The Backcountry Guide to Point Reyes (and How to Look Cute Exploring)

Photo Credit: Ivana Cajina

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Have you ever heard of Point Reyes? Neither had I, but this gorgeous 100+ mile stretch of shore is one of the best-kept secrets in California. Less known than Big Sur yet no less incredible, vistas and views await at every turn. A nationally protected seashore and national treasure, the cape is the place to disconnect and appreciate what really matters. If you’re looking to get active there’s a plethora of hiking and biking trails, photo ops, and watersports, but you could also go full zen mode and watch the waves from one of the cute beach towns along the way.

Photo Credit: Levi Bare

Just 30 miles outside of San Francisco, drive the twisty and windy road an hour northwest and you’ll feel worlds away from the urban sprawl, which is exactly why Backcountry chose it as the location for #stokeseries, a much-needed nature retreat with a group of epically like-minded adventure girls. From the thunderous ocean breaks to the subtle chirp of the seabirds, we frolicked in the sea and shore, soaking in every bit of California sunshine we could. We were there to reset, recharge and reconnect — both with nature and each other. If you have a day to fully immerse yourself in the area’s beauty, here’s how to explore like we did:

Find Your H(OM)e

Generally, not a yoga enthusiast, I’ve never found the practice especially relaxing due to my lack of flexibility (and attention span). However, one of the girls said something incredibly profound that really resonated: it’s all about practice not perfect. Once you realize that no one cares what you’re doing enough to judge you, it’s easy to relax and focus on your body’s movements and motions. Despite not being super bendy or strong, it felt great to stretch out and give my sore muscles a little TLC after a long day of plane and car travel. We set our intentions for the trip and mine was to namaste, namaslay the day by committing to being present. You can practice your own form of morning meditation for a bit of self-care but there are also classes, retreats, and workshops available along the coast. And trust me, nothing mellows you and sets the mood more than the sound of the crashing waves as a backdrop.

Play in the Bay

The place where Sir Francis Drake first came ashore, the area is meant for maritime explorers. Tomales Bay is a small inlet separating Point Reyes Peninsula from Marin County and the largest unspoiled coastal embayment in California. An idyllic spot for SUPing or kayaking since it’s not open water, it’s a great place to learn, practice your balance, or gain confidence. Known for its calm waters and 50 shades of blue, the area near the Harbor Club has rental gear and tours if you’d prefer not to go out on your own. Two weeks of every month when the conditions are just right, there are also magical sunset bioluminescence tours.

Indulge in the Local Seafood

I’m all about eating locally but have never been privy enough to eat so locally that the seafood comes from literally across the street (the same bay we SUPPed in to be exact). Known for their oyster, clam, and mussel beds, area farms let you pick and shuck your own freshly harvested shellfish. Pack a picnic and suck them down raw in all their briny glory or try one of the amazing area seafood restaurants’ preparations. Saltwater Oyster Depot is a lovely family-owned joint with broiled delights that are the perfect bite of umami — think Fresno chili and black garlic and Worchestire, bacon, and parsley. Yeah, I’ll be dreaming of those oysters for days.

Hit the Trail

From rocky headlands to sandy beaches, open grasslands, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges, the landscape of Point Reyes is as varied as the 1500 species of plants and animals that call the magical area home. Whether you’re looking to for a few short miles to stretch your legs or a longer jaunt, both the state park and the national seashore are great backdrops for hiking. With 150+ miles of trails, your toughest decision will simply be where to explore first. Alamere Falls is an epic 13-mile adventure to a hidden cascading beach waterfall, but if that sounds daunting, Limantour Beach Walk or Tomales Point Trail are great introductions to the area.

Photo Credit: Stephen Leonardi

Snaps to That

There are so many iconic views you could plan your whole trip around photo ops. The Point Reyes Shipwreck should be your first stop into town, an eerie reminder of the area’s early explorers. Set on a sandbar in the town of Inverness, it’s a quick photo op right off the main road. The Cypress Tree Tunnel is another easy stop right at the park’s North District Operations Center and Radio Station.  

You’ll want to drive up to Point Reyes Lighthouse, although it is currently undergoing a massive renovation and may be closed (sadly it was for me). That said, it’s at the very tip of the peninsula and boasts the best views of the coast and craggy cliffs. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a seal pup or whale. Keep in mind the weather in this area is notoriously bipolar. You may be blessed with bluebird skies or Karl the Fog may decide he needs a vacation up north too. If you can, give yourself a few extra days in case Mother Nature isn’t feeling cooperative. You can never spend too much time at the beach.

Where to Stay: The area is home to a variety of cozy waterfront cottages and b&bs, but the historic Stinson Estate is as charming as it is quirky with touches of old and new. Just steps from the beach, the massive property is great for groups with a 6-bedroom main house and Balinese cabins and an airstream outside. The well-manicured garden and lily pond are stunning and have been featured on HGTV (hello Instagram backdrop), but the highlight for me was the secret game room and speakeasy through the bookshelf in the basement.

About Backcountry If you adore the outdoors like me, Backcountry is the ultimate lifestyle retailer. Offering premium active brands like North Face, Prana and hundreds of others at a fraction of the cost, if you’re going to play in nature, you might as well look good doing it. Use promo code LMONITZ15 for 15% off your first order.

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Point Reyes National Seashore is one of California's best-kept secrets. For things to do and travel tips, practice your photography at the shipwreck boat, cypress tree tunnel and lighthouse station, indulge in local seafood restaurants, or get active hiking the beach ocean walks for views of the Pacific Ocean. A great day trip or road trip from San Francisco, it's a beautiful place to get back to nature and adventure in the Bay Area. Plus, backcountry.com outfits to look cute doing it! #ad #ca

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1 Comment

  1. I want to go just to see the Cypress Tree Tunnel!! Also, I love a lighthouse, so that is something that we love to see. I’m sure the renovation will be complete by then. Thanks for the recommendation on The Stinson Estate, it sounds perfect!
    Pinning this for future reference!!

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