Wildcat Beach, Point Reyes: Palomarin Trailhead, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California
Wildcat Beach - 11.4 miles
Point Reyes: Palomarin Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||11.4 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||255' - 0' (568' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-255' net elevation loss (+1,985' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Wildcat Beach - 11.4 Miles Round-Trip
Wildcat Beach stretches 2.5 miles from Alamere Falls (south) to Arch Rock (north). It's among Point Reyes' longest and widest beaches, but requires a fair effort to reach. For this reason traffic is only moderate, and visitors will likely have a generous piece of coast to themselves.
Trail Map I Trail Photos
Wildcat Beach is accessible from three trailheads; the following description begins at the Palomarin Trailhead and follows the Coast Trail 5.7 miles to the beach.
The Coast Trail weaves through a eucalyptus grove to an unmarked split for Palomarin Beach (.13 miles : 272'), emerging on high bluffs over the beach and Abalone Point (.4 miles). Keep a safe distance from unstable cliff edges.
The trail rises gradually with panoramas over Palomarin before making a decisive inland turn around a wide coastal valley (1.2 miles : 340'). Note ecological contrasts between diminutive coastal scrub on lower slopes, and Douglas fir forests above.
The trail pushes up and further inland, a chance to examine the coast's complex inner-topography. The undulating climb crests near the Lake Ranch Trail split (2.23 miles : 560'), past which it levels by a cluster of small, lily-padded ponds.
This is an ideal place to find waterfowl, deer, fox, quail, rabbit and bobcat. Social trails lead to many of the ponds, but be mindful of poison ivy, oak and stinging nettles as you explore.
Bass Lake soon comes into view (2.75 miles : 445'), however thick vegetation limits access to one spur on its northeast corner (2.9 miles : 400').
The trail rises over Bass Lake and bends west through dark timber between the Crystal Lake Trail (3.15 miles : 482') and Pelican Lake (3.55 miles : 422'). It drops from Pelican Lake to a clearing at the Alamere Falls Trail split (3.75 miles : 270'), where timber soon reclaims the trail across Alamere Creek (4.0 miles : 140').
The forest finally yields to open rolling hills at the Ocean Lake Loop Trail junction (4.3 miles : 215'). Here you have the equidistant option of continuing on the Coast Trail, or taking the Ocean Lake Loop (which rejoins the Coast Trail in 1.2 miles).
The former veers back inland with easy access to Wildcat Lake; the latter passes through arguably more interesting topography, is lightly traveled and provides excellent views of Wildcat Beach. Choose the Ocean Lake Loop on clear days and during peak wildflower season.
The Ocean Lake Loop undulates mildly toward the coast and skirts Ocean Lake, a marshy tangle that attracts for waterfowl. It trends up to a crest with panoramas that stretch from Millers Point to Alamere Falls (5.05 miles : 328').
The trail curls back inland, easing by Wildcat Lake to rejoin the Coast Trail (5.5 miles : 185'). The Coast Trail drops through a broad, flower-studded valley to Wildcat Camp (5.65 miles : 35'); bear left to reach Wildcat Beach (5.7 miles : 0'). Consider heading south on the beach to Alamere Falls, an easy 2.3 mile roundtrip walk along the beach.
- N37 56.057 W122 44.826 — 0.0 miles : Palomarin Trailhead
- N37 56.250 W122 45.560 — 1.0 miles : Travel on bluffs over Palomarin Beach
- N37 56.591 W122 45.494 — 2.0 miles: Curl inland around large coastal valley
- N37 56.799 W122 45.436 — 2.2 miles : Lake Ranch Trail junction
- N37 57.160 W122 45.886 — 2.9 miles : Bass Lake access spur
- N37 57.104 W122 46.160 — 3.15 miles : Crystal Lake Trail junction
- N37 57.233 W122 46.689 — 3.75 miles : Alamere Falls Trail junction
- N37 57.495 W122 46.923 — 4.3 miles : Ocean Lake Loop junction #1
- N37 57.932 W122 47.268 — 5.05 miles : Ocean Lake Loop crest
- N37 58.228 W122 47.181 — 5.45 miles : Ocean Lake Loop rejoins Coast Trail
- N37 58.212 W122 47.404 — 5.65 miles : Wildcat Campground
- N37 58.165 W122 47.452 — 5.7 miles : Wildcat Beach
- Wildcat Beach is located 5.7 miles from the Palomarin Trailhead, 7.8 miles from the Bear Valley Trailhead, and 6.7 miles from Five Brooks Trailhead.
- Weather is unpredictable and can change quickly in Point Reyes, especially along the coast. Expect varied weather conditions throughout the day. Multiple layers, waterproof outer layers and sun protection are recommended.
- Be very mindful of the tides, especially when making the additional, out-and-back trip to Alamere Falls. Contact the Visitor Center for tide tables and related information.
- Though tempting and seemingly possible in some cases, never attempt to scale or rappel down cliffs to reach any beach. Cliff walls are highly unstable and crumble easily.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Camping is by permit only. Camping permits must be obtained from the Bear Valley Visitor Center before starting your trip. If you've made a reservation and arrive after 5 p.m., a permit will be left for you in a small wooden box on the back side of the information board outside the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
- Campsites may be reserved up to three months in advance. To obtain a reservation, call 415.663.8054 between 9 am and 2 pm, Monday - Friday. Reservations by phone are not accepted at any other time. You may make reservations in person 7 days a week at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. You may also fax your reservation using our fax form and fax number: 415.464.5149.
- Wood fires are prohibited in hike-in campgrounds. Only gas stoves, charcoal or canned heat may be used for cooking. Downed wood may not be gathered and burned.
- Camping is limited to 4 nights per visit, with a maximum of 30 nights per year. The minimum age of any camper is 18 unless accompanied by an adult.
- Pets are not permitted in campgrounds. The maximum number of horses or pack animals in any campground is eight. Pack animals and horses must be tied to hitch rails.
Wildcat Camp - Campground Information
- Wildcat Camp is located in a coastal meadow between bluffs and the ocean. It's located 5.65 miles from Palomarin Trailhead, 7.8 miles from Bear Valley Trailhead, and 6.7 miles from Five Brooks Trailhead.
- There are 5 individual sites and 3 group sites; three of the individual sites only hold up to four people. Each individual site has a picnic table, food storage locker and charcoal grill. Group sites have two picnic tables, two food storage lockers and one large or two regular charcoal grills.
Glen Camp - Campground Information
- Glen Camp is located in a quiet wooded valley, 4.6 miles from the Bear Valley Visitor Center via the Bear Valley Trail and Glen Trail. To access via bicycle, start at the Five Brooks Trailhead and follow the Stewart Trail to the Glen Trail, then north to the Glen Camp Loop. This is 6.3 mile bike ride. No groups, horses, or pack animals are allowed at Glen Camp. There are 12 individual sites at Glen Camp.
Sky Camp - Campground Information
- Sky Camp is located on the west side of Mt. Wittenberg in open rolling meadows, 1.4 miles from the Sky Trailhead on Limantour Road. The site is located at 1,025'. On clear days it provides sweeping panoramas across Drakes Bay. Sky Camp has 11 individual sites and 1 group site.
Coast Camp - Campground Information
- Coast Camp is located in a small coastal valley, 1.8 miles south of the Laguna Trailhead via the Laguna and Firelane Trails. It's also accessible from the Coast Trailhead for a longer but easier 2.7 mile route that's open to bicycles.
- Coast Camp is located approximately 9.5 miles from the Bear Valley Visitor Center via the Bear Valley and Coast Trails. 12 individual sites and two group sites are available. Sites 1-7 are in a semi-protected canyon.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs are not permitted on the Coast Trail.
- Bikes are not permitted on the Coast Trail.
- Wood Fires: Permits are now required for any wood fire within the National Seashore. Permits are available at visitor centers, the dispatch office, and from field rangers. Permits may only be obtained on the day you plan on having a fire. The permit is free. Permits are not available or valid during high, very high or extreme fire danger. For current fire information, call 415.464.5100 x2 x1.
- Wood Fire Locations: Wood fires are allowed only on beaches (below the high tide line, if possible), 9 meters (30 feet) or more from vegetation and other flammable material - nowhere else.
- Wood Fire Fuel: Reasonable amounts of driftwood may be gathered from beaches. Driftwood should be dry and clean (i.e., no wood coated with creosote or other chemicals, no wood embedded with nails or other metal objects), and shouldn't be much larger or longer than your arm.
- Fire Size and Dousing: The fire may not be more than 0.9 meters (36 inches) in diameter.Before leaving your beach fire, put it out completely with water. Douse the fire with water, stir the coals, douse with water again. Repeat until the coals do not emit any heat. Do not cover the coals with sand, as it will only insulate the heat and be an unseen danger to wildlife and barefoot visitors.
- Fires must be extinguished by 12 midnight.
Directions to Trailhead
The Palomarin Trailhead is located 15.4 miles south of the Highway 1 - Sir Francis Drake Intersection in Olema, CA (or 15.9 miles from the Bear Valley Visitor Center).
From Highway 1 - Sir Francis Drake Intersection:
Head south on Highway 1 for 9.1 miles to the Olema-Bolinas Road intersection and bear right. This is an unmarked 'Y' intersection (if you find yourself driving with the Bolinas Lagoon on your right, you've gone too far).
Continue 1.3 miles to the stop sign on Horseshoe Hill Road. Turn Left to remain on the Olema-Bolinas Road. Continue .5 miles to Mesa Road and turn right (west). Travel 4.5 miles on Mesa Road to its terminus at the Palomarin Trailhead and 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