Welcome to the audio-described version of Point Reyes National Seashore's official print brochure. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps, this version interprets the two-sided color brochure that Point Reyes visitors receive. The brochure explores the history of the park, some of its highlights, and information for planning your visit. This audio version lasts about 30 minutes which we have divided into five sections, as a way to improve the listening experience. Section 1 covers the front of the brochure and includes information regarding the flora and fauna of the Seashore protected within many habitats. This is shown on a beautiful illustration by Larry Eifert. Sections 2 through 5 cover the back of the brochure which consists of the ever changing geology of the area, protecting ocean habitat through the national marine sanctuary program, and helpful tips on things to do.All maps and images are credited to the National Park Service unless otherwise indicated.
Point Reyes National Seashore, located in California, is part of the National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior. The 71,000 acre park is situated 40 miles north of San Francisco at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. This park, established in 1962, is the only national seashore on the west coast. Each year, 2.5 million visitors come to enjoy the unique experiences that can only be had at Point Reyes. We invite you to explore the park's natural beauty and majestic views. Take a hike on some of the 150 miles of trails. Walk along the San Andreas Fault Zone. Listen to the crashing waves as the early fog dampens your skin. For those seeking to learn more about the park during their visit, tactile maps and models of the region can also be found at the Bear Valley and Lighthouse visitor centers. To find out more about what resources might be available or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.
The front of the brochure is an illustration of the varied habitats of Point Reyes National Seashore from a bird's eye view. The image is looking north with Drakes Bay on the left, forest and grasslands in front and to the right. Each of the habitats has representative flora and fauna. Many species of animals, including whales, seals, elk, and birds, along with many kinds of wildflowers and trees, are depicted. Also throughout the habitats are human activities from ranching to kayaking and hiking.
At Point Reyes National Seashore, you will discover a wide range of habitats: ocean, shore, estuarine, grassland, and upland forest. Each provides for a variety of species, including Sonoma alopecurus, Myrtle’s silverspot, tidewater goby, Central California coho salmon, and red-legged frog. From whales to shorebirds, many animals migrate through the seashore seasonally or, like northern elephant seals, use the beaches for breeding or nesting.
People are drawn to these lands and waters too. The Coast Miwok people were here thousands of years before the first English explorers arrived in 1579. Over the centuries came waves of settlers seeking to make a life here. By the 1800s, this land was used primarily for hunting and ranching. Once overhunted to near-extinction, tule elk again roam the seashore. The Point Reyes Lighthouse, built in 1870, is evidence of the area’s maritime history, including US Coast Guard lifesaving operations and radio communications.
Amid this beauty and bounty, people and nature share a complex relationship. By the mid-1900s, the seashore was threatened by the desire of developers to encroach upon relatively undeveloped coastline areas. Conservation organizations, often led by women, fought to protect it. In 1962, Congress authorized Point Reyes National Seashore.
Today, the seashore is a haven for the human spirit—a place to explore, be inspired, find solitude, enjoy recreation, and rejuvenate. A place of protected wilderness and preserved pastoral zones. An outdoor classroom and laboratory. Here, we protect things essential to all of us and are reminded of our personal connections to the natural world.
The imagined scene by Larry Eifert shows the broad range of Point Reyes’ habitats: ocean, shore, estuary, grasslands, upland forest. Deep-water upwellings not far offshore carry nutrients to the surface. Western gulls scan beaches for mole crabs scurrying into the sand. The estuary’s eelgrass shelters tiny invertebrates from fish and other predators. California poppies brighten spring grasslands. Coastal scrub may look quiet, but it conceals the nonstop activity of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Higher up, forests of Douglas fir and the rare bishop pine brave relentless winds. Roads, trails, and beaches through or near these habitats allow you to explore at your own pace.
This scene will be described in quadrants starting with the upper left. The upper left quadrant of this scene is mostly water in Drakes Bay. The upper left portion of the image has a point of land which hooks around to the right and finally comes to rest in the bottom left of the image. The peninsula that sticks out in the upper left depicts where the Lighthouse is located. That peninsula juts out ten miles into the ocean. Within its embracing hug, lies the relaxing, calm blue waters of Drakes Bay. Gulls fly overhead on the cool, moist breezes softly blowing off of the ocean. A group of 14 brown pelicans point their heavy bills down to cruise just inches above the water where six gray whales are spouting. On the right side of this scene is a system of salt marshes with a sand spit between the marshes and the bay water. Within the marsh are two people paddling with kayaks.
Moving to the upper right quadrant and moving from the water onto land, sloping grasslands turn into heavier vegetation with bushes and finally, further upslope, the Douglas fir and Bishop pine forests of the Inverness Ridge tower over everything else. The grasslands are home to several species of raptors flying overhead including the red-shouldered hawk, who flashes its black and white patterned wing and tail feathers in flight. Also hovering like its name suggests, a white-tailed kite looks over the grasslands for its next meal. In the lower section of the upper right quadrant, two northern flickers, a type of woodpecker with red-orange colored underwing and tail feathers, are flying into the forest, which shows a close up of two large Douglas fir trees with their deeply grooved bark, and multiple branches going in many directions. One branch is fit for a perch for a great horned owl.
In the lower left quadrant of the scene, the typical renewal of spring wildflowers brings the grasslands and forest edge to life. Moving from the edge of the cliffs where you can see two elephant seals resting on the beach below, a coyote howls for some unknown reason as a peregrine falcon, with very pointed wings, soars quickly by using the winds off the water rushing up the hillside. Walking into the scene from the left, a bobcat looks at you as it approaches some warm, orange California poppies and dreamy Douglas irises, with their purple flowers. The upper part of this quadrant shows two hikers off in the distance, going downhill from the forest towards the water. Cheerful tufts of yellow lupine bushes dot the hillside throughout this quadrant. Moving further upslope in this quadrant, a fallen log becomes a perch for the ever-vigilant California quail. With the sentry bird in the group always calling out with his call of “Chicago, Chicago,” alerting others in the group to be aware of their surroundings. Good thing since a gray fox hiding behind the lupine bush has its eyes on the quail, but he may just leave them alone. The fallen log moves into the final quadrant.
Finally, in the lower right quadrant of the scene, the continuation of the lower left quadrant and forested details come to life even more. The log and assorted branches are also perches for the spotted towhee, with its reddish breast, black back with white spots and deep red eye, whose sharp, one-note call is audible while it looks for insects, and a striped skunk with its black and white lines running from head to tail, scratches the earth for the same prize. The decayed branches without leaves that stand about four feet from the ground become safer perches for species like the Western meadowlark, a robust bird with a heavy bill, who has a brilliant and confident yellow neck and breast and black colored vee shaped feathers below its throat. Also in this quadrant, one can see both Tooly elk and black-tailed deer grazing on soft, green grasses. The white, umbrella-shaped tops of the cow parsnip plants are sources of food for birds such as the bright yellow American goldfinch, and red and blue colors of the Western bluebird. In the understory of the brush are a coiled up Western garter snake surrounded by the purple clusters of the ceanothus bush.
Side two of the brochure is comprised of text, a map, and five color illustrations or photographs. The map is on the right two thirds of this side of the brochure. In the upper left is a scenic panoramic color photo of Chimney Rock. Below that image, breaking the brochure into thirds horizontally, is a section called "Shifting Ground", which describes the geologic processes of the San Andreas Fault and Point Reyes. The next section below is called "Protecting Ocean Habitat", and describes the national marine sanctuaries immediately off of the coast. Finally, the third section, titled "Explore Point Reyes", has a detailed map of the Bear Valley area with trail names and shows the visitor center. The text talks about things to do, hiking, camping, staying safe, accessibility, and wilderness.
This aerial, color photograph of Chimney Rock by Tony Immoos shows the rough and wave-battering force of the Pacific Ocean on the left side and calm waters of Drakes Bay on the right. The sun is setting in the upper left corner of the image and the sky is surrounded by very dark and ominous clouds. The bluff is very rugged, has steep, rocky slopes, and is topped with green grass. The ocean-facing slopes appear to have been scooped out like a person's hand digging down deep in the sand.
This inset map, oriented with north pointing up, shows the San Andreas Fault Zone and how it separates the triangular-shaped Point Reyes peninsula from the rest of California, as it moves slowly to the northwest from the southern part of the state. The scale of this map only shows a small 30 mile Point Reyes section of the entire 800 mile long San Andreas Fault. Point Reyes is on the left side of the map and a section of California is on the right. The arrow on the Point Reyes peninsula indicates the relative motion of that tectonic plate called the Pacific Plate. Point Reyes rides on the Pacific Plate which moves to the north-west while the rest of California rides on the North American Plate which moves west and slightly south. One can better understand why Point Reyes is called An Island In Time, as it continues to move northwest and may someday end up in the Gulf of Alaska. A tactile map of the Seashore is located inside the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Plate tectonics affects the rocks along the seashore. Plates are sections of Earth’s crust that “float” on molten rock. The Point Reyes peninsula rides on the eastern edge of the Pacific Plate, which slides northwestward at a rate of one or two inches per year.
Separating the Point Reyes peninsula from the mainland is a long, narrow valley that lies directly over an important geological zone: the San Andreas Fault. A fault is a fracture or zone of fractures between two blocks of rock. Faults allow the blocks to move relative to each other. In the Point Reyes area, many large and small faults run parallel, and sometimes at odd angles, to one another.
Plates do not move freely. They “catch” on each other and, over many years, the pressure builds up. Eventually, the underlying rock breaks loose in a sudden jolt. This happened to the peninsula during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake: It shifted northwestward 20 feet in less than a minute. This could happen again—in 30 minutes or 300 years.
Because of plate tectonics, Point Reyes’ rocks match those hundreds of miles southeast of here! To learn more, visit the Earthquake Trail.
This portion of the California coast is one of Earth’s most biologically rich areas. Like land, the ocean has varied habitats—influenced by temperature, sunlight, currents, and topography—that support an abundance of life.
Spring and summer upwellings from the California Current carry nutrients to surface waters. These nutrients are the foundation of a food web that includes everything from tiny plankton to huge whales. Migrating whales feast at the edge of the continental shelf. Gray whales often swim quite close to the Point Reyes shore to feed in winter and spring.
State and federal laws help protect Point Reyes and surrounding waters due to their global significance. National Marine Sanctuaries (NMS), administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, conserve habitats and species while allowing for compatible human use.
Cordell Bank NMS protects a rocky reef perched on the edge of the continental shelf. Surrounded by soft mud and sand, the hard-surfaced bank is a haven for colorful fish and invertebrates.
Greater Farallones NMS protects rocky reefs, estuarine wetlands, and open ocean. Endangered and threatened species, including blue and humpback whales, seasonally feed in this rich environment.
The state of California administers a network of Marine Protected Areas along the Point Reyes coast. Some of these areas allow limited sport fishing and commercial harvest; others do not. For detailed information and regulations, visit the park website.
IMAGE. Gray Whale
A black and white illustration by Peter Folkens of a California gray whale is shown in the background behind the text. Gray whales have thousands of barnacles attached to their skin which gives them a unique appearance. The whale is swimming from left to right.
This map, with north at the top, shows three national marine sanctuaries off of the California coastline adjacent to Point Reyes. From north to south they are Cordell Bank, Greater Farallones, and Monterey Bay. The three marine sanctuaries cover this section of the California coast for about 50 miles north to south, and 30 miles offshore. Cordell Bank is completely offshore, while the Greater Farallones surrounds all of Point Reyes. Monterey Bay national marine sanctuary is south of the Point Reyes area.
Separating the Point Reyes Peninsula from the mainland is a narrow linear valley running northwest to southeast. Incorporating the Bolinas Lagoon, Olema Valley, and Tomales Bay, the valley lies directly on the San Andreas Fault (map), where the Pacific and North American continental plates meet.
These plates are segments of Earth’s crust ”floating” on a sea of molten rock. The Point Reyes peninsula rides on the eastern edge of the Pacific Plate, which advances northwestward. This is why Point Reyes’ rocks don’t match those east of the fault zone, yet they match rocks hundreds of miles southeast.
The average rate of movement of the Pacific Plate is only one or two inches a year. But the plates don’t always move freely relative to one another. The fault zone is actually many large and small faults running parallel and at odd angles. The plates can ”catch” on each other, pressure builds up, and eventually the underlying rock breaks loose in a sudden jolt. This caused the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, when the peninsula leapt 20 feet northwestward in less than a minute. It could happen again in 30 minutes or 300 years. The Earthquake Trail near Bear Valley Visitor Center shows you the results of Earth’s tremendous force.
The San Andreas Fault Zone is shown on a map of California, with north at the top of the map. The fault zone runs from the southern part of the state in a north westerly direction, through the San Francisco Bay area, and finally out to sea. The map shows Los Angeles and San Francisco as reference points. Both cities are west of the fault zone.
There is also a detailed map showing the fault zone adjacent to Point Reyes. This detailed map is described under San Andreas Fault Near Point Reyes.
This inset map, oriented with north pointing up, shows the San Andreas Fault zone and how it separates the triangular-shaped Point Reyes peninsula from the rest of California, as it heads north westerly from the southern part of the state. This map only shows the approximately 30 mile Point Reyes section of the entire 800 mile long San Andreas Fault. Point Reyes is on the left side of the map, and a section of California is on the right.
The arrow on the Point Reyes peninsula indicates the relative motion of the Pacific tectonic plate that Point Reyes sits on. Point Reyes rides on the Pacific Plate, which moves to the north west, while the rest of California rides on the North American Plate, which moves west and slightly south. One can better understand why Point Reyes is called, "An Island in Time," as it continues to move north west and may someday end up in the Gulf of Alaska.
Two coastal ridges separate the Point Reyes peninsula from the rest of California. To the west is the Inverness Ridge, and to the east is the Bolinas Ridge, both running in a north west, south east direction. These ridges have formed in part due to the colliding of two tectonic plates.
A tactile map of the Seashore is located inside the Bear Valley Visitor Center, which is located very near the center of the map.
This map is primarily for orientation. The map is oriented with north at the top. It shows the entire Point Reyes National Seashore which is shaped like a triangle, and shows all of the roads, 150 miles of trails, and 80 miles of shoreline and beaches. Starting in the center hub of the map is the Bear Valley Visitor Center. In a clockwise direction from there, Highway One goes south to a couple of small trailheads. From Bear Valley, two roads head north, one is Sir Francis Drake, where 23 miles later you reach the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse and pass numerous beaches along the way. But just one mile from Bear Valley is Limantour Road which takes you to Limantour Beach only 8 miles away. A tactile version of this map is on display in the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
The legend has symbols for amenities and wayfinding. Amenities symbols include:
Wayfinding symbols include:
The primary access road coming to Point Reyes is Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from US 101, or Highway One from the north or south. San Francisco is 43 miles south east. San Rafael is 16 miles east. Novato is 19 miles east. Petaluma is 19 miles north east. A few small roads intersect off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and they are, Limantour Road going south west, and Pierce Point Road going north west. Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, goes north west then south to the Point Reyes Lighthouse in 23 miles.
There are numerous trails listed on the map. A total of around 150 miles of trails exist in the Seashore. Trails are not accessible by wheelchair, although some visitors have traveled along the Bear Valley Trail, which leaves from the Bear Valley Visitor Center, to Divide Meadow which is 1.5 miles each way, with a gradual elevation gain of about 200 feet over that distance.
Start Here: Bear Valley Visitor Center
The Bear Valley Visitor Center is the starting point for most visitors. A separate, more detailed description of the services and amenities of this area is provided in the section titled, "Map of Point Reyes Trails to the Bear Valley Visitor Center."
Heading Northwest from Bear Valley
Turning left or northwest onto Bear Valley Road as you leave the main visitor center brings you to Limantour Road in one mile. Continuing on Limantour Road brings you over the Inverness Ridge to Limantour Beach in 8 miles. The parking area has accessible parking and restrooms, and a paved path leads you to a bridge that crosses over Limantour Estero.
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard
If you were to continue on Bear Valley Road past the Limantour Road turnoff, Bear Valley Road eventually merges into Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, heading northwest through the towns of Inverness Park and Inverness, where you can find food, and purchase gifts.
After the town of Inverness, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard curves in a southwesterly direction toward Point Reyes. There are turnoffs from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard leading you to Point Reyes Beach North, Drakes Beach, and Point Reyes Beach South. At the end of the road are the Point Reyes Lighthouse and Visitor Center. There are over 300 steps down to the Lighthouse, but it can be viewed from the top of the stairs at the overlook, just past the visitor center. Just after the Historic A Ranch, a spur road to the left takes you to Chimney Rock parking lot. There are accessible restrooms and informational panels and an overlook off of the paved road below the parking lot to see elephant seals and sea lions. Assistance for wheelchairs is required.Pierce Point Road
Heading Southeast from Bear Valley
Five Brooks Trailhead. 4.5 miles southeast from the Bear Valley Visitor Center on Highway 1. Here you will find hiking trails, a picnic area, a horse facility, horseback riding concessions, and accessible parking and restrooms. A firm surface to the right, going around a pond in a counterclockwise direction, allows viewing of an informational kiosk, birds, and trees.
Palomarin Trailhead. 12 miles south east of Bear Valley off of Highway One on Mesa Road. Hiking trails, and accessible parking and restrooms. A firm and stable surface leading to restrooms and an informational kiosk.
California enjoys one of the most diverse assemblages of land forms, vegetation types, and ecosystems in the world. There is more climatic and topographic variation in California than in any other region of comparable size in the United States. This variation has contributed to a remarkable diversity of natural features and ecosystems found at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Point Reyes National Seashore is blanketed with subtle natural features nestled over a variety of ecosystems. The over riding natural feature is the presence of the eastern San Andreas Fault that bisects the geologic peninsula from the rest of the California main land. The remaining sides of the peninsula are intermittently edged by beaches, sea cliffs, and inter tidal zones cascading into the Pacific Ocean. Encircled by this rich assemblage is a mosaic of ecosystems including coastal dunes and rocky cliffs, fresh and salt water marshes, gently sloping grasslands that transition to coastal scrub, and finally mixed evergreen forests of Douglas fir and Bishop pine. While there are dozens of ways to classify and name the exact type of ecosystem, the broadest and closest category places Point Reyes National Seashore into a Mediterranean ecosystem.
The Inverness Ridge transects the Seashore from the southern edge to the northwestern edge separating the coastal habitats from the inland habitats.
Stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center. There are exhibits and information to help you plan your activities. All exhibits are wheelchair accessible and at an appropriate height and angle for reading, including larger fonts. A tactile map of the Seashore greets visitors inside the visitor center immediately to the right. Ranger-led programs are scheduled on weekends year round. There are also accessible restrooms, and a film by Discovery Communications which has open captions.
This inset map of the Bear Valley area at park headquarters is used for orientation, and shows the immediate area around the Bear Valley Visitor Center. The map is oriented with north at the top. It includes the visitor center in the middle then shows, in a clockwise direction from the visitor center, the self-guided Earthquake Trail loop, the Woodpecker Trail, the Morgan Horse Ranch, and the trail to the Indian village, Kule Loklo. The self-guided Earthquake Trail loop is paved but parts are slightly steeper than advised by standards. The visitor center has accessible restrooms, a tactile map, and wheelchair accessible exhibits. Outside of the visitor center, on or near the bulletin board are several accessible parking spaces, an accessible phone, water fountain, and additional park information.
The entrance to the Bear Valley area is off of Bear Valley Road.
Bear Valley Visitor Center
Stop here first for exhibits and information to help you plan your visit.
Point Reyes Beach (Great Beach)
Explore an 11-mile expanse of the Pacific shoreline. Be careful along the water’s edge! High surf, rip currents, and “sneaker” waves can be deadly. Area is subject to severe undertow.
Point Reyes Lighthouse
Enjoy views of Point Reyes Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Go down 313 steps to the light house. Watch for migrating gray whales from the observation platform in winter and spring.
Enjoy birding along the 1.7-mile trail to the restored wetlands. Find native wildflowers in spring. Part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Enjoy a sheltered beach by sandstone cliffs. Explore visitor center exhibits about marine life, fossils, and maritime history. The adjacent store has books, postcards, and convenience foods for sale.
Take a beachside stroll or fly a kite. Try birding nearby at Estero de Limantour.
Mount Vision Overlook
View most of the Point Reyes peninsula from Mount Vision (1,282 feet).
Tule Elk Reserve
Hunted to near-extinction in the 1800s, tule elk were reintroduced to this designated wilderness in 1978.
Historic Pierce Point Ranch
Established in the 1860s, this dairy ranch operated until 1973. Take the short trail down to McClures Beach.
Watch elephant seals breed and molt on the beach. Find native wildflowers in spring.
Hike the 1½-mile trail to diverse bird habitat. Nesting area for threatened snowy plover.
Tomales Bay State Park
Enjoy a swimming beach, kayaking, trails, and a picnic area.
The park’s 150 miles of trails pass through grasslands, forest-covered ridges, and valleys filled with California bay laurel. Check trail conditions and get detailed trail maps at park visitor centers.
Camp at four hike-in campgrounds: Coast, Glen, Sky, and Wildcat. Note: Permits are required. Make your advance reservations at www.recreation.gov. Get your permit before you go to the campground.
Federal laws protect all natural and cultural features in the park. Do not approach or collect injured or oiled marine mammals or birds; report these to park staff.
Sneaker waves and treacherous currents make beaches dangerous.
There are no lifeguards on beaches at the national seashore.
Many ranches within the park are in a pastoral zone and operate under agreements with the National Park Service. Please respect their privacy and that of residential housing units within the park.
Practice Leave No Trace principles.
Visit the park website for a full list of regulations, including firearms.
Established in 1976, the Phillip Burton Wilderness ensures the highest level of protection for over 32,000 acres of land and water in Point Reyes National Seashore. It offers an unparalleled experience to over 7 million Bay Area residents. Designation under the Wilderness Act of 1964 protects forever the land’s wilderness character, natural conditions, opportunities for solitude, and scientific, educational, and historical values.
The staff at Point Reyes is committed to improve accessibility throughout the park. By using principles of universal design, Point Reyes is committed to providing physical access to the greatest number of individuals. From designing and building new facilities to the rehabilitation of older buildings, accessibility has become a key component of all projects.
Point Reyes has available audio descriptions, podcasts, and multiple publications in large print or Braille for visitors with visual impairments. Award-winning exhibits in the three visitor centers are designed with universal accessibility in mind, such as tactile maps at Bear Valley Visitor Center.
For more information on accessibility visit www.nps.gov/pore/planyourvisit/accessibility.htm.
Emergencies call 911.
Point Reyes National Seashore, which administers the northernmost land of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. Learn more about national parks at www.nps.gov.
Point Reyes National Seashore
1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, California, 94956
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