A highlight of any visit to Point Reyes National Seashore, on the California coast, thirty miles north of San Francisco, is the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Growing up, my family would visit here every January to watch the migrating gray whales. Assuming a clear day, the views from here are incredible! The lighthouse is located on the tip of the Point Reyes Peninsula, which extends ten miles out from the mainland. To the north, visitors can enjoy views of the eleven-mile long Great Beach, also known as Point Reyes Beach. To the south, the steep, craggy cliffs are stunning. Looking out into vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, you may catch sight of the Farallon Islands.
Getting to the lighthouse is a bit of a trek. First, the road to the end of the road is narrow, with many curves and potholes. Next, the walk from the parking lot to the first views of the lighthouse is a relatively easy half mile. But make note that this area is very exposed, and on a cold, windy, foggy, or rainy day, it can be pretty uncomfortable! Lastly, to reach the actual lighthouse itself, visitors must walk down 308 steps. Not a big deal in itself, until you have to walk back up them! But my five-year-old ran right up without complaint.
Before you visit, make note of the hours it is open to visitors. The stairs to the lighthouse are open Thursday through Monday (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays!), 10am-4:30pm.
And consider the weather! We were lucky during our visit this past week and had some rare summer sunshine, but this is one of the foggiest places on the North American continent. There is a reason the 1980 movie, The Fog, was filmed here! It’s also the reason the lighthouse was built here! The fog is more persistent in the summer months, sometimes lasting for weeks at a time. A highlight of a visit to the lighthouse is the views up and down the coast, but when fog is present, visibility may be limited to within a few hundred feet. Wind can be a factor, too. Due to safety hazards, the park service may close the lighthouse if winds exceed 40 m.p.h.
Interested in the history of the lighthouse? Here’s a great write-up from the National Park Service… “Lighthouse History at Point Reyes”
Photos from our visit this past week…
Interested in going? If you don’t mind driving, Point Reyes is an easy day trip from the San Francisco Bay Area. The lighthouse is a two-hour drive from our home in the East Bay. There are many, many other things to do in Point Reyes in addition to the lighthouse, including lots of great hikes, beaches, a fun visitor center, and a recreated Miwok village (which I’ll write about tomorrow). For overnight stays, we like to camp at Samuel P. Taylor State Park, located a short distance away, but there are hotels and B&Bs in nearby towns and the larger cities of Marin County.
Visit the NPS website for specific information (directions, things to do, history, etc): www.nps.gov/pore/index.htm