Thursday, February 13, 2014

Coastal Camping and Beach Campfires In Point Reyes National Seashore, CA

It has been unseasonably warm in California this Winter season. Yes, even on California standards. Our mountains have been deprived of a good dump of snow, making it a bit difficult to set our minds to getting out and ride some snow. Instead, we opted to take advantage of this warmth and reserved a permit to camp at Coast Camp in Point Reyes National Seashore and try our whale watching luck with the Grey Whale migrations this season.

Trail Info:

  • Miles: 3.1 miles one way (6.2 miles Round Trip)
  • Elevation: Flat! as flat as I wish my abs were!
  • Location: Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, CA
  • Trail Head: Laguna TH
  • Trail: Coast Trail
  • Camp: Coast Camp
  • Trail use: Hike/ Bikes
  • Weather Forecast via NOAA: Point Reyes Station


Permits can be reserved in advance. Months in advance, if you're aiming for a peak Summer season. It seems campsite have become increasingly more popular. Permit reservations used to be a long enduring phone call to the visitor center with a park ranger helping you out plan. Nowadays, it is just a click away through It is much more convenient, though I'm sad to have lost the human contact. And a lot more accessible, probably the reason for it's difficulty to find desired dates now, competition is now high!

The email confirmation you will be receiving after you've made your reservation is still not your permit, that is just your reservation. Permits are picked up at the visitor center on the date of entry:

1 Bear Valley Road,
Point Reyes Station, CA

While at the visitor center, and the weather looks good for some campfire (low fire danger!), might as well obtain a bonfire permit and have a bonfire at the beach! This permit can only be picked in person and is dependent on the weather forecast/outlook.


Along with your camping permit is an overnight parking permit, leave this on your car's dashboard when you leave your car at the trail head parking lot. Parking for the Laguna Trail Head is at the very end of the turn off from Limantour Road, past the Point Reyes Hostel. You'll pass the actual start of the Coast Trail. Once parked, you'll just need to re-trace your car's route back about .1 mile.. or a hop skip and a jump!

Camp Sites

Each campsite has a picnic table and a grill. While camp sites 1-7 offer more privacy and a bit more shelter from the winds that comes up from the coast it is a bit of a walk towards the campground's restroom facilities (No primitive camping over here!). Camp sites 8-14, while closer to the bathroom, is a bit more exposed. Site 8 and 13 are huge group sites that the park sometimes splits into A & B (8a or 8b) to accomodate 2 smaller groups if there are no big (25 people max) groups have reserved it.


There are 2 faucets in this campground. One is located by camp site# 8 and another between the bathroom and cap site# 11 & 12. With my paranoid self, I still filter the water from here.

Our Trip

We left Los Angeles after work and met up with our cousin in Santa Cruz and crashed there for the night. The following morning, with bellies full from breakfast and a packed lunch from the Buttery (good breakfast place & bakery, if you're in the Santa Cruz area!) plus a quick final look at the weather forecast, we took the 2 hour drive up to Marin County.

After picking up the permit we lingered a bit in the visitor center's gift shop. I had forgotten my National Park Passport, yet again! So I had to settle stamping a random paper provided right next to the stamp pad to add to my collection. Walked-by the exhibits, like it was our first visit there. And got my usual postcard to be sent to postcard pals (a.k.a. my sister).

The drive to the trail head is slow and scenic. After leaving the visitor center's parking lot, there'll be 2 left turns, once to get on Bear Valley Road again and then another to Limantour Road. The roads are quite popular with road cyclists and a lot of them ride in groups. At this point, I think Chris (an avid road cyclist himself) is regretting not bringing his bike instead and possibly just ditching us on this hike haha.

Frances' Donut Croissants.. nomnom..
Once on Limantour Road, we followed the signs pointing to Point Reyes Hostel, to take us to the turn off that leads to the parking area. It was already lunch by the time we arrived and finally found a parking spot.

Everyone agreed to have lunch first before setting off and make any pack adjustments. While I was making sure our beer-filled Hydroflask (Perfect light trip to test this out!) is safely secured and very well tucked in, we noticed a fellow hiker making his own adjustments as well with his... dundundun.. ice chest full of bottled beers! Man, our paper-bottle chardonnay and growler sized beer just felt so infinitesimal! I don't mind packing luxury stuff on any Point Reyes trip, but wow on the ice chest! Kudos! We cheered to his dedication as he set-off towards the shorter, up & down Laguna Trail (that also takes you to Coast Camp).

Re-tracing the road from the parking area to the start of Coast Trail, the actual trail begins behind a closed gate. The trail is actually a fire road that the park service uses for park maintenance and conservation activities (on a previous visit, witnessed a rescue of a baby seal moored on the beach and get loaded on the bed of the park service truck to nurse him back to health).

It's a very beautiful hike, especially on this day that the weather was on our side. Sun shining brightly, temps in the 60's, light wind. Perfect day to be out!

Note to self: ride bikes next time for more beer to carry!

A portion of the trail that has been recently repaired from flood damage.
Chris doing the happy pose..? Woot for trail repairs!
After about a couple miles along the wooded part, the trail veers to the left - facing south, and runs along side the beach with several spurs to access the beach. Day hiking, this could be a good stop and turn around point after spending some time on the beach. We still have a little less than a mile to go and we've already started seeing pitched up tents from afar.

We passed the junction where Laguna-FirelaneTrail comes from and headed towards the sign pointing for camp sites 1-7 and beelined for Site #5. The site was big enough to host 3 of our tents. It had a kind of cute little nook that curves from where the food locker, table and grill is from, creating a sort of private room to pitch the tents.. and serves like a bedroom!

We pitched up the tents, snacked on some food and tested out Pat's Backcountry Beverage Carbonator. I didn't get a chance to go out & purchase the concentrated beers that they carry (which was the main purpose why I got this carbonator in the first place), but we brought some yum rootbeer! This thing actually works! Next project: Rootbeer Floats in camp! Now who can I entice to bring along an ice cream maker next time.. Hmmm...

After enjoying the afternoon sun by the camp, we started packing up a couple of backpacks to take down to the beach and watch the sunset, have a bonfire and some dinner & drinks. Time to see if the beer remained cold in the Hydroflask and if Errol's Paper-bottle  chardonnay is any good.

Sunsets in California.. things I'm grateful for.
Who needs dinner by a fireplace when you've got..
a beach campfire & a table-side chef (sans table tho!)
We got rained on the following day! Woke up at 5:00 a.m. to the sound of the rain puttering on the tent. I listened to it for a bit and wishing it would lull me back to sleep. Alas, the wind picked up and started whipping our tents around. With nature's call, grumbling stomachs and imagining the smell of coffee, we all grudgingly, one by one, emerged from our respective shelters and started the morning tasks.

Post breakfast.. packing up stuff.

Ready to head out..

With my DIY rain skirt!
Even though it was a gloomy and drenched breakfast, we were all oddly in high spirits. We were finishing up breaking camp when the rain finally let up. Giving us a momentary break. Then came back again when we started hiking out! It was a wet trip back. We didn't get to see any whales out in the distance as the gloom and fog made sure of that. But we still had fun enjoying a pit stop on the beach that was all to ourselves.

Back in the car, we shoved everything in the trunk and headed out to the visitor center and properly changed into drier clothes and get looking decent enough as possible to get some grub in San Francisco. Then a quick stop in Santa Cruz to drop off Czarina and grab some goodies for Kari at the Buttery before heading straight to Los Angeles.

Back at the parking lot.