Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary: A Must-Visit Destination!

To say Point Reyes National Seashore amazed me would be the understatement of the year. Never had I imagined falling so head-over-heels in love with all its magnificent beauty and abundant wildlife. Nor did I realize just how much I’d feel transported to Ireland or any comparable world of magic. In this post, I’ll give you my bucket-list itinerary to Point Reyes – full of must-visit spots, tips on when to go and so much more!

ℙ𝕠𝕤𝕥 ℂ𝕠𝕟𝕥𝕖𝕟𝕥𝕤:

  • Where is Point Reyes
  • How to Get There
  • Where to stay near Point Reyes
  • Best time to go to Point Reyes
  • Must-See Places in Point Reyes
  • Another Bucket-list Stop Along the PCH
Author: Mindy Michaels<br>Photographers: Mindy & Doug Michaels<br>
Author: Mindy Michaels
Photographers: Mindy & Doug Michaels

My name is Mindy and, as you can guess, I’m always on the move! I currently live in a truck camper as I travel the country full-time. I’ve been to all 50 states (more than once) and I have a slight obsession with remote wildernesses (such as Alaska)! While traveling, I seek out the most epic hikes, wildlife, scenic views, hidden gems and natural beauty I can find!  

My primary job is being a freelancer in the tv industry and I have worked on various reality/doc tv shows for a multitude of networks, such as: Travel Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery, HGTV, Cooking Channel and more! Luckily, the shows I typically work on afford me to live this nomadic lifestyle because they, too, travel around the country.  

In between shows, I create content as a professional photographer for like-minded brands and I write destination travel blogs such as this!

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary
Bucket-List Spots to See in Point Reyes, California

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Where is it, How to Get There, Best Time to Go and Where to Stay

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

To shop my prints like the one above, check out my print shop: Mindy Michaels Darkroom

Always Remember to Practice ALL the Leave No Trace Principles when exploring outside in nature!

LeaveNOTrace.ORG for more info

Where is Point Reyes National Seashore?

Point Reyes is located about an hour north of San Francisco, California, right off of the Pacific Coastal Highway and near the small towns of Olema and Inverness. It’s about 5 hours south of the main area of Redwood National and State Parks.

How to get there?

I believe the best way to travel to Point Reyes National Seashore is by road-tripping! The Pacific Coastal Highway is one of the best road-tripping routes and most scenic drives in the entire country. If you’re short on time, flying into San Francisco International Airport and renting a car would be another great option.

Where to Stay?

There are so many options for various lodging styles when it comes to staying near Point Reyes National Seashore. However, I highly recommend opting for an Airbnb or snagging a campsite! Some recommendations as follow:

  • Olema Campground – There are RV sites (with or without full hook-ups); tenting sites; hot showers and restrooms; free wifi along with many more amenities. Not to mention, it’s super close to the entrance of the national seashore. This is where we stayed in our truck camper and we found it to be perfect for all our needs.
Airbnb Rentals:
  • Amazing Waterfront Cottage (AirBnB) – Location! Location! Location! This cottage is literally RIGHT on the water! The deck to the cottage doubles as a dock! So gorgeous and only about 25 minutes to the entrance of Point Reyes National Seashore.
  • Mopsalan Haven (Airbnb) – For a more affordable vacation rental, opt to stay in this lovely home with bay views! It’s also closer to Inverness with super-hosts to boot!
  • Unique Private Cottage Experience (Airbnb) – This is one of several structures comprising the Van der Ryn Ecorefuge created by renowned ecological architect Sim Van der Ryn. There’s also a yurt where guests may relax, work out with gym equipment, or do yoga. Overall, it is a perfect, economical, nature getaway spot to relax and explore the beautiful nature of Point Reyes right behind the Village of Inverness. Oh, and it’s the most affordable on this list (apart from the campgrounds).
  • The InverNest (Airbnb) – Treetop cabin with a hot tub and stellar views! Need I say more? Nestled in the treetops overlooking Tomales Bay, the InverNest is the perfect hideaway for Point Reyes adventure. Plus, it’s only minutes from downtown Point Reyes Station.

For food and drink places to check out in town, see these Airbnb recommendations below (some of my favorites on this list, as well).

When’s the best time to go?

Many people may assume that the summer months would be the best time to visit this coastal gem. However, they’d be mistaken! Most of the heavy fogs occur during the months of July, August and September and it’s the worst time for spotting most of the cool wildlife! January–March is the time to see the grey whales migration and is the time for elephant seal pupping (which is incredible to witness and a true highlight here). But also, if seeing wildlife isn’t high on your list, the clearer skies and blooming meadows may make April – May the perfect time for your visit. With that being said, January–May would be the best time to plan a trip to Point Reyes National Seashore (though I lean towards January – March for all the awe-inspiring wildlife viewing).

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Tomales Point Trail

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Tomales Point Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore has to be on the top of your bucket-list! Giving me all the Scotland/Ireland vibes (coincidence the nearby town is named “Inverness?”), it skyrocketed to one of my all time favorite coastal hikes in the country! Not only does it have dramatic cliffs towering above the Pacific Ocean and rolling greenery galore, but the trail itself follows along the ridge-line of a narrowing peninsula with water on both sides and panoramic views for days! And, we saw an abundance of wildlife including wild Tule Elk and coyotes! (see photos below).

Trail details and info:

  •  This hike is about 10 miles round-trip (out & back) but pretty easy despite the distance.
  •  The trailhead coordinates are: 38.1891899, -122.9540796. Or, just type “Tomales Point Trailhead” into Google Maps and it’ll get ya there!
  •  You will cross into the Elk Reserve and see tons of these beauties grazing along the coastal cliffs along the hike! 
  •  The trail leads along the ridge crest of a narrow peninsula, offering spectacular views of Tomales Bay and Bolinas Ridge to the east, Bodega Bay to the north, and the coastline of the Point Reyes peninsula stretching to the south.
  • Nearby the same trailhead, you can also take a very short 0.4-mile trail that leads down to the beautiful McClures Beach.
  • If you don’t want to hike the full 10 miles, the phenomenal scenery in my above photograph can be found within the first 2.5 miles of the hike.

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Chimney Rock Trail

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Chimney Rock is, hands down, another bucket-list trail to do in Point Reyes! If you somehow need further convincing beyond my photograph above, let me tell you this: not ONLY are the views full-on magical, but the amount of wildlife is mind-blowing! And, the cherry on top…it’s a short hike and perfect for sunset!

Trail details and info:

  • This trail is only 1.9 miles (out and back) with minimal elevation gain of about 300 ft.
  • As I mentioned above, there is an abundance of wildlife to be found here, including: whale-watching at the overlook at the end of the trail (bring binoculars and a telephoto lens), mule deer, pelicans and many birds along with….
  • SO MANY ELEPHANT SEAL! This area is one of two best spots to witness the gorgeous elephant seals pupping along the shorelines (from January to March).
  • For the best and most intimate views of the elephant seal, walk down the paved roadway to the Historic Point Reyes Lifeboat Station after completing your jaunt to Chimney Rock (it’s right around the corner). Here you’ll find many cows, bulls and pups! We saw several mamas and babies snoozing along the shore as the papas splashed around in Drake’s Bay.
  • There’s also Elephant Seal Overlook (also right around the corner from the trailhead) which is a famous spot to see many elephant seal, as well. However, they’re much further away from this vantage point and harder to see.
  • Did I mention that this is one of the most incredible spots to watch sunset? After all your elephant seal gazing, run back up the hill to Chimney Rocks to witness nature’s grandeur.

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Cypress Tree Tunnel

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Cypress Tree Tunnel is a photographer’s dream location! Even if you’re not into photography, this place will transport you to another world; a world of fantasy and enchantment! In fact, I couldn’t think of the proper word to adequately describe how this beauty made me feel, so I did a deep dive on the inter webs and discovered the word “ringlorn” via The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

Ringlorn: adj. the wish that the modern world felt as epic as the one depicted in old stories and folktales – a place of tragedy and transcendence, of oaths and omens and fates, where every day life felt like a quest for glory, a mythic bond with an ancient past, or a battle for survival against a clear enemy, rather than an open-ended parlor game where all the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.”

Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, written by John Koenig

Ringlorn. It perfectly describes a feeling I often have while exploring (and probably a reason why I’m so drawn to remote corners of the earth most). And, throughout my morning amid the Cypress Tree Tunnel, I found myself wishing it wasn’t a scene from present day – from the modern world. Wishing, instead, I was: wearing nothing but an 18th century chemise; walking barefoot alongside my horse; receiving and omen from a wandering raven; zipping cars along the nearby roadway didn’t exist + so forth.


This place allowed me to escape the modern-day world for some time and for that, I am truly grateful. Its wonderment is something fiercely special to behold and I highly recommend meandering its walkway at dawn.

Details and Info:

  • The answer to the most popular question I get asked: sunrise is, without doubt, the best time to go here! Not only is it empty at this time, but if you get there before the sun comes up, you could be greeted with dazzling light rays beaming through the tunnel’s walls (like my photos above and below). Truly, it’s one of the most ethereal scenes I’ve had the privilege to photograph and be a part of this past year.
  • Fun fact: Cypress Trees are known to be a symbol of immortality as an emblem of eternal life after death. Even moreso, they’re often found near cemeteries. Due to their absolute verticality and upward movement, it signifies the soul moving towards the celestial kingdom.

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Tomales Bay Shipwreck

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Tomales Bay Shipwreck, also known as the Inverness shipwreck or the S.S. Point Reyes, can be a quick trip or a relaxing place to enjoy during low-tide. Also, how cool is it?!

Beached on a sandbar in the town of Inverness, directly behind the Inverness Store, this tall fishing boat was once in danger of being removed but was saved by local photographers!

Unfortunately, there’s no really neat story behind the “shipwreck” (if you can even call it that). The owner simply dragged his boat aground with the intent to fix it up. Obviously, he never got around to those repairs and the boat still remains in its spot to this day.

I’m not complaining, though! I absolutely loved my quiet morning next to the old vessel while sipping on some tea and chocolates from the Inverness Store (how convenient, truly).

According to many, it is possible to climb into the old boat but is not advised. Its wood is full of rot and riddled with holes – definitely not a safe move. Rather, just stick to the small trail (where you’ll see a tiny sign) and view it from the sandbar.

For a time-frame on when the photograph above was taken: we initially swung by the shipwreck for pre-sunrise photos before darting to Cypress Tree Tunnel. Thankfully we made this smart move because, despite the beautiful colors, they were no match for the light rays beaming through the dense tree fortress we witnessed after.

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Drake’s Beach

Point Reyes Bucket-list itinerary

I may be bias due to the fact that I’m overly-obsessed with wildlife viewing, but Drake’s Beach is one of the coolest beaches to spend an entire evening (or morning into afternoon). Being able to roam the long stretch of sand while weaving in and out of slumbering elephant seal at a safe distance, with steep cliffs rising from behind, was fiercely special to me!

Be absolutely cautious of where you wander – never, ever get too close to wildlife (no matter how ‘friendly’ you assume them to be). This particular beach makes it easy to keep your space thanks to the rangers’ diligent cone work and effective eye-watch. There are still times and spots, however, where the rangers aren’t able to warn you of the elephant seals whereabouts and temperaments (such as further down the stretch from the parking area).

Drake’s Beach is the same beach you can view from Elephant Seal Overlook near Chimney Rock. However, visitors are not permitted to walk down to the right of the beach where the masses of seal lay (it’s roped off). We were able to venture far down to the left, though, where there were far less seal at rest (note: this could change per season and/or year).

Ultimately, I had one of the most incredible wildlife experiences far down the left side of the beach when I came across a cow preparing to give birth to her pup. I laid my blanket a football field away and watched her through my telephoto lens for hours (desperately hoping to witness her giving birth). Unfortunately, I did not see the actual birth happen but everything leading up to it – her preparations, her agony, her anticipation – was all wildly fascinating.

Bonus hike:

Before going to Drake’s beach for sunset, consider hiking Sunset Beach Trail (7.5 miles; 880 ft gain; rated moderate). This trail leads close to Drake’s head, across Drake’s Estero from Drake’s Beach. This is a rather popular trail for birding and mountain biking as well as hiking, but you can still enjoy some peace during the quieter times of day. It’s worth it for the views and exceptional for wildlife!

Point Reyes Bucket-list Itinerary

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes Bucket-List Itinerary

Honestly don’t have too much commentary or feedback on this spot other than: it’s beautiful (especially to someone like me who grew up lighthouse-touring on the east coast and loves the sense of nostalgia and mystery they offer). Now, why the lack of words? Simply because the stairs down to the lighthouse, itself, were closed the day I visited. I only got to view it from this vantage point before the locked gate. Guess that’s why I should’ve done more research prior, eh? Well so you don’t make the same mistake, here’s some more information…

Information and Details:

  • Days of the week it is open to the public: Saturday-Monday (closed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday).
  • Hours of operation on those days: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • The stairs down to the lighthouse will also close if winds exceed 40 miles per hours.
  • It’s about a 1-mile walk, round-trip, from the parking lot with about 310 stairs.
  • Before starting your walk up to the lighthouse, I highly recommend walking over and looking out at the coastline in front of you. You’ll be greeted with an out-of-this-world overlook of South Beach – seeing it stretch on for miles and miles. South Beach overlook is also a popular spot for photography.
  • As you walk up to your final destination, take note of the unique “Leaning Tree“.
  • Lastly, swing by Sea Lion Overlook to see if you can spot any chilling below.

Another Epic Pacific Coast Highway Stop to Add to your Bucket-List!

Click on the image below to watch my short travel guide video on Point Lobos, California.

Come along on my adventure to this bucket-list stop along the Pacific Coast Highway: Point Lobos State Nature Reserve! Most people have heard of Big Sur and Carmel-by-the-Sea, and while I highly recommend stopping at both these places…I also cannot stress enough: DO NOT skip over Point Lobos State Nature Reserve (its entrance is located right off of the highway before Carmel-by-the Sea when heading north).

Saw so many Harbor Seal and even spotted Gray Whales off the coast here! Not to mention, there are countless hikes that take you all over the rugged and jaw-dropping coast!

At Point Lobos, be sure to see:

-Bird Island Lookout

-China Cove

-Sea Lion Point

-Cypress Grove

(…all of which are showcased in this vlog).

Furthermore, you can see all four of these spots along with the vast majority of the reserve by hiking the whole loop trail (shown in video) and taking all its outcrops (about 6 miles total).

*Watch My Point Lobos YouTube Vlog Here*

Thank you for reading and watching! And, as always, happy adventuring!

Please let me know if you have any questions (etc) in the comments below or in the comment section of my YouTube vlog.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel for all things truck camper life / traveling the country and living nomadically – and, of course, all the fun adventures!

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