Point Reyes’ Little Known Alamere Falls

When visiting Point Reyes national seashore, the first thing that comes to mind is usually not waterfalls. For this reason, a lot of people miss the wonderful Alamere Falls which flows year round and falls directly onto the beach. One of the reasons it’s not well-known to most visitors is that it takes quite a hike to get there. You’re either going to have to walk 16 miles round trip from a trailhead near the visitors center, or 8.5 miles round trip if you drive to the Palomarin trailhead. Either way, it means a substantial hike which keeps the vast majority of people who visit the park from ever going there.

These photos were taken in Mid November 2013 during a year with far below normal rainfall, taking the trail that begins at Palomarin (a warning on taking this shorter route — the last 4/10 of a mile to the waterfall is on a “unmaintained trail” — while there is not an issue walking the trail, there is quite a bit of poison oak and you’ll want to have long pants and sleeves when walking this portion to avoid it)

The first part of the falls you’ll see is the upper falls:

Alamere waterfall upper section

Just below you come to a small middle falls:

Alamere waterfall mid section

From this vantage point you can see where the river flows over the edge creating the lower (and main) falls with the ocean in the background:

the top of Alamere waterfall

You aren’t able to actually see the lower falls from up here. In order to get there, you have to descend a rather steep unofficial trail with a lot of loose rocks. If you’re a strong hiker and have good balance, you shouldn’t have too much trouble doing it, but it helps to have a partner to help make it up and down some of the steeper areas. If you get nervous or don’t have good balance, it might be difficult to make it down to the beach. It’s not recommended for small children. Once you get down, however, you’re met with this:

Alamere waterfall main falls

Alamere Falls Point Reyes

Alamere waterfall at Point Reyes national seashore

You can even get up right up next to it:

Looking up at Alamere waterfall

And if the sun is out, you’ll see numerous rainbows within the falling water:

Rainbow in Alamere waterfall

Since it’s pretty spectacular when there has been little rain and it has a low flow, I can only imagine what it’s like after a rainfall or a wet year.

National Park Free Days 2013

At the time of me writing this post, there are 398 parks within the national parks system. While many of the most popular national parks charge an entrance fee, there are a large number of parks within the system that are free of charge year round. For the parks that charge an entrance fee, the national parks service designates certain days throughout the year when they waive this fee and offer entrance into all of the parks at no charge. This includes all national parks, as well as the lesser know national monuments, national seashores, national preserves and national recreation areas. The free entrance days vary from year to year. For 2013, National Parks free days have been designated on the following eleven days:

Yosemite national park meadow

January 21 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)

April 22 – 26 (National Park Week)

August 26 (National Park Service Birthday)

September 28 (National Public Lands Day)

November 9 – 11 (Veterans Day weekend)

In addition to all the units within the national parks system, other federal land units such as national forests and national wildlife refuges also participate on these days. This brings the total number of places you can visit for free on the above days to over 2000.

For those that are planning trips, it’s important to note that the free days apply only to entrance into the parks. Other park fees for such things as camp sites, reservations, tours and concessions still apply on these days. It’s definitely worthwhile checking with any destination you’re planning to visit since hotels and tour operators will often have special deals and discounts to coincide with the free entrance days.

2014 national parks free entrance days should be announced in late October or early November. As soon as the official dates are announced, we will post them. For those trying to plan ahead, there’s a good chance that they will be similar to the days announced for 2013. National parks free days 2014 will likely include the following days:

Martin Luther King Jr. Day or birthday weekend
National Parks Week
National Park Service Birthday
Public Lands Day
Veterans Day Weekend

While national park free days allow for no cost entrance to everyone, starting in 2012 the national park service began offering a free annual pass to active duty military members and their dependents. This pass can be obtained free of charge at most visitor centers or at park entrances. The pass will allow free access to all national parks 365 days a year. There is also a similar free pass for people with disabilities.

While not free, the America the Beautiful National Parks Senior pass for those 62 years of age and older only costs $10 (this is less expensive than the entrance fee to some of the most popular national parks) and it’s good forever (there is no expiration date) so it can be used year after year. For the general public, there is an annual America the Beautiful National Parks pass that costs $80, but it’s still a great deal for anyone that visits national parks often.

National Park Free Days 2012

Update: The national park service has announced National Park Free Days 2013

Many people don’t realize that most parks within the National Parks system don’t charge any entrance fee at all. That being said, some of the most popular National Parks do charge entrance fees. While these fees are applicable most times of the year, National Parks, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, National Preserves, National Seashores and National Lakes designate several times a year when they offer free access days. The National Parks free days for 2012 are as follows:

the wave
The Wave

January 14 – 16 (Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend)

April 21 – 29 (National Park Week)

June 9 (Get Outdoors Day)

September 29 (National Public Lands Day)

Nov. 10 – 12 (Veterans Day weekend)

The 2012 National Parks free days are quite similar to the 2011 fee free National Parks days with the one major change being that Get Outdoors Day has replaced the first day of summer as a fee free day in 2012.

The 2012 fee free National Parks days apply to entrance fees, commercial tour fees and transportation entrance fees. While the fee free days don’t apply to other park fees such as reservation fees, camping fees, tour fees, or concession fees, many times the businesses operating within the National Parks (hotels, restaurants and tour operators) will create their own promotions which will coincide with the free entrance fee days. Even with the entrance fees National Parks are considered a great value, but National Parks free days make them even a better value.

Here is the official National Park Fee Free Days 2012 press release.

National Park Fees List

What is not commonly known is that the vast majority of the nearly 400 parks in the National Parks system do not charge any entrance fee at all. Of those that do charge an entrance fee, there is usually a fee per car and or a fee per individual entering the National Park. The following is a list of all the parks in the National Parks system that usually charge a fee to gain entrance to the park. The parks on this list waive the fee on National Parks fee free days.

Arizona

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Chiricahua National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area entrance fee:
$15 per vehicle / $7 per individual adult
Grand Canyon National Park entrance fee:
$25 per vehicle / $12 per individual adult
Lake Mead National Recreation Area entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Montezuma Castle National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument entrance fee:
$8 per vehicle / $4 per individual adult
Petrified Forest National Park entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Pipe Spring National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Saguaro National Park entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Tonto National Monument entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Tumacacori National Historical Park entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Tuzigoot National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Walnut Canyon National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Wupatki National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per adult

Arkansas

Fort Smith National Historic Site entrance fee:
$4 per adult
Pea Ridge National Military Park entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult

California

Cabrillo National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Death Valley National Park entrance fee:
$20 per vehicle / $10 per individual adult
John Muir National Historic Site entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Joshua Tree National Park entrance fee:
$15 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Lassen Volcanic National Park entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Lava Beds National Monument entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult – Only accepts cash or checks, no debit or credit cards
Muir Woods National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Pinnacles National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Sequoia National Park entrance fee:
$20 per vehicle / $10 per individual adult
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle
Yosemite National Park entrance fee:
$20 per vehicle / $10 per individual adult

Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park entrance fee:
$15 per vehicle / $7 per individual adult
Colorado National Monument entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Dinosaur National Monument entrance fee:
No entrance fees charged in 2011 until after the Quarry Visitor Center and Exhibit Hall open on October 4
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument entrance fee:
$3 per individual adult – Only accepts cash or checks, no debit or credit cards
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve entrance fee:
$3 per individual adult
Hovenweep National Monument entrance fee:
$6 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Mesa Verde National Park entrance fee:
$15 per vehicle / $8 per individual adult: May 29 – September 5, 2011. All other times: $10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Rocky Mountain National Park entrance fee:
$20 per vehicle / $10 per individual adult

Florida

Canaveral National Seashore entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument entrance fee:
$6 per adult: San Marcos is considering increasing its admission fee to $7 per adult
Dry Tortugas National Park entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Everglades National Park entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Gulf Islands National Seashore entrance fee:
$8 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult

Georgia

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park entrance fee:
No entrance fee. Point Park at Lookout Mountain Battlefield: $3 per adult
Cumberland Island National Seashore entrance fee:
Entrance fee is $4 per adult. Ferry fee is $20 per adult round trip
Fort Frederica National Monument entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Fort Pulaski National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per adult

Hawaii

Haleakalā National Park entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult

Idaho

Craters of the Moon National Monument entrance fee:
$8 per vehicle / $4 per individual adult
Yellowstone National Park entrance fee:
$25 per vehicle / $12 per individual adult / $20 per snowmobile or motorcycle

Illinois

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial National Memorial entrance fee:
Varying prices for tram, movie and riverboat or combinations: see here

Indiana

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial entrance fee:
$5 per family / $3 per individual adult

Maine

Acadia National Park entrance fee:
$20 per vehicle June 23-early October; $10 per vehicle May 1-June 22 and early October-October 31 / $5 per individual adult

Maryland

Antietam National Battlefield entrance fee:
$6 per family / $4 per individual adult
Assateague Island National Seashore entrance fee:
$15 per vehicle / $10 per motorcycle / $3 per individual adul
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Fort McHenry NM and Historic Shrine National Monument entrance fee:
$7 per adult
Fort Washington Park entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park entrance fee:
$6 per vehicle / $4 per individual adult

Mississippi

Gulf Islands National Seashore entrance fee:
$8 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult

Massachusetts

Adams National Historical Park entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Cape Cod National Seashore entrance fee:
$15 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult

Michigan

Isle Royale National Park entrance fee:
$4 per adult
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult

Minnesota

Pipestone National Monument entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult

Mississippi

Vicksburg National Military Park entrance fee:
$8 per vehicle / $4 per individual adult

Missouri

Harry S Truman National Historic Site entrance fee:
$4 per adult
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial National Memorial entrance fee:
Varying prices for tram, movie and riverboat or combinations: see here
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult

Montana

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle
Glacier National Park entrance fee:
Summer: $25 per vehicle / $12 per individual adult: May 1 – November 30
Winter: $15 per vehicle / $10 per individual adult: December 1 – April 30
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Yellowstone National Park entrance fee:
$25 per vehicle / $12 per individual adult / $20 per snowmobile or motorcycle

Nebraska

Scotts Bluff National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult

Nevada

Death Valley National Park entrance fee:
$20 per vehicle / $10 per individual adult
Lake Mead National Recreation Area entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult

New Hampshire

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site entrance fee:
$5 per adult

New Jersey

Thomas Edison National Historical Park entrance fee:
$7 per adult
Morristown National Historical Park entrance fee:
$4 per adult

New Mexico

Aztec Ruins National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Bandelier National Monument entrance fee:
$12 per vehicle / $6 per individual adult
Capulin Volcano National Monument entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle
Carlsbad Caverns National Park entrance fee:
$6 per adult
Chaco Culture National Historical Park entrance fee:
$8 per vehicle / $4 per individual adult
El Morro National Monument entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Fort Union National Monument entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument entrance fee:
$10 per family / $3 per adult
Pecos National Historical Park entrance fee:
$3 per adult
White Sands National Monument entrance fee:
$3 per adult

New York

Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site entrance fee:
$8 per adult for Val-Kill Guided Tour
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site entrance fee:
$14 per adult
Martin Van Buren National Historic Site entrance fee:
$12 per family / $5 per adult
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Saratoga National Historical Park entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site entrance fee:
$8 per adult for Vanderbilt Mansion Guided Tour

North Carolina

Wright Brothers National Memorial entrance fee:
$4 per adult

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult

Ohio

James A. Garfield National Historic Site entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial National Memorial entrance fee:
$3 per adult

Oklahoma

Fort Smith National Historic Site entrance fee:
$4 per adult

Oregon

Crater Lake National Park entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Lewis & Clark National Historical Park entrance fee:
$3 per adult

Pennsylvania

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site entrance fee:
$4 per adult
Fort Necessity National Battlefield entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Johnstown Flood National Memorial entrance fee:
$4 per adult
Steamtown National Historic Site entrance fee:
$7 per adult, Train rides $5 per individual

Puerto Rico

San Juan National Historic Site entrance fee:
$3 per adult for 1 fortification, $5 per adult for both fortifications

South Carolina

Fort Sumter National Monument entrance fee:
No entrance fee for visitors who arrive by private boat. Ferry concessioner does not accept America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Passes. Ferry tickets are: Adults: $17 Seniors: $15 Children (6-11): $10 Infants (5 and Under): Free

South Dakota

Badlands National Park entrance fee:
$15 per vehicle / $10 per motorcycle / $7 per individual adult
Jewel Cave National Monument entrance fee:
Enterance to grounds is free. Cave tours: $8 per adult / $4 per youth ages 6-16

Tennessee

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park entrance fee:
No entrance fee. $3 per adult for Point Park at Lookout Mountain Battlefield
Shiloh National Military Park entrance fee:
No fee for Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center. $5 per family / $3 per adult for Shiloh Battlefield

Texas

Big Bend National Park entrance fee:
$20 per vehicle / $10 per individual adult
Fort Davis National Historic Site entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Guadalupe Mountains National Park entrance fee:
$5 per adult
Padre Island National Seashore entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult

Utah

Arches National Park entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Bryce Canyon National Park entrance fee:
$25 per vehicle / $12 per individual adult
Canyonlands National Park entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Capitol Reef National Park entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Cedar Breaks National Monument entrance fee:
$4 per adult
Dinosaur National Monument entrance fee:
Entrance fees will not be charged in 2011 until after the Quarry Visitor Center and Exhibit Hall open on October 4
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area entrance fee:
$15 per vehicle / $7 per individual adult
Golden Spike National Historic Site entrance fee:
Summer: $7 per vehicle / $4 per individual adult
Winter: $5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Hovenweep National Monument entrance fee:
$6 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Natural Bridges National Monument entrance fee:
$6 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Zion National Park entrance fee:
$25 per vehicle / $12 per individual adult

Virgin Islands

Christiansted National Historic Site entrance fee:
$3 per adult

Virginia

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park entrance fee:
Memorial Day until Labor Day: $10 per vehicle / $4 per individual adult
Off Season: $5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Assateague Island National Seashore entrance fee:
$15 per vehicle
Colonial National Historical Park entrance fee:
$10 per adult
George Washington Memorial Parkway’s Great Falls Park entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Manassas National Battlefield Park entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Petersburg National Battlefield entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Prince William Forest Park entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle / $3 per individual adult
Shenandoah National Park entrance fee:
March through November: $15 per vehicle / $10 per motorcycle / $5 per individual adult
December through February: $10 per vehicle / $10 per motorcycle / $5 per individual adult

Washington

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site entrance fee:
$5 per family / $3 per individual adult
Lewis & Clark National Historical Park entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Mount Rainier National Park entrance fee:
$15 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Olympic National Park entrance fee:
$15 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Whitman Mission National Historic Site entrance fee:
$3 per adult

West Virginia

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park entrance fee:
$6 per vehicle / $4 per individual adult

Wyoming

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area entrance fee:
$5 per vehicle
Devils Tower National Monument entrance fee:
$10 per vehicle / $5 per individual adult
Fort Laramie National Historic Site entrance fee:
$3 per adult
Grand Teton National Park entrance fee:
$25 per vehicle / $20 per motorcycle / $12 per individual adult. Good for both Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks
Yellowstone National Park entrance fee:
$25 per vehicle / $20 per motorcycle / $12 per individual adult. Good for both Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks

If you know of any National Parks fee changes that have taken place, please contact me so I can update this list.

National Park Wilderness Photo Contest For National Park Service

If you have quality photos from your recent National Park trips, the National Park Service would love to take a look at them for possible inclusion for an upcoming wilderness section of Park Science. The beauty of the National Parks wilderness has inspired millions of people who have visited them, but it’s often difficult to capture the spirit of wilderness in words. The National Park Service is hoping to capture wilderness in photos to share in an upcoming issue of Park Science.

Photographers of the winning wilderness photos will receive full credit for their photo and their photo will be featured in a four-page color spread in the center of the Park Science edition. Winning photographers will also receive a handy item which can be used in the wilderness such as a trowel.

For those interested, you should attach up to three wilderness photos for consideration to Christina Mills at [email protected] in TIFF or JPG format by Friday, September 16, 2011. You should also include your name, where the photo was taken (what National Park System wilderness area), the date the photograph was taken and your contact information along with a short description of your thoughts when you took the photograph.

Photo Contest Rules

1. All photos must be digital.
2. All photos must be 3 MG in size or larger.
3. All photos must be in either TIFF or JPG format.
4. There is a submission limit of three photos per photographer.
5. Submitted photo must have been taken in a National Park System wilderness area.
6. Submitted photo must not have been retouched, optimized or had filters applied.
7. The photographer must license unrestricted use to the National Park Service if the submitted photo wasn’t taken on official National Park Service duty.
8. Photos should be emailed as an attachment to Christina Mills at [email protected]
9. Deadline for submission is Friday, September 16, 2011.
10. Please contact Christina Mills at (202) 513-7124 or email [email protected] with any additional questions.

Plastic Bottle Art Point Reyes National Seashore

When you drive up to the main visitor center (Bear Valley Visitor Center) at Point Reyes National Seashore (CA), the first thing that will catch you eye is five large bottles, which are themselves filled with plastic bottles, sitting in a field:

year worth of plastic found Point Reyes National Seashore

Plastic bottles found Point Reyes visitors center

These are part of an art project created by Richard James which he hopes nobody will enjoy. He created the plastic bottle art from the large amounts of trash that he has collected on the shores of Point Reyes National Seashore. The five 8 foot tall bottles that are filled with plastic bottles are just the plastic bottles James found during one year of collecting trash on the shores of Point Reyes. Not all people like the art, but it serves to show where many of the plastic bottles we use end up.

On the fence by the bottles is an explanation of the art:

Thirsty Point Reyes National Seashore

Thirsty?

In One year
One person collected these bottles
On the beaches of One national park: Point Reyes.

Most plastic in the ocean breaks into particles that contaminate the fish that eat them and us when we eat the fish.

Use One metal bottle.

I have a policy to always leave the National Parks I visit in better shape than when I arrive. While at Point Reyes, I filled up two large bags with trash that had washed up on the beaches that I walked. It hardly took any time to do this, so I can imagine the amount of trash that James has collected in all the hours that he has spent cleaning the beaches. I hope that we all can get into the habit of leaving every National Park in better shape than when you arrived — and if you haven’t yet purchased yourself a metal water bottle, do it.

Share Your National Parks Story: NPCA Wants Yours

If you love our National Parks, take the time this summer to do something to make sure that the remain a part of future generation lives. With the constant budget battles being waged in Washington DC, it’s important to let Congress know what the National Parks mean to us as a nation. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) wants to pass your National Parks messages onto the members of Congress and they are asking for your help.

Chaos Crags reflected in Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park

When you visit a National Park this summer (you can start on June 21 when it’s a Free National Parks day), take your camera or video recorder along to document your visit. Then send the NPCA your photos, videos and stories about why National Parks are important to you to [email protected] The NPCA will be posting select images they receive to the National Parks Protection Project website and passing them onto those in Congress.

In order for National Parks to remain funded, it’s essential for Congress to know that the people that visit them view them as an important part of our history and culture. Your photos, videos and personal stories are an important way to show Congress why America’s natural and cultural heritage should continue to be protected for future generations. For places that give so much to our lives, please consider sharing your story to help ensure that others can have the same experiences decades from now.

You can also lend your voice by signing a petition telling Congress to stop cuts to the national Parks budget.

Bear Valley Visitors Center Point Reyes National Seashore

The first place I begin all my visits to National Parks is at the visitors center. Even if I know a park fairly well, the staff at the visitors center will know the latest news regarding the park. That information will often lead me to do something which I may not have been planning to do that day. If I’m unfamiliar with the park, and especially if it is my first visit, the staff can give me the list of places that I should absolutely see and what I should do within the park for the time frame I have.

Bear Valley Visitors Center at Point Reyes National Seashore

In addition to the helpful staff, the Bear Valley visitors center at Point Reyes National Seashore (CA) has an excellent little museum style display of the animals which live within the park, including a huge, life-size elephant seal to greet you as you walk in:

Elephant seal in Bear Valley Visitors Center at Point Reyes National Seashore

I took my 6 year old niece through all the displays and she was fascinated with all the animals and the information about them. For any child who likes animals, it’s worth putting aside a little extra time to walk through the animal displays at the visitors center.

Sea bird display in Bear Valley visitors center at Point Reyes National Seashore

Animal display in Bear Valley Visitors Center at Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes Lighthouse 308 Steps

When you first see the Point Reyes Lighthouse from the observation deck at Point Reyes National Seashore (CA), your first instinct is to want to see the lighthouse up close. Then you take a look at these:

Steps going down to Point Reyes lighthouse

There is a sign that warns that the over 300 steps is the same as a 30 story building and while it’s easy to get down, you need to be in decent shape to make it back up. To help with the effort, there are three rest areas with a bench where you can stop to catch your breath on the way up. You begin the hike back to the top at step number 308:

Step 308 at Point Reyes Lighthouse

I consider myself to be in pretty decent shape and I was a bit winded by the time I reached the top. The key is to take it slow, rest when needed and give yourself plenty of time to make it back to the top. Even with the physically taxing climb, a visit to the lighthouse is well worth it.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Once you make your way past the Point Reyes Lighthouse visitors center, the gray whale skull and the water collection system at Point Reyes National Seashore, you’ll round the corner and get your first glimpse of the Point Reyes Lighthouse. There is an observation deck that looks down upon the lighthouse and you’ll immediately understand why so many people love to come out to see it:

Point Reyes Lighthouse from observation deck

Warning to all: The Point Reyes Lighthouse is not open on Tuesday or Wednesday. Even on the days that it is closed, you can still view the lighthouse from the observation deck, but you will not be able to descend the stairs to the lighthouse to see it up close and personal. The lighthouse stairs, the exhibits in the lower lighthouse chamber, and the equipment building are open Thursday through Monday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (stairs to go down to the lighthouse close at 4:00 p.m.) weather permitting. Point Reyes is the windiest area on the Pacific coast and even on clear days, the stairs will sometimes be closed due to high winds. The light house lens room where the Fresnel lens and clockwork mechanism are located is open Thursday through Monday from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Point Reyes Lighthouse close-up Point Reyes National Seashore