< BackPoint Reyes National Park

Nature & Science

As wildland habitat is lost elsewhere in California, the relevance of the Point Reyes Peninsula increases as a protected area with a notable rich biological diversity. Over 45% of North American avian species and nearly 18% of California's plant species are found in the park due to the variety of habitat and uniqueness of the geology. Thirty-eight threatened and endangered species exist within the Seashore.

Even if you can only visit here for a day, you will begin to see what we have at Point Reyes National Seashore and how it works. As you drive through windswept Bishop pines, hike up Mt.Wittenberg under towering Douglas firs or walk along Bear Valley Trail through mixed woodlands to the exposed coastal scrub near the ocean, you will begin to see patterns. You might ask yourself why certain plant communities grow in certain places

Their placement began with ancient geologic forces that created the bedrock and soils. Particular characteristics in these soils determine which types of plants can survive in different locations. Hills, valleys and exposure provide further discrimination for plants depending on their sunlight needs and tolerance to winds. Nothing is random in what you are observing -- plants grow where they can survive forming the foundations of all other life including our own.

During your exploration you may also catch a glimpse of some of the animals that make their home here. Wildlife abounds throughout the Seashore. Along the coast you may find marine mammals such as whales, seals, and sea lions. A closer look reveals an abundance of bird life feeding near the tideline. Back in the forest, you may glimpse a bobcat, coyote, raccoon, or skunk scurrying off. We also have plenty of deer and elk to be seen.

Animals

Take time to explore Point Reyes National Seashore, and you will find that wildlife abounds. Animals at Point Reyes National Seashore range from large marine mammals such as the northern elephant seal to the relatively small endangered Myrtle's silverspot butterfly. Because Point Reyes National Seashore is part of the CaliforniaFloristicProvince (characterized by Mediterranean vegetation) and a zone of overlap of marine provinces (Californian and Oregonian), a wide variety of animals are found in the diversity of habitats.

Current inventories document approximately 80 species of mammals, 85 species of fish, 29 species of reptiles and amphibians, and thousands of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrate species. Nearly half the bird species of North America, 490 species, have been spotted here. 

The animal life found at Point Reyes National Seashore is as varied as the landscape. Whether you choose to hike the mountains or stroll along the shores, keep your eyes and ears open for a chance to experience nature at its best. 

Plant

Point Reyes National Seashore is a jewel in the California Floristic Province - one of 25 regions of the world where biological diversity is most concentrated and the threat of loss most severe. Unique geology, soils, and climate conditions make for a highly variable landscape within a relatively small land base. The Seashore encompasses over 70,000 acres of dunes, sandy and rocky beaches, coastal grasslands, Douglas fir and Bishop Pine forests, wetlands, chaparral, and wilderness lakes. The broad range of plant communities supports over 900 species of vascular plants - pretty amazing! This number represents about 15% of the California flora. Sixty-one species found in MarinCounty are known only from Point Reyes

As native systems have been altered in other areas of California, many native plants have been pushed to the brink of extinction. Point Reyes National Seashore serves as a refuge for an astonishing number of these rare plants. Over 50 plants at Point Reyes are currently listed by the Federal government, State government, or the California Native Plant Society as being rare, threatened, or endangered. These threatened, rare, and endangered plants are actively monitored and managed by park scientists.

Unfortunately, 292 of the plants within the park are not native. These include a wide variety of grasses in the pastoral zone, South African capeweed, scotch broom, pampas grass, and trees such as eucalyptus, cypress, and Monterey Pine. Invasive non-native species tend to spread very rapidly and out-compete native plants for scarce space and resources. To curb the tide of many of the Seashore's non-native invasive plants, volunteers are recruited to remove the most threatening species.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors shape the landscape, habitats, and species of Point Reyes National Seashore. Sometimes environmental changes are part of the natural processes that have always driven change to the peninsula (geologic activity) and sometimes these changes are natural processes that have been modified by human activity (fire regime and global climate change). Several of the environmental factors are being monitored by either National Park Service staff or researchers from other agencies or universities. The goal of monitoring is to gather information for its’ inevitable use in science-based decision making.

Natural Features & Ecosystems

California enjoys one of the most diverse assemblages of land forms, vegetation types, and ecosystems in the world. There is more climatic and topographic variation in California than in any other region of comparable size in the United States. This variation has contributed to a remarkable diversity of natural features and ecosystems found at Point Reyes National Seashore, located within California.

Point Reyes National Seashore is blanketed with subtle natural features nestled over a variety of ecosystems. The overriding natural feature is the presence of the eastern San Andreas Fault that bisects the geologic peninsula from the rest of the California mainland. The remaining sides of the peninsula are intermittently edged by beaches, sea cliffs, and intertidal zones cascading into the Pacific Ocean.

Encircled by this rich assemblage is a mosaic of ecosystems arranged by factors such as geologic foundation, climate, and exposure. While there are dozens of ways to classify and name the exact type of ecosystem, the broadest and closest category places Point Reyes National Seashore into a Mediterranean Ecosystem.

Plan Your Visit

Point Reyes National Seashore was established to preserve and protect wilderness, natural ecosystems, and cultural resources along the diminishing undeveloped coastline of the western United States.

Located just an hour's drive from a densely populated metropolitan area, the Seashore is a sanctuary for myriad plant and animal species and for the human spirit — for discovery, inspiration, solitude, and recreation — and exists as a reminder of the human connection to the land.

Whether you are a frequent visitor to the Seashore or planning your first visit to the park, we hope the information provided here will answer questions you may have.

Directions

Point Reyes is located approximately 30 miles (50 km) north of San Francisco on Highway 1 along the west coast of California. Travelers may approach the park from the winding scenic Highway 1, either northbound or southbound. You can also reach the park via Sir Francis Drake Boulevard or the Point Reyes/Petaluma Road.

Public transportation to the BearValleyVisitorCenter is available through the West Marin Stagecoach.

Operating Hours & Seasons

The park is open daily from sunrise to midnight throughout the year. Overnight camping is available by permit only.

Visitor Center hours are as follows:

Bear ValleyVisitorCenter
The Bear Valley Visitor Center is open on:
Weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Weekends and holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


LighthouseVisitorCenter
The Lighthouse Visitor Center is open:
Thursday through Monday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Lighthouse stairs, the exhibits in the lower Lighthouse chamber, and the EquipmentBuilding are open (weather permitting):
Thursday through Monday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Lens Room is open (as weather & staffing permit):
Thursday through Monday, 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

All Lighthouse facilities are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.


KennethC.PatrickVisitorCenter
The Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center is open on:
Weekends and holidays, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Closed Mondays through Fridays.

All Visitor Centers are closed December 25. Visitor Centers may close at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Call 415-464-5100 for hours of operation on these holidays.

Fees & Reservations

Entrance Fees
No Entrance Fee is Charged at Point Reyes

Activity Fees
Camoing fees
$15/night/site for 1 to 6 people
$30/night/site for 7 to 14 people
$40/night/site for 15 to 25 people
Shuttle Bus Fees
$5.00 per person for anyone over 16 years of age
On weekends from late December to mid-April when the weather is good, the west end of Sir Francis Drake Blvd is closed to vehicle traffic. Shuttle buses transport visitors to the lighthouse and Chimney Rock areas. Shuttle tickets may be purchased at DrakesBeach between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekends and holidays, weather permitting. The shuttle buses run approximately every 20 minutes starting at 9:30 a.m. and service the headlands area from DrakesBeach to the Lighthouse parking lot to Chimney Rock parking lot back to DrakesBeach. Children 16 years and under ride free. Shuttles are cancelled if weather is poor. See our Winter Shuttle Bus System page for more details.

Things To Do

here are many activities in which visitors may participate during their trip to Point Reyes. We recommend that visitors stop by the BearValleyVisitorCenter as they enter the National Seashore in order to get better oriented to the park, to find out what activities are available during their stay, and to find out about road, trail and other closures. Visitors interested in learning more about the human and natural history of the Point Reyes area can participate in free ranger-led programs. Leisurely drives wind their way over Inverness Ridge and through the pastoral lands to beaches, to the historic lighthouse, and to wildlife viewing areas, such as the tule elk range on Tomales Point or the Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock. Birdwatching is exceptional throughout the seashore, especially during fall and spring migrations. The Point Reyes headlands and park beaches are excellent places to view the annual gray whale migration, which is best from January through April. Many visitors enjoy picnicking at beaches or at some beautiful vista along the park’s trails. About 240 kilometers (150 miles) of trail beckon hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders to explore the backcountry. (NOTE: Some restrictions apply to trail usage by bikers and horses, so please pick up free park maps with specific trails marked at a visitor center.)

Many first-time visitors arrive at Point Reyes National Seashore thinking that they can see everything here within a few hours, or at most in a day. Those who have visited Point Reyes have realized that to really explore Point Reyes requires much more than a day, and some who have visited frequently for years still discover something new with each visit. Please check out our Maximizing Your Stay page for some ideas on what to do during your first visit. But you don't need to feel limited to what is described there. Feel free to explore this Plan Your Visit section for other possibilities, and then come explore Point Reyes.

Point Reyes National Seashore also has a very active volunteer program. Volunteers are a vital part of protecting and preserving Point Reyes. Over the last few years, volunteers have invested over 50,000 hours removing nonnative plant species, monitoring wildlife, providing information to visitors, working at the Morgan Horse Ranch, protecting the resources, and maintaining the trails. There are many opportunities for someone interested in volunteering their time to help the park.

Things To Know Before You Come

When planning a family vacation, a weekend get-away or even just a Sunday drive, it often helps to know what you will encounter at your destination. This section will assist you in determining how you will get around Point Reyes National Seashore, what sort of weather conditions you may encounter, and what to look out for that may pose a threat to your safety.  You can also find out where in the surrounding communities you can eat and sleep or camp, and obtain other amenities you may desire. If you wish to bring along a pet, the pet will limit where you can go and the activities in which you may participate. It's always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Park Regulations so that you don't inadvertently break any laws.