Trip Number: 13042A
Staff: Jane Jontz
- Enjoy birdwatching, beachwalking, and the peace of the seashore
- Spend time in a sea of colors and fragrances of spring wildflowers
- Explore dunes, lakes, a waterfall, and an estuary
- The comradarie of your fellow Sierra Club members
- All campgrounds
- All meals and group camping gear
Photo: Melinda Goodwater
If you would like to backpack in an area with grand views, prolific wildlife,
and a rich cultural history, then this is the trip for you. Point Reyes National
Seashore protects over 70,000 acres of sand dunes, beaches, grasslands, Douglas
fir and pine forests, estuaries, marshes, lakes, and 80 miles of unspoiled,
undeveloped coastline. In the spring, this all comes alive with a vibrant display
Our five-day, 22-mile route (with only one climb of 1,300') is the perfect
way to begin the backpacking season. The backpack begins with topping 1,407'
Mt. Wittenberg, Point Reyes' highest, en route to our mountain and coastside
camps. One and a half layover days allow time to spy frolicking harbor seals,
view the Seashore's wide variety of birds, and hike to a waterfall crashing
to the beach. We'll see blooming grasslands, chaparral, forests, and unique
coastal rock formations and sea stacks. Located an hour from the densely populated
San Francisco Bay Area, Point Reyes is a sanctuary for discovery, inspiration,
solitude, and rejuvenation of the human spirit.
Day 1: This outing begins Sunday, May 12 at 12 p.m. Everyone
will bring his/her favorite trailhead lunch and we'll get to know each other
over lunch. After orienting ourselves to the map and general flow of activities
for the week, we'll have our gear check, pack up and begin the backpack up Mt.
Wittenberg to Sky Camp, 2.7 miles and 1,300 feet up. Here we'll find sweeping
views of Point Reyes, Drakes Bay, and the Pacific Ocean.
Day 2: The hike down to Coast Camp is 4 miles. Close to the
beach and tidepools, you'll be free in the afternoon to hike along sand dunes
out to Limantour Spit. There's great birdwatching here from feeding shorebirds
to many migratory species. Nearly half the bird species of North America have
been identified at Point Reyes. The hike to the end of the spit is 4 miles and
you can hike as much or as little as you like.
Photo: Stephanie DeMoe
Day 3: The hike from Coast Camp to Wildcat Camp is all along
a bluff, overlooking the ocean the whole way. In addition to the 8.5-mile backpack
to our camp, we will include two short side trips to Sculptured Beach and a
lunch stop at Arch Rock. We'll camp at Wildcat Camp for two nights in a meadow
on a bluff overlooking the ocean.
Day 4: On our layover day we'll enjoy a hike from Wildcat
Camp on the Coastal Trail to Bass Lake for lunch, then on the way back, go on
the Ocean Lake Trail to make a loop. These lakes are on a grassland and chaparral
plateau. Alamere Falls, about a mile down the beach from Wildcat Camp, cascades
down to the shore and is easy to do in the afternoon while we keep our eyes
on the tides.
Day 5: Return back to Bear Valley Trailhead through chaparral,
Douglas fir, Bishop pine, and oak woodland in 6.5 miles. We will stop at Divide
Meadow for lunch where there are restrooms and log benches made out of the large
oak trees. In the spring there should be lovely pink Naked Ladies blooming.
Sometimes there's so many, it looks like a sea of pink! Early afternoon arrival
at the trailhead is expected.
The nearest airports to fly into are San Francisco and Oakland, each about
45 miles from our meeting place. One advantage of a trip near a population center
is there are public transportation options to get to Point Reyes. Ride sharing
is strongly encouraged and a roster of trip members, driving directions, and
public transportation options will be sent well enough ahead of time to facilitate
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Melinda Goodwater
Our backpacking camps include picnic tables, food lockers, grills, vault toilets
and potable water. The trip price includes all meals from dinner on day 1 through
lunch on day 5. Group camping gear will be provided. Creating masterpieces,
from freeze-dried and dehydrated fruits and vegetables, is a hobby your leader
cheerfully enjoys. You may even find yourself signing up for future trips for
the food! A nutritious and high-energy diet is planned. Any food allergies or
limitations should be indicated to the leader as far in advance of the trip
as possible. Vegetarians can be accommodated, but participants unable to eat
dairy products should consider another outing. Participants will be divided
into cook crews so everyone will have a chance to prepare meals two or three
Although this trip is rated light-moderate, good physical condition is required
to carry a 35-pound pack for four moving days. Daily hiking distances to camps
will be 2.7-8.5 miles, though the only major elevation gain is 1,300 feet on
the first backpacking day. Elevation on this trip fluctuates between sea level
and 1,407 feet. You should sustain a program of physical conditioning to prepare
for this trip and the leader will provide suggestions for this. Proper preparation
will only enhance your wilderness experience. Novice backpackers and beginner
backpackers in great shape are encouraged to join us.
Point Reyes is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, and spring is the ideal
time to be there with mild temperatures and usually clear weather. The characteristic
morning coastal fog is soon blown away by daily winds. Point Reyes extends into
the Pacific Ocean 10 miles farther than the surrounding coastline, so fog and
strong winds may be encountered. Expect daytime highs in the 60s and nighttime
lows in the 40s and 50s; however coastal humidity may make it feel cooler, so
layers of clothing are recommended. We wouldn't expect to have much, if any,
rain, but spring can bring weather surprises so you will still need to bring
raingear. This trip is entirely on well-maintained trails to avoid poison oak,
stinging nettles, and ticks.
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Julie VanTilburg
A detailed equipment list will be provided. Participants must furnish their
own personal camping equipment, including a backpack, a lightweight tent (should
be shared), a sleeping bag rated to at least 20 degrees, sleeping pad, reliable
raingear including pack cover, layers of clothing comfortable between 40-70
degrees, and medium-weight (preferably leather), well-broken-in, waterproofed,
lug-soled boots. Hiking poles are helpful on rough and steep terrain. If this
is your first backpacking experience, you may wish to rent or borrow equipment
for this trip -- the leaders are happy to make recommendations. You will enjoy
this outing more if you practice with your gear on a weekend trip before this
one. Your personal backpack gear should weigh less than 25 pounds as we will
give you up to 10 pounds of central commissary. Group commissary equipment will
- Wilderness Press Recreational Map: Point Reyes National Seashore and West
- Tom Harrison Maps: Point Reyes National Seashore Trail Map
- Lage, Jessica, Point Reyes: The Complete Guide to the National Seashore
and Surrounding Area.
- Evens, Jules, The Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula.
- Gilliam, Harold, Island in Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula.
- Hart, John, Walking Softly in the Wilderness: The Sierra Club Guide
- Point Reyes National Seashore: www.nps.gov/pore
Photo: Stephanie DeMoe
The Miwok Indians were the first human inhabitants on Point Reyes some 5,000
years ago and left behind over 120 known village sites. Europeans followed Sir
Francis Drake's landing in 1579, and Mexican land grants established ranchos
for cattle grazing and dairy farming 150 years ago that are still functioning
today. As development pressure mounted in the 1960s, an odd partnership was
formed between the Sierra Club and the remaining ranchers to preserve Point
Reyes as a National Seashore. So today, traditional land uses coexist with the
large amount of the peninsula preserved as wilderness. We will witness this
and discuss the problems threatening Point Reyes today. Air pollution from the
ever-growing Bay Area, invasive plants and animals, and rising sea levels from
global warming could make this area uninhabitable for many species. We will
help keep the Seashore wild by learning and practicing Leave No Trace principles.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Jane Jontz has led backpacking trips on Isle Royale, in the Trinity Alps, Inyo National Forest, Baxter State Park and Yosemite. She has backpacked and hiked in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Pioneer Mountains, White Mountains, Chugach Range, and on Mount Shasta, Hood and Kilimanjaro. She also enjoys triathloning, yoga and working as a National Ski Patroller.
Carol MacFarlane has been hiking and backpacking in the mountains of the west since the early 70s. She participated in her first Sierra Club National Outings backpack in 1971 and began leading backpacking trips for National Outings in 2000. Carol is a retired educator who loves to spend time walking her dog, learning Italian, and volunteering for various organizations. Her participants rave about her backcountry cuisine.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips