Point Reyes National Seashore has been a favorite place of mine ever since my hubby (then college boyfriend) and I hiked the Tomales Point trail and came suddenly face to face with a large herd of over 20 male tule elk standing possessively across the last part of the trail we needed to traverse before reaching the end of the trail, Tomales Bluff. We didn’t want to turn around just short of the end. So, we hung back and waited, watching in awe, grateful for the glimpse of these majestic animals. I can still picture vividly in my mind the elk in the middle of the fog. The thick fog coming from the Pacific ocean, crossing the trail, and ever so gently, swirling down towards Tomales Bay on the other side. It was magical! About half an hour later, just when we were about to turn around and head back, the herd moved off the trail as if giving us permission to proceed. Once they moved far enough away, we tiptoed on, turning our heads frequently to get our last looks and also to make sure they were staying put. It was a little bit scary walking by in silence, knowing that all of their eyes were on us, their size and their antlers were no joke!
We didn’t see the group on the way back, but since then we’ve returned to do this hike two more times, hoping to see the large herd again. Both times we spotted elk, but never in such a large group as the first time. Fortunately, this hike has so much going for it with sweeping ocean views of both the Pacific Ocean and Tomales Bay, that seeing elk is really just icing on an already fabulous cake. Recently, we hiked this trail again, our fourth time, hoping to see the herd again. But I’m getting ahead of myself… Before I share about what we saw on the trail, let me share with you some things we did on the way that I highly recommend.
Golden Gate Bridge Photo Safari
If you’re lucky enough to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on your way to Marin County, take a quick stop at Baker Beach and get yourself that iconic picture of the Golden Gate Bridge with the SF Bay and Baker Beach in your frame. When we stopped there at around 8 AM, there was still the everpresent coastal fog covering the top part of the bridge. Make sure to explore the Battery Chamberlain on the right side of the parking lot, and read about its interesting history as well.
Then drive a few minutes to the other side of the bridge (the side closest to SF) for a different vantage point. A little more bridge became visible through the fog across the bike path.Next we made it down to Fort Point and got our under the bridge look.
For the last bridge view, we crossed the bridge and took a picture from the marin side facing the city. If you’re already there anyway, walking a few minutes on the bridge is a must.
Marin French Cheese
After taking sufficient pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge we headed over to Marin French Cheese in Novato to pick up some picnic supplies and enjoy lunch on one of the many picnic tables around the lake. Their soft-style cheeses and various sandwiches (with brie cheese of course) are absolutely delicious!
Fueled up for our afternoon of hiking, we continued on to Point Reyes National Seashore to get to the Tomales Point trailhead, which was only 45 minutes away. About 30 minutes into the drive we caught a glimpse of Abbotts Lagoon from the road and unanimously decided that it was too beautiful to pass up and that we HAD to explore it up close.
Abbotts Lagoon Hike
The Abbotts Lagoon hike is an easy, short and flat hike which is only about 2 miles round trip (more if you go past the bridge at the lagoon). The trail meanders along grassy fields over bridges and a boardwalk, giving you glimpses of the lagoon in anticipation. If you’re lucky you may see the cutest little bunnies hopping across the trail. The short diversion to the lagoon was worth it!
Tomales Point Hike
Our final destination was the Tomales Point trail at the end of the road. Getting back to my story about hoping to see large herds of elk on our 4th time hiking this trail, we were excited to see a a few male elk right when we entered into the Tule Elk Reserve. We took this as a good sign!
The Tomales Point hike starts on the south side of Pierce Point Ranch at the end of Pierce Point Road.
After about a mile and a half we suddenly came across an elk happily eating grass by the side of the trail. Then we saw another, and another… and soon realized that we came upon an actual herd. Unlike last time, these elk were female, some with their youngsters in tow.
We stood on the trail staring at the elk as they continued to munch away on the vegetation. Every once in awhile an elk would look up and give us the once over, probably wondering why the three weirdos were just standing there still staring at them.
Just as we were minutes away from our van and already talking about what to have for dinner, one more elk popped its head up right next to us on the trail and greeted us. He stared at us for a few seconds and then went right back to grazing. This trail was amazing until the very end!!