We had originally planned to sneak a trip in to Round Lake, but with early snow and the trailhead closed we decided to visit Point Reyes. It was just Tyler and I on this trip. Tyler had his first backpacking trip here and he had a blast (see "the shipwreck" trip). Point Reyes National Seashore offers a number of camping options. Coast Camp is a short 3.1 miles each way via the Coast Trail or a really short 2.1 miles via a "Fire Lane Trail".. Tyler and I decided on doing a 5.3 mile loop trip. We parked at Laguna Trailhead and walked past the hostel to the Coast Trailhead and took the Coast Trail to camp and took the Fire Lane Trail/Laguna Trail back the next day, see map and profile below..

The beauty of this camp is you are right on the water (well a really short hike down to it) and you can explore the beach once you have setup camp. Wildcat Camp is also the same distance from the ocean but the sites are really close together. At Coast Camp sites 1 through 7 are the best with each offering some privacy from the other sites. We stayed at site #1 and it is adequate for 1 tent only. See my previous trip here for a description of larger site #7. All 14 sites are pretty exposed as you can imagine being this close to the beach, Sites 1 through 4 are probably the best if you still want to see a corner of the ocean (no breaking waves just blue ocean). Even if you can't see the ocean you will hear it in the evening/early morning. Things to note are poison oak is plentiful and the raccoons here are no joke. Lock up anything that smells or looks like food. Each site has a metal locker, picnic bench and barbeque. There is a really nice pit toilet near sites 9 and 10 with water near the beach access trail. Sites do book up for the weekends so reserve your site early. We went on a Friday and all sites were reserved (not all sites were occupied that night though). Permits can be obtained through www.reserveamerica.com. Permits must be picked up from the Bear Valley Visitor Center (located at 1 Bear Valley Road Point Reyes Station, CA 94956, 415-464-5100) on your way in. If you are arriving outside of the visitor center's hours they will post permit outside for you. Shot is of beach looking south from Coast Camp.



Getting to the trailhead is easy. After you leave the Bear Valley Visitor Center take a left onto Limantour Road. Look for a sign for the Hostel/Laguna Trailhead on the left. Take the left onto this one lane road and pass the Coast Trailhead on the right and then the Hostel on the left. On the right you will see the Laguna Trailhead (see image below) and cross a bridge over the creek and into the parking lot. If you are using navigation to get to Point Reyes Visitor Center you may end up at point Reyes Station (the town). Point Reyes Station is your best bet for last minute supplies and a good meal either before or after the trip. The deli at the supermarket makes great sandwiches and if you want sit down the Station House Cafe is good.



Here is the Coast trailhead. You can see by the gate that the "trail" is actually a gravel road. I have only seen rangers driving on it though. The junctions and trail are well marked.



You get a good sense of the trail on the way in from this shot. There was a nice breeze with temperatures in the 60's that day. Pretty much perfect backpacking weather. The trail is exposed for the bulk of it. The only covered areas are around where you cross the creek.



Here is Tyler at the creek crossing. I am sure the frogs are plentiful in this area. The creek filters its way through here to the beach. We were attacked by swarms of ladybugs throughout this creek portion. I had upwards of ten on me at times. They seemed to just be flying around and landing on whatever or whoever was around. Pretty cool.



The trail was repaired through here as it was pretty much a mud pit during the wet season. It is great now and should stand up much better to the many people that use it each day.



The trail hangs a left (south) and you follow the coastline to camp. It would be pretty hard to get lost out here.



Here is a shot of the protected Tule Elk. Last count there were over 400 of these guys at Point Reyes.



You can see Santa Maria Beach on the way in. There are a couple spots where there are use trails to gain access to the beach if you can't wait until you get to camp. Here is a shot of the beach with evidence of a fire in the foreground. I should note that beach fires are by permit only. I am not sure what caused this fire but if I had to guess I would say a beach fire managed to start it.



You can see the huge tree near the trail from Coast Camp to the beach from some distance away. The rocks in the upper left are also visible some distance away. Both serve as landmarks you can use to see how much further it is.



Here is the junction with the Fire Lane Trail that we took on the way back. You are really close to Coast Camp now. You take a right and go up and around, over another creek to gain access to Coast Camp. Watch for a sign for sites 1 to 7 on the left. Shot below of trail junction.



We quickly setup camp and headed down to the beach. Tyler decided to put on his sandals and swim trunks and play in the waves. You can see the crowded conditions this Friday afternoon.



The creek that usually flows to the ocean was just a pool about 100 feet shy of the ocean. The birds didn't seem to mind though. This one was keeping a watchful eye on us as we walked by.


This seagull made it look like it was cold, it was actually quite nice though, even with the slight breeze.


After de-sanding Tyler we headed back to camp for dinner. You can see the food locker and BBQ. One tip I would give is to bring some steel wool to plug any gaps/holes in the food locker from intruders. The mice have gotten some of my food at site #4. This locker was already plugged up pretty good with steel wool so we didn't have any mice problems that night. My tent is behind Tyler who is sitting at the nice table at the site.



We watched the sun go down past Chimney Rock and "Point Reyes". This is the view from camp. We had some great stargazing since it was clear that night, don't count on it being clear on your trek out here. Venus was low in the horizon and bright enough to create reflections off the ocean, pretty cool.



We had an uneventful night and decided to see what the beach looked like that morning. It was high tide and these little chirping birds were out playing in the surf.



Tyler found this piece of driftwood that looked like a giant bird beak to me, a giant dinosaur bone to him. He decided to use it to chase seagulls.



I don't think the seagulls were really afraid of the giant dinosaur bone, but they humored Tyler and took flight when he approached at full speed. There were lost of racoon prints on the beach and some empty crab shells.



Here is my Scout UL2. It is a pretty great ultralight tent. It is ridiculously light and small to pack. The material is thin but seems to be holding up so far. Condensation can build up in the night but that is the price you pay for a single wall tent. I just use my pack towel in the morning to dry it off before packing it up. Tyler is good about not playing with the condensation so we don't get dripped on in the morning.



Here we are packed up and headed out. The trail down from the sites 1 to 7 in what Tyler is on, with the main trail visible at the top. We took a right and headed back to the car using the Fire Lane Trail.



The wispy cirrus clouds looked like a giant heart above this tree. The Fire Lane Trail goes up and over a ridge, I would still rate this trail as easy though.




Here is the uphill part with the cool clouds past Tyler. The trail is narrower than the Coast Trail, I know why is the Fire Lane Trail not a road?



I had to take a picture of some dead trees, its what I do. These guys look like they are just peaking or maybe about to get swallowed up by the living trees?



You will come to the junction of the Fire Lane Trail and the Laguna Trail. You will want to stay left to get to the Laguna trailhead using the Laguna Trail. If you take a right you stay on the Fire Lane Trail and go towards Sky Camp/Visitor Center.




We started down now. You can see the trail offers no cover but the scenery is still nice. In the spring things are greener and there are even some flowering plants.



We made it back to the Laguna trailhead. See the cars in the lot. We saw quite a few backpackers headed in and the lot was full. When we headed in the day before the lot only had a couple cars in it. This is a great destination for overnights and just to explore. Make sure you check out the Coast Miwok Village at the Visitor Center. Follow the trail to the north of the Visitor Center labeled Kule Loklo.




Red line shows the path we hiked from car at Laguna Trailhead to Coast Trail to Coast Camp and back on the Fire Lane Trail. Elevation profile shows how easy this hike is on the lungs/knees. Click either for a larger version.
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