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Visit Point Reyes National Seashore

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Thirty miles north of San Francisco, the Pacific coast arches outwards forming a triangular peninsula, bordered on the ocean side by long, wind-swept beaches beneath high cliffs or extensive sand dunes, and inland by a straight valley, the top half of which (Tomales Bay) is beneath the sea. This stretch of isolated land, all protected as Point Reyes National Seashore, is separated from the rest of California by the San Andreas Fault between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, causing it to shift gradually northwards at a rate of 3 cm per year. The extent of this movement is evident from the matching geology of the range of hills in the center of the peninsula (Inverness Ridge) with that of the Tehachapi Mountains near Los Angeles, 300 miles southeast.

Around 150 miles of trails cross-cross the rolling hills and meadows of Point Reyes though the main attraction is the 60 mile shoreline, which is easily accessible by car in several places and all is explorable on foot. There are three distinct parts of the coast: the section alongside the calm waters of Tomales Bay has a few small beaches though the majority of the land is quite densely wooded, the trees extending right to the edge of the sea. The long, straight, northwest-facing shore (Point Reyes Beach) has the most sand and the highest surf, though also suffers from the worst weather, with strong winds, cool temperatures and thick fog often present. More interesting is the south and southwest-facing coast, as here the land is a little less wind-swept and the shoreline varies between sandy beaches, rocky terraces, promontories, cliffs, lagoons and dunes.

Activities

Four main roads (Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Pierce Point Road, Mesa Road and Limantour Road) allow vehicular access to some parts of the Point Reyes peninsula, and the latter ends right beside the coast, at Limantour Beach. Several spur roads also lead to beaches, while many more sections of the coastline, the northern grasslands and estuaries, and the wooded interior, may be seen by hiking - single trails range from less than half a mile to over 15 miles in length, and many loop hikes are possible. Some routes are also open to cyclists and horse riders. Besides the varied scenery, attractions include birds, other wildlife (the largest creatures are elk, whales and sharks), wildflowers, and historic structures, such as the lifeboat station and lighthouse on the tip of Point Reyes, and around 20 working cattle ranches, established in the 19th century.