Health & Fitness

Coast Trail offers epic views of Pacific Ocean

Sun sets on Wildcat Beach, at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Sun sets on Wildcat Beach, at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Skiing is my winter hobby, which means I don’t hike much this time of year. But I always make a one-time exception and beeline to Point Reyes National Seashore, as I will this month. Hiking along the Pacific Ocean provides the perfect antidote to gray winter days, even if you can’t count on crystal-clear skies.

The best option for ocean hiking is the Coast Trail, a nearly 15-mile gem that unfolds along sandy shores, rocky coastline and green hills. The route keeps you in full view of the ocean and includes wildlife such as deer, an enormous variety of birds and, if you’re lucky, whales.

It is a point-to-point hike, meaning you will need a car shuttle to do the full trail. That’s a long day trip, or a fantastic overnighter, especially if you can land a spot at Wildcat Camp, right by the ocean and one of the most beautiful campsites in the state. Good luck: I got my upcoming reservation months in advance, and it was the last one.

Another option is to hike a 5-mile section of the Coast Trail and turn back. I would suggest starting from the northern trailhead, which will give you the opportunity to hike on the beach but mostly along cliffs with stunning vistas. Doing an abbreviated trip from the southern trailhead is also a great choice as you get to see Alamere Falls.

Coast Trail

Length: 14.6 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Cost: Free

Directions to (northern) trailhead: Take Interstate 80 to Highway 37 to Bear Valley Road and turn left on Limantour Road. Turn left before main beach parking lot and go to southernmost parking lot.