Our Favorite Bay Area Autumn Hike (Plus 5 Runner-Ups)



Written by Rachel Leung, Marketer at Presidio

My boyfriend and I discovered the local wildlife wonderland of Tomales Point while trying to find alternatives to the famous Alamere Falls hike. That hike is highly recommended as well (keep scrollin'), but there is so much to see in Point Reyes that it edged out all other contenders!

We were immediately intrigued once we found out that Tomales Point is home to the not-so-well-known Tule Elk Reserve, but we should note that especially this time of year, you're gonna want to bring something waterproof as well as some sunscreen (this is still the Bay Area, after all).

 

We’re also always stoked to see spectacular views of Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay and the coastline of the Point Reyes peninsula. It should be noted that though there are a few closures around Point Reyes due to the August wildfires, Tomales Point is still open at this time.

Starting at the Tomales Point trailhead / Pierce Point Ranch near the tip of Point Reyes, this is a 9.4 mile out and back along the beautiful coast! With the perfect weather, you can see both the ocean and Tomales Bay on either side of your hike, but we know that’s not a guarantee. The weather is variable (and windy) so consider dressing in layers, including a beanie and gloves. It was not forecasted to rain when we went, however it heavily misted for about 30 minutes, showering our left arms and legs that were facing the coast. It’s okay! We were prepared! The clouds lifted a little later and we had a clear sky for the rest of the trip.

There is so much nature to be seen on this hike and probably even more after another storm or two. Not only were there beautiful flowers blooming, but there was tons of wildlife - more than I’ve ever seen on any other kind of hike or backpacking trip! We saw quails, a family of turkey vultures, pretty sizable herds of elk, a fox scurrying along the cliffside, a redtail hawk, a seal, and tons of deer. Watch the trail for snails crossing!

You can walk or run this trail and enjoy some serious solitude. This is also a lovely hike for kids, though maybe plan not to go the entire way. You can also check out the historic dairy farm that’s right next to the trailhead parking lot.

Grab some tasty picnic cheese from Cowgirl Creamery at Point Reyes Station and snack on some fresh oysters at Tomales Bay before you head back! Cheese lovers can delight themselves with an added stop to Nicasio Valley Cheese Company on the way back to 101. 

TIPS

Head out early in the day to see the most wildlife.
Bring a lunch, plenty of water, a rain jacket and sunscreen (yes, both).
Respect Wildlife! You can chat on the trail but lower your voices and step slowly when passing wild animals. You're basically in their living room, after all.
Respect Nature! Be that amazing individual who picks up any trash they see.
Check all the info you need at NPS.gov.

OTHER GREAT BAY AREA HIKES

Plan ahead and research or call your local destination before heading out. This list doesn’t reflect various closures or detours that may come into effect as conditions change.

 

Having lived in the Presidio for years, I’ve done more than my share of strolls around this hidden gem! Experience the storied history and impressive landscapes of the Presidio on this 6 mile hike as you meander through an enchanting eucalyptus grove, walk along Lover's Lane - the oldest footpath through the Presidio - and take pause to enjoy every scenic overlook. 

 

Though not exactly a hike, this one is so worth the trip if you love dogs! The trail itself is short but Fort Funston has plenty of room for folks to roam around on their own. Make your way to the beach and lay back and watch the dogs play! Fort Funston leaves me with one of my earliest experiences with nature. Elementary school field trips here taught me about coastal ecosystems, making tea from eucalyptus leaves and using curiosity for nature to fuel your exploration. Take note: the winds can get rough here, but that’s part of the charm of coastal living.

 

Alamere falls is your magical, never gets old, local hike! I do it at least once a year because every season is different. Plus, there really aren’t many local places where waterfalls pour out onto the beach. Be aware that waterfalls change with the season. Rainfall will make for a more epic experience, but it doesn’t mean the hike isn’t worth the adventure! The hike is popular, so plan to arrive early to grab one of the coveted spots at the trailhead. Bring a lunch to eat on top of the falls (safely, of course).

 

There are many stunning hikes criss-crossing the South Bay landscape, but many parks may be closed right now due to the wildfires. Luckily, one of our favorites is open: Castle Rock State Park is a quiet beauty known for its sculpted sandstone, lush forests, and sweeping vistas from one of the highest ridges in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Climbers love to visit because the sandstone and unique tafoni patterns are ideal for bouldering and rock climbing, however we only recommend it for those with outdoor climbing experience and/or supervision. 

 

This could start as a jaunt and turn into a full-day hike depending on the time you have and the trails you choose. Start on a rocky adventure around the lake and hop on the Wildcat Gorge, Meadows Canyon and Curran Trail for a few added miles. Bring binoculars or your attentive eyeballs and partake in some fanciful bird watching while you’re there. If you're a planner, you can make a reservation to visit the Regional Parks Botanic Garden, a naturally beautiful and tranquil 10-acre garden of California native plants located in Tilden Park

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