach

Alamere Falls and Wildcat Beach

Getting closer to the falls

Getting closer to the falls

Alamere Falls

Picturesque Alamere Falls

Instead of running back on the beach to Wildcat Camp I decided to use the Coastal Trail and ascended the Alamere Falls use path up the cliffs. I heard this path is choked with poison oak so I made sure to slather on the Tecnu when I returned to my car. I enjoyed the afternoon sunlight as I returned back to Wildcat Camp and began the nearly 900 foot climb up towards Glen Camp. The Glen Camp area is heavily forested and lush and I enjoyed more single track on the Glen Trail down to Bear Valley. The last 3.2 miles along the Bear Valley Trail were relatively flat and this is where I saw most of the people along the course of the run.

Glen Trail

Glen Trail

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6 Responses to “Point Reyes”

  1. Buzz Says:

    Amazing route! If you have a Google Earth or TOPO route map please add it.

    The only time I’ve run out there I went to that lighthouse on the very tip. I’m surprised you got 4,000 vert out there; didn’t think the terrain went that high.

    Those are great photo’s especially thru the arch. The rest of us are getting jealous of Calif about now.

  2. pantilat Says:

    Thanks Buzz!

    I’m not on the software/gps bandwagon yet, but I posted an annotated map.
    http://pantilat.wordpress.com/files/2009/01/point-reyes-route2.jpg

    The terrain only goes up to 1,407 ft Mt. Wittenberg, but there are three hill climbs that start near sea level on the route. The first is the climb up Wittenberg, the second climb of ~850 ft vertical is along the Coast Trail out of Arch Rock towards Wildcat Camp, and the third major climb was also ~850 ft vertical when leaving Wildcat towards Glen Camp. The rest of the elevation gain was smaller “blips.”

    The lighthouse area (northern portion of the park) has much less relief and is characterized by grassland/dunes/estuary.

  3. jared Says:

    beautiful run

  4. Julie Says:

    Wow thanks for posting your run! Super beautiful…and inspiring.

  5. Speaking of great places to run … Point Reyes at The Daily Bounce Says:

    [...] been to Point Reyes a couple of times for day hikes (which on more than one occasion finished with a pint of Guinness [...]

  6. Bangkok Paul Says:

    I love Point Reyes – I used to visit there very often when I used to live in California. I am over here in Thailand now so too hard to get over there.

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