Tomales Bay, when it is not too windy, is an excellent sport for stand up paddling. There are several excellent spots for launch. One of my favorites is Chicken Ranch Beach in Inverness. The Bay is full of harbor seals, birds and jellyfish. You can't really see all of this from the beach. Being in the middle of the Bay is the best vantage point.
Some people go whale watching. I like to go jellyfish watching from my stand up paddleboard. Take off from Chicken Ranch Beach and paddle across the bay to the Tomales Bay Oyster Company. Along the way, on a calm day, you may very well see countless large aurelius jellyfish (aka moon jellies).
From Tomales Point, you will get a view of the town of Dillon Beach on the other side of Tomales Bay. Dillon Beach is a town primarily consisting of vacation homes. Pricey vacation homes. You could rent one for $300 to $500 per night or buy one for $1 million.
In the 1960's, a freeway through West Marin was proposed and many large ranchlands were zoned or were about to be zoned for significant development. Developers and planners had a dream of hundreds of subdivisions along the coastline with a huge freeway bringing all the people into San Francisco.
Before this got off the ground, heavy opposition arose. The freeway plan was deep-sixed, and most of the subdivision plans were squelched, much to the anger of the ranch owners who had wanted the money they could make by selling their land to developers.
Dillon Beach was one of the very few developments that successfully made it through this process. Consequently, beach communities like Dillon Beach are the exception to the rule, while most of the Marin County coastline is pristine.
After you round the crest of that last big sand dune, you'll arrive at the Tomales bluffs - the end of the trail. What a perfect place to stop for lunch! The beauty on a sunny day is mesmerizing - you'll definitely want to allow plenty of time to linger!
As you hike northward, Point Tomales gradually narrows. About 45 minutes into the hike, you will get your first good views of Tomales Bay to the east. Tomales Bay was formed by the San Andreas fault, which runs up through the middle of the Bay and out into the Pacific Ocean. The San Andreas fault is the largest fault in the Bay Area and was responsible for the 1906 earthquake which destroyed much of San Francisco.
Point Reyes' principal industry is dairy. The road to the trailhead winds through vast diary farms and cattle ranches. These farms and ranches date back to the mid 1800's and were started by a San Francisco law firm, of all businesses. All of the mid 1800's ranches are now historic ranches and are subsidized by the government.
Point Reyes is now also a National Seashore protected from any further development. The person responsible for that protection is John F. Kennedy, who established the area as a National Seashore on September 13, 1962.
Tomales Point is reached by driving through Inverness, a tiny town on the west side of Tomales Bay.
The Tomales Point trail, on a sunny day, is one of the most beautiful hikes in Marin County. This is a moderate hike of 9.5 total miles, in and out. The hike takes you over rolling hills, so there is a constant elevation change. You will start out at 300 feet, climb up to 470 feet, down to 135 feet, up to 250 feet and down to 80 feet. Then, to go back you have to go up and over the same hills. Four miles of the hike is on loose sand.
With a total elevation change of 925 feet each way, the hike is a fairly good workout. At a fast clip, I can do it in 3 hours from the trailhead. I've also taken as long as 4 hours to do the hike.
Bikes and dogs are not permitted, but horses are. So are people. Even Republicans.
The trail begins at the historic Pierce Ranch. This is one of the historic ranches that was established in the mid-1800's. Many of the other ranches are still operating, but this one is not and it serves only as an exhibit today.
Descriptive signs are posted throughout the ranch, so you may take a self-guided tour if you wish. I personally am usually too anxious to see more beautiful sights, so I don't feel there is really a great deal to see at this ranch. If it interests you, however, you could make a pass through the ranch and see all the sights in about 15 minutes.
Park Services thoughtfully placed one directional sign on the trail, just in case you lose your sense of direction. Of course, there are only two ways to go - forward and back where you came from.
This is a hike where you can't get lost. Other plusses - no bears and no mosquitos.
At the very end of the Tomales Point trail are beautiful tidepools. You cannot get down the bluffs to these tidepools, but with a pair of binoculars, you will be able to see starfish and do some birdwatching. Birds commonly seen here are seagulls, double-breasted cormorants and brown pelicans.
The final hill you will negotiate before descending down to the Tomales bluffs is actually a big sand dune. Because of the soft dark sand, the hiking becomes a bit more of a workout. The vegetation also changes dramatically, going from grasses to brush. It's about at this point that you start hoping this is the last hill you climb before you see the end of the trail.
Within 10 minutes of starting out on the hike, you'll suddenly come upon this stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. This hike has to be done on a sunny day to experience the full beauty Tomales Point has to offer.