This past weekend the Mr. and I had an adventure day at Point Reyes National Seashore, a nature preserve in Marin County covering 50,000+ acres with a ton of things to do. Depending on when you time your visit, you can see gray whale migrations from the Point Reyes Lighthouse, harbor seal pups along Drakes Esteros, and elephant seals breeding or molting out at Chimney Rock.
We started at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, a stop everyone should make. Volunteers at the information counter give you the low down on where the hot spots for bird watching or wildlife viewing are, and can answer your questions about beach fire or back-country camping permits. The Mr. and I snagged ourselves a park map and then hightailed it out of there when the locals started getting restless.
There are a lot of popular hiking trails leading out from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, including a hike along the famous San Andreas Fault that gives California all those earthquakes it’s famous for. We were looking for something a little more off the beaten path and settled for the Estero-Glenbrook-Muddy Hollow Loop.
Within minutes of setting out from the Muddy Hollow staging area, we paused for a moment to listen…nothing but silence, and it was glorious. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of meditation but good luck trying to get me to sit still and quiet my thoughts for more than two seconds. Hiking is my meditation, my way of re-centering and finding joy. All that blue sky and green trees makes me feel as free as a kid on a summer morning.
We didn’t run into any people on the trails until the end of our hike, but there were lots of quail out for afternoon strolls…
…and lots of wildflowers in bloom.
(Castilleja or paintbrush. I wish I had known about it’s magical hair shininess powers while we were there!)
We must have scared all the wildlife off with out heavy clomping about, but Tule elk herds, rabbits, hawks, and song birds are all common along this route. You might even see a fox or a bobcat or a unicorn if you’re lucky.
The trail starts and ends in a Riparian zone, following along Glenbrook Creek. There’s all kinds of berry shrubs interspersed here and there with Bishop pines and Eucalyptus trees. When we made it up to the coastal bluffs overlooking Drakes and Limantour Esteros (pictured below), there were lots of long tall grasses and stubby Manzanita shrubs that the turkey vultures were catching a late lunch in. All of it was beautiful.
Hiking towards the blueness of the ocean was entrancing, and I was kinda disappointed when the trail hooked back into the valley. Disappointed until I saw the clump of trees straight ahead on the left…
The picture may not convey it well, but I swear the way the late afternoon sun lit these trees and the entire valley, I felt like I was in Jurassic Park and a brontosaurus was going to pop up at any minute. It was also right around these trees that I discovered stinging nettle is alive and well in this part of the park. I had never brushed against it before, that stuff is lame!
I was more than ready for a cold beer and some nommage by the time we saw the trail post letting us know we were almost back at the staging area.
We had started out on the loop guesstimating the distance on the map, thinking it was maybe 5 miles tops. Three and a halfish hours later and a little over seven miles under our belts, I was running low on energy and happy we had taken plenty of water and snacks with us.
Route: Start at Muddy Hollow Staging area (lots of parking) off Limantour Road. Follow Muddy Hollow Road to the Glenbrook Trail Junction. Less than a mile later, continue straight as Glenbrook transitions into Estero. Estero joins up with Muddy Hollow Trail, where you’ll see the above sign, and it’s another 0.3 miles back to the staging area.
Details: This particular loop is 7.3 miles, with a minimal elevation change. Experienced hikers will find it on the easy side, newer hikers may find the distance challenging.
Rules: No dogs, no bikers, horses okay.
Tips: Check out the National Park Service website, there are maps of all kinds but there’s also lots of information about the history of the park and the flora and fauna. Bring layers! We were fortunate enough to have lots of sunshine and a slight breeze, but hiking along the coast means the weather can easily change. This trail is pretty isolated, always let someone know where you’re going and when you plan on being back. The majority of the hike is in direct exposure, wear sunscreen and bring lots of water. Last but not least, do a tick check when you get back to the car.