Discover West Marin

Just north of Sonoma County and south of San Francisco, Marin County offers some spectacular natural wonders. Mt. Tamalpais (The Sleeping Lady) offers dozens of hiking adventures, from the winding Matt Davis Trail (which opens up to some breathtaking ocean views) to the challenging Steep Ravine. West Marin encompasses miles of wild coastline, open ridge tops and pastoral dairy land. It is home to elk, elephant seals, foxes, bobcats, hundreds of bird species and the occasional mountain lion. Almost all of West Marin is protected within Point Reyes National Seashore or within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Point Reyes National Seashore encompasses 65,000 acres of varied geography. The park can be explored through a network of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Vehicles can reach most parts of the peninsula on its few roads. The park’s dramatic juncture of sea and land can keep explorers engrossed for weeks. The Bear Valley Visitor Center at Olema has excellent maps as well as exhibits, artifacts and current information on camping and weather. Visitors who enter the center cross the San Andreas Fault, which caused the Point Reyes Peninsula to thrust northward 20 feet during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. A half-mile loop trail starts at the visitor center and follows the fault line.

Pt. Reyes Lighthouse,
photo by Paulene George

A popular spot at Point Reyes from January through May is the Point Reyes Lighthouse, where California gray whales pass by on their annual migration to Baja California. Good visibility to spot the whales depends on weather, which can change suddenly, so it is wise to check conditions at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. The lighthouse is popular on weekends during peak whale season.
West Marin can be reached via Highway 101, but many travelers, especially those already at the Sonoma Coast, find the scenic Coastal Highway 1 to be a great route, taking you through Tomales, Olema, Pt. Reyes and into quaint Stinson Beach, passing by Tomales Bay on the way.