There’s not too many places where you get to be up close and personal with several herds of elk on historic ranch land while gazing out on the mighty Pacific Ocean. Point Reyes National Seashore is a gorgeous place for so many reasons and the Tule Elk Preserve on Tomales Point is definitely one of them!
The drive out to the Tomales Point Trailhead is a little bumpy so be sure to empty the bladder at Point Reyes Station or at the Visitor Center! Wouldn’t want the bumps in the road and the excitement of seeing a large herd of elk on the road to cause any ‘accidents’! We drove around a bend and right there just off the road was a large herd of elk just grazing! We pulled over and slowly got out of the car and started clicking away. We were just 20 feet away! They looked up at us for a second then kept grazing like we were just annoying paparazzi…which admittedly we were. I thought this would be the highlight of our day, we really didn’t know what we would be in for!
When we arrived at the historic ranch buildings with only a handful of other cars parked. The hike starts just to the west of the buildings where you walk through an area where they are trying to regrow the cypress. Normally this area is quite windy but thankfully this day we only had a slight breeze and the ocean was super calm. The hubs and I cruised along the completely exposed trail admiring how electric green everything was and saw a couple of hawks floating above us and some rather large coyote paw prints along with the rather large coyote! We ended up seeing 2 coyotes on our 9.5 mile trek.
Most of this hike is exposed so you can see as straight out to the ocean and at times all the way to Napa Valley’s Mt St Helena! The inclines are easy and the excitement of seeing the elk helps to encourage the feet to go uphill. We came up on a herd of female elk sunbathing on the west side of the point. They could care less about us walking by, just working on their vitamin D intake. Further down the way we found where all the male’s were hanging out…at the watering hole. Not much us humans!
We reached the point where we could see Dillon Beach and all the way to the other side to Bodega Head. When the hubs and I first moved here we were out at Bodega Head hiking and wondered what this other land mass was that we were looking at. The gentleman we asked looked at us oddly and told us it was Tomales…2 1/2 years later we are looking from the other side. We love where we live and wish there were more time in the week to get out and explore all this beauty!
After our short break at the point we turned around and headed back. The hill we walked down did not seem this high on the way out! It was definitely more challenging on the way back but still so worth it. The elk were having a lazy Sunday and hadn’t moved too far from where we initially saw them so it was great to get to experience them just lounging about.
The parking lot was crowded when we reached the car. We’ve noticed these hikes that are closer to the city get crowded later in the day so if you want the trails to yourself and good parking get there early!
On our way out of town we stopped in Inverness at the deli and had a snack in the car before taking the lovely drive up the coast to Tomales-Petaluma road back to our reality…one day we will live closer to the mighty Pacific. Until then we will enjoy the windy roads and beautiful views from the car.
Cost is free, good amount of parking, 9.5 miles easy except it is long, elevation gain 1,022 ft, toilets only at the parking lot.