Tomales point at point reyes california
Photo by Priyadarshini Rajendran

Tomales Point Hiking – Whale-watching at Point Reyes

If you love nature hikes, the Tomales Point trail at Point Reyes National Seashore in California, USA, is a wonderful gift to you.

Majestic tule elk herds, birds, butterflies, woolly bear caterpillars, bountiful fields of wildflowers, seals, and to top it all, a spectacular whale-watching opportunity at the end of the trail. What else do you need to have a great day out in nature?!

Point Reyes Seashore

Tomales Point is a narrow finger of land stretching into the ocean, the end point is a cliff with an awesome view of the ocean where you can stop and watch whales and seals.

Check out all the pointers and tips you need to have a great hike below:

Directions: About 60 miles north of San Francisco, this trailhead starts at Tomales Point Trailhead, Pierce Point Rd, Inverness, CA 94937

Check the Point Reyes related National Park advisories and alerts before you plan to go on a hike here.

If you use the AllTrails app, here is the link to the Tomales Point hike.

Hike total round trip distance: 9.5 miles

Parking lot: Small dirt lot at the trail-head.

The drive to Point Reyes from San Francisco in itself is pretty scenic. When you are close to Tomales Point, the road gets a bit bumpy and has potholes. So, drive slowly here. Also, the elk cross the road at a few spots, please look out for them.

There is a dirt parking lot at the start of the trailhead. There are no restrooms here, but there is one near McLure Beach that you have to cross before you reach Tomales Point trailhead. So, plan accordingly.

point reyes poppies
California Poppies

Wear long pants because there are a lot of wild reeds along the trail and they can get pokey when you walk near them. Carry a windbreaker because it gets windy and chilly at Point Reyes.

From mid-May into summer, the temperatures would be better for this hike and wildflowers would be plenty. If you go in winter or early spring, it might be too foggy and chilly to enjoy any views. Keep a flashlight handy if you go late in the day. You can use a headlamp to have your hands free to handle kids.

Poppies are in full bloom in spring. Did you know that they close by sunset and bloom again in the daytime?

tule elk
Female tule elk

Wildlife is abundant along this hiking path and it has a Tule Elk Reserve. Female elks move on their own as a herd near the trail start and there are plenty of male Tule elks as you move on along the path. The males have huge antlers! A pair of binoculars would help you zoom in on those striking antlers, catch awesome whale-views, other sea-life, and birds too. The elk seem to pose for the camera too!

Tule elk antlers

There is a watering hole mid-way and in the afternoon, the elk gather there for a drink. It is truly a tranquil and majestic sight to behold.

Watering hole

Just before you reach the watering hole and further on from that point, wildflowers in full bloom decorate the path. At some spots, you will have to pass through the flower bushes to move ahead. The sea of flowers will be sure to capture your heart.

Also read: Best 25 hidden gems of USA


Once you cross these flowers, there are a few Monterey Cypress tress standing tall on the way. Take a break under their shade on one of those logs below it. This was the site of a former ranch. The ranch structures have been removed, but you would have seen a few at the start of the trailhead.

monterey cypress trees
Monterey cypress trees/Old ranch spot

Then the trail gets to the unmaintained part of the hike, it is very sandy and can be difficult for some people. Good hiking shoes are recommended. Keep a small Travel First Aid Kit handy for any scratches from the bushes.

Though the trail is not tough for fit people, folks who do not regularly hike can get tired of the long walk and this sandy area is a challenge. Kids under 6 years of age will surely need help.

Check out good gear on for child carrying gear. Baby Back Pack Cross Country Carrier Stand. All these help the kids on this super long hike.

pt reyes
Untamed path
tomales pt

The path is often not clear, follow people in front of you or look in the general direction of the cliff and proceed further. Sometimes, you will have to literally walk through bushes to move ahead. Carrying a compass with you is a good idea. This Camping Survival Compass glows in the dark.

Path inside flower bushes

Once you go to the top and navigate the sea of wildflowers and reach the end of trail, climb down to the right to sit down and watch whales coming out for air. There are also seals in this area.

Also read: Tips for awesome camping with kids

point reyes
Sandy path
tomales point
Almost at the end of trail

After enjoying whale-watching, the return hike gets easier once you cross the sandy part again. It is a long hike, so carry plenty of water and snacks to stop and have mini-picnics along the way.

whale watching
Whale watchers
Grey whale's tail
Whale flipping back into the water
Watering hole in the evening

Interestingly, the watering hole doesn’t have any animals drinking there in the evening.

Have an awesome hike at Tomales Point.

Hiking Tomales Point, a round trip of 9.4 miles of moderate hike, and the reward is views of abundant wildlife, wildflowers and at the end you can catch some awesome whale views.
This trail is in the Point Reyes National Seashore in California.
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About Priyadarshini Rajendran 201 Articles
Priyadarshini Rajendran is a travel enthusiast, avid reader and a passionate writer. She has a few of her books published and is writing more books. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a software consultant taking breaks for her travels. Her blog is her passion and she writes about travel, books and food on the blog. She offers customized itineraries for South Indian destinations.

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