Contact Point Reyes National Seashore, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956-9799 (tel. 415/464-5100, ext. 2; www.nps.gov/pore). Kathleen Goodwin and Richard Blair's Point Reyes Visions Guidebook (Color & Light Editions, 2004) is a handsome, photographically enhanced tome covering Point Reyes and vicinity.
As soon as you arrive at Point Reyes, stop at the Bear Valley Visitor Center on Bear Valley Road (look for the small sign posted just north of Olema on Hwy. 1). Pick up a free trail map, talk with the rangers about your plans, and check out the natural history and cultural displays. It's open daily year-round from 8 or 9am to 5 or 6pm (closed Dec 25). The Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center at Drakes Beach houses a 250-gallon saltwater aquarium and a 16-foot minke whale skeleton, among other exhibits. It's open only weekends and holidays (except Dec 25) from 10am to 5pm, as well as Monday in summer. The Lighthouse Visitor Center, at the westernmost point of the Point Reyes Peninsula, offers information on the lighthouse and life-saving services performed over the 125 years of its use, as well as natural history exhibits on whales, seals, and wildflowers. It's open Thursday through Monday from 10am to 4:30pm (closed Dec 25).
Entrance to the park is free. Hike-in camping is $15 per night (and more for groups of seven or more).
Special Regulations & Warnings
- Dogs and other pets are not permitted on trails, in campgrounds, or on beaches that are seal habitats or bird nesting areas. On other beaches they must be leashed. Check at park visitor centers to avoid seasonal closures.
- Wood fires are prohibited in campgrounds. Use only charcoal or gas stoves. Driftwood fires are permitted only on sandy beaches below the high-tide line; you must obtain a free permit at a visitor center.
- Check the tide tables before walking on the beaches. Rising water can trap you against a cliff with no possibility of escape.
- Sleeping on the beach is prohibited; it can be dangerous. High tide frequently comes to the base of the cliffs and can trap the unwary.
- Do not climb cliffs -- they can crumble easily. Walking or sitting below cliffs is also dangerous due to falling rock.
- In wooded areas, keep an eye out for poison oak's waxy three-leaf clusters. Also be sure to check for ticks -- the Lyme disease-carrying black-legged tick is common here.
- The pounding surf and rip currents are treacherous, especially at McClures Beach and Point Reyes beaches, north and south. Stay away from the water.
- Don't disturb any baby seals or sea lions you may encounter on the beach. The mother may be preoccupied with finding lunch, and she won't come back until you leave. In fact, you could be fined up to $10,000 for your good intentions. However, if a pup looks injured or appears to be in danger, call the Marine Mammal Center (tel. 415/289-7325).