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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
Across from the Point Reyes Lighthouse visitors center and gray whale skull at Point Reyes National Seashore is a concrete dome that appears to be some type of military bunker:
In reality, it has nothing to do with the military and everything to do with being able to survive. The dome is actually part of a water collection system since fresh water was a continuing problem for those that lived out on Point Reyes. As explained on an information placard by the concrete dome:
Although surrounded by seawater, the Point never had adequate wells or springs to supply fresh water. The lightkeepers were forced to devise this elaborate system for catching and storing rainwater. They piped the cistern water to the residences and down to the fog signal for making steam.
The dome in front of you covers the cylindrical concrete cistern. The catchment area around the cistern extends far up the hillside and captures runoff from natural rock formations.
The information sign can easily be missed because those arriving tend to focus on the visitors center and the sign is around a slight bend on the way out.
After passing the wind swept trees on your way to Point Reyes Lighthouse at Point Reyes National Seashore, you will reach the Point Reyes Lighthouse Visitors Center. Just outside the visitors center to the left is a gray whale skull:
Along with some other gray whale bones:
The skull and bones are well weathered as they are outside and not protected from the elements, but you have the chance to see the skull up close and touch the bones if you wish. Definitely worth stopping to investigate before or after you hit the Point Reyes lighthouse.
Once you begin walking up the road toward Point Reyes Lighthouse, you have about a half mile hike before you reach the lighthouse. There are several benches along the side of the road where you can rest and get a slightly different perspective on the view of Point Reyes Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore. About half way through the hike you will come to about 5 trees that have been shaped and twisted by the wind:
I think most people walk briskly by these trees because they are so excited to get to the Point Reyes lighthouse, but I think that the trees provide a great photographic opportunity for those that spend a bit of time there, especially with Point Reyes beach in the background:
Even after passing the trees, they still provide some interesting photo shots.
Once you see the dramatic view at the Point Reyes Lighthouse parking lot view looking over Point Reyes Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore you’ll be tempted to take a short path (about 1/4 mile) you can see right in front of you to a point a little farther out. The hike is fairly easy, but the view isn’t much different than the one you see at the top:
You are able to see a bit more of the sand dunes of Point Reyes Beach, but there isn’t a big difference in the view (compare here) so passing on it shouldn’t be a huge issue.
Even before you consider going to Point Reyes lighthouse at Point Reyes National Seashore, be sure to pack your best windbreaker and an extra layer of clothes. The Point Reyes lighthouse is the windiest and foggiest point on the Pacific coast and even on a sunny day, the wind can send chills through your body (and may provide the opportunity to see double waves). I arrived on a beautiful sunny day, but with wind gusts up to 40 miles an hour which would have left me shivering without my windbreaker.
After you park in the Point Reyes Lighthouse parking lot, you will see a gated road which you will follow to get to the Point Reyes lighthouse. To the right of the gate is a dramatic view point which looks out over rows of waves crashing onto Point Reyes Beach that makes for a wonderful photograph: