Point Reyes National Seashore,
National Park Service,
Marin County
In brief:
1.3 mile out and back hike to Point Reyes lighthouse.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 1.34 mile out and back hike is moderate, with about 250 feet of elevation change. Obviously the distance isn't a challenge, but the steps are.

Full sun.

Trail traffic

Trail surfaces
Paved trail and 309 steps.

Hiking time
About 1 hour.

Nice any time. Seems to always be windy (bring a jacket and hat). Good whale spotting in winter.

Getting there:
From US 101 in Marin County, exit San Anselmo (Sir Francis Drake). Drive about 20 miles west on Sir Francis Drake. Turn right onto CA 1, then make the first left onto Bear Valley Road. Drive about 2 miles to the junction with Sir Francis Drake, and turn left. Continue about 15 miles, and turn right at the Chimney Rock/Lighthouse junction. Drive slowly down this narrow road 1 mile, to the trailhead parking on the left.

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 37°59'52.01"N
123° 0'43.38"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurants at Point Reyes Station. There are a few stores and restaurants in Inverness. Pay phones at the Bear Valley and Ken Patrick Visitor Centers. There are overnight accommodations available on the eastern fringes of the park, including a handful of motels in Inverness, and numerous bed and breakfasts just off Sir Francis Drake. Point Reyes has several hike-in campgrounds -- inquire at the Point Reyes Ranger Station in Bear Valley, or read more about the options here. No car camping in the park. Point Reyes Hostel, down Limantour Road, is an inexpensive lodging option. Read my page describing Point Reyes hikes, accommodations, food, and more.

Trailhead details:
Lighthouse is closed Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. No entrance or parking fees. Limited parking in a paved lot, with designated handicapped parking further up the road to the lighthouse. Pit toilets on site. There's a map under glass at the information signboard, but none to take with you. During some times of the year, vehicle access is restricted in this southwestern corner of the park, and visitors are bussed from the visitor center. You may check with a ranger at park headquarters (415-663-1092) to be sure you will be able to drive all the way out to Chimney Rock. There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead.

Hikers only. No dogs.

The Official Story:
Point Reyes website.
Park headquarters 415-663-1092.

Map Choices:
Download the park map pdf from NPS
Other Point Reyes maps from NPS
• Point Reyes by Jessica Lage (order this book from has a good map and descriptions of this hike.
Trail Map of Point Reyes National Seashore, by Tom Harrison (order from is the best all-purpose map to Point Reyes.
Hiking Marin, by Don and Kay Martin, has a simple map and trail descriptions (order this book from

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

The Lighthouse is one of the most popular destinations trailheadat Point Reyes. At a national seashore with hundreds of miles of trails, I imagine most visitors envision the lighthouse journey as the easiest possible stroll. Well it is, until you get to those steps. The path to the lighthouse drops on 309 steps, the equivalents to 30 stories. Going down is a snap, but when it's time to ascend, oh the pain! Worth it though, to visit this scenic and lonely part of Point Reyes.
     Begin from the parking lot and head uphill on the signed gated paved park road. view northImmediately there are outstanding views north to the sandy coastline of Point Reyes Beach.With binoculars, you might be able to spot whales. The landscape on either side of the gently ascending road is mostly yellow bush lupine and wind-swept grassland. You'll pass under some cypress tilted by those strong winds, then skirt an employee residence, on the right. The grade levels out as the trail narrows to squeeze across a thin ridgetop. Stop in the cozy visitor center, if open, before reaching the top of the stairs.
     At the bottom, you can tour the small old compound, read the exhibit panels, and see the lighthouse lens (when staffing permits). steps!There's not a lot of space on the little shelf of land, but if you can find some elbow room along the fence, scan the nearby waters for seals and birds. When you're ready, head back up the steps. You might notice they are conveniently numbered. There are little pullouts off to the left for those who need extended rest breaks. When the steps draw near the edge of the surrounding cliffs, examine the rock -- if what you see looks like a geologic cookie batter, with small stones distributed through sandy stone, it's Point Reyes conglomerate. After you catch your breath at the top, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 1.34 miles
Last hiked: May 24, 2013