Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the best day trips from San Francisco. We recently explored Marin and Point Reyes with our friend Jenny, who was visiting from Chicago. She loves the outdoors and hiking, so we planned a day of outdoor adventures. We had just been to Point Reyes for the first time the week before, for our friends’ beach wedding, and the prospect of seeing migrating whales just off the shore lured us back.
We started the day with an easy hike at Cascade Falls in Marin, a quick drive from San Francisco. It took about an hour (round trip) to hike the trail through Cascade Canyon, which has a gorgeous waterfall at the end.
The hike follows the stream all the way through the canyon, so there were lots of places to stop for pictures. To get here, don’t use your iPhone navigation. Follow the directions on the Marin County Parks website.
After we worked up an appetite on our hike, we headed toward the shore, stopping in Point Reyes Station for lunch at Cowgirl Creamery.
We grabbed a “Ham and Tam,” which features our favorite Cowgirl Creamery cheese, Mt. Tam, and a side of macaroni and cheese. This was the perfect prep for our next adventure at the national seashore.
We arrived at Point Reyes National Seashore on what turned out to be one of their busiest days of the year. You cannot drive past South Beach on weekends or holidays during the whale migration and elephant seal mating season. Instead, the park offers a shuttle bus to the lighthouse and headlands. On weekdays, the roads are open, so plan your visit with this in mind.
It didn’t take long to realize why winter is the peak season at Point Reyes. We saw whales spouting in the water before we even arrived at the lighthouse observation area. We descended the 300+ stairs to the lighthouse and were amazed at how many whales you could see from the shore. When we visited, it was so clear you could see San Francisco and the Farallon Islands (30 miles off the coast). If you are interested in seeing whales, spare yourself the expense and sea-sickness of going out on a boat and watch them from dry land here.
Point Reyes National Seashore is also known for its cattle grazing land. As you drive toward the shore, you pass pasture after pasture of dairy and beef cattle, including some cows from our favorite dairy, Straus Creamery. We highly recommend spending a day exploring this part of Marin county.