Point Reyes Lighthouse, Point Reyes: Lighthouse Visitor Center Parking Area, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California
Point Reyes Lighthouse - 1.2 miles
Point Reyes: Lighthouse Visitor Center Parking Area
|Round-Trip Length:||1.2 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||460' - 225' (535' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-235' net elevation loss (+385' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Point Reyes Lighthouse - 1.2 Miles Round-Trip
Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast, and second foggiest place in North American. Fog frequently reduces visibility to just a few hundred feet, posing serious challenges for passing mariners. The Point Reyes Lighthouse was constructed in 1870 to help mariners safely navigate the oft-concealed and turbulent shores of the Point Reyes Headlands.
Mariners recognize lighthouses by their unique flash pattern. On days when fog envelops a lighthouse, a fog horn is blown. Flashing light and fog horn signals are not always enough to prevent tragedies, and Point Reyes has seen many over the years.
To aid the imperiled, a lifesaving station was established in 1890 along the Great Beach (north of the lighthouse). Men walked the beach in four-hour shifts, watching for shipwrecks and distressed crews in need of rescue from frigid waters and powerful currents.
A new lifesaving station was opened in 1927 on Drakes Bay near Chimney Rock, and was active until 1968. Today, it's a National Historic Landmark and can be seen from the Chimney Rock Trail.
A paved road leads from the main parking area to the Lighthouse Visitor Center (.45 miles : 535'). From here, when open, you'll continue down 308 steps to the Lighthouse base (.6 miles : 225'). The stairs are open 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday through Monday. The steps are closed for visitors' safety when wind speeds exceed 40 mph.
Even if closed there's still plenty to see in the Lighthouse vicinity. Peer down steep cliffs at birds and seals resting on sea stacks and coves at the peninsula's base. January - March is peak whale watching season, and spring wildflower blooms are sensational. Several unmarked but clearly defined social trails emanate from the parking area across bluffs and down to The Great Beach - also known as Point Reyes Beach - to the north.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse Shuttle
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard will be closed to private vehicles at South Beach junction from 9 am - 5:30 pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays when the weather is fair or better. 2015 - 2016 Shuttle Schedule:
Saturday, December 26, 2015 - mid-April 2016
- Note shuttle service will not run during stormy or extremely wet weather.
- $7 Shuttle Bus Tickets are Available at the Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center at Drakes Beach from 9:30 am to 3 pm.
- Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from South Beach junction to the Lighthouse parking lot is otherwise open to private vehicles on weekdays, and on weekend days when the shuttle bus system is not operating.
- Check the "Shuttles, Whales, and Elephant Seals" recording at 415.464.5100, ext. 2 (then press 3 and then 1) for updates on whether shuttles are operating
Point Reyes Lighthouse Facts
- The Point Reyes Lighthouse was built in 1870 and retired from service in 1975 when the U.S. Coast Guard installed an automated light. They've since transferred ownership of the lighthouse to the National Park Service, which is now responsible for its preservation.
- The Point Reyes Lighthouse lens and mechanism were constructed in France in 1867. The clockwork mechanism, glass prisms and housing for the lighthouse were shipped on a steamer around the tip of South America to San Francisco. The parts from France and the parts for the cast iron tower were transferred to a second ship, which then sailed to a landing on Drakes Bay. The parts were loaded onto ox-drawn carts and hauled three miles over land to the tip of Point Reyes, 600' above sea level. The lighthouse platform was then constructed 300' below this point so its beacon could be seen below the area's characteristically high fog.
- The highest wind speed recorded at Point Reyes was 133 mph, and 60 mph winds are common.
- N37 59.858 W123 00.707 — Lighthouse Visitor Center Parking Area
- Nearby cliff edges are perilously steep and unstable. Keep a safe distance from cliff edges and avoid cutting through sensitive vegetation to reach them.
- No matter the weather elsewhere in Point Reyes, anticipate strong winds and rapidly changing weather at the Lighthouse. Carry multiple layers, wind and rain protection.
Rules and Regulations
- Vehicles more than 24' long are not permitted on Chimney Rock Road.
Directions to Trailhead
The Point Reyes Lighthouse Trailhead is located 20.65 miles from Bear Valley Visitor Center.
From the VC, head north 0.2 miles to Bear Valley Road. Turn left and follow Bear Valley Road 1.75 miles northwest to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Turn left and follow Sir Francis Drake Boulevard 18.7 miles west to the Point Reyes Lighthouse visitor parking lot.
Point Reyes National Seashore
1 Bear Valley Rd.
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Visitor Information: 415.464.5100 x2 or 415.663.8522 x2
Headquarters: 415.464.5100 x 1
Volunteer Information: 415.464.5145
Education Programs: 415.464.5139
Special Use Permits: 415.464.5111