View to the south from Arch Rock

Point Reyes: Arch Rock Loop 
11.7 miles – 1895 ft

Point Reyes National Seashore is a birder’s paradise with more than 45% of North American avian species living in the park. It’s also home to 38 threatened and endangered plant and animal species. In the park — and on this hike — you’ll find crashing ocean cliffs, grassy meadows, evergreen-covered hillsides and lush valleys.

This is a strenuous hike, climbing more than 1,100 feet in the first 2 miles, but it ends on a fairly level stroll along a creek. And in the middle you’ll walk out on Arch Rock where the seashore views are as good as they can get.

Distance 11.7 miles | Time 5.5-6 hours
Elev. Gain 1895 ft. | Elev. Loss 1909 ft.
Difficulty Strenuous | Parking Easy [?]
Trail Signage Good | Bathrooms At trailhead
Near Divide Meadow

The Route

Bear Valley Trail » Mount Wittenberg Trail » Sky Trail » Coast Trail » Arch Rock » Bear Valley Trail

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Trail Maps

The Route In Detail:

1. If you want, stop at the Bear Valley Visitor Center next to the parking lot or the nearby restrooms before you begin your hike.

2. On the southern end of the visitor center parking lot, you’ll find the Bear Valley trailhead, just beyond some horse hitching posts, where you’ll begin your hike.

3. About .2 miles into the hike, you’ll make a right on Mount Wittenberg Trail. This is where the 2-mile, 1,100-foot uphill begins.

4. At the intersection for Mount Wittenberg summit, continue along the current trail as it curves to the left. You can add the 1,407-foot summit to this hike for more mileage and elevation gain if you want, but I did not account for it in the hike details.

5. At the intersection with Sky Trail and Meadow Trail you will continue straight on Sky Trail. Be careful not to get confused by the Sky Trail to Sky Camp sign that makes a right turn here. If you take that you’ll be headed in the wrong direction on Sky Trail.

6. Continue on Sky Trail heading downhill past Woodward Valley Trail, Old Pine Trail and Baldy Trail. The descent does get steep in spots so you may want your hiking poles.

7. Make a left on Coast Trail for a brief time until you reach the Arch Rock intersection.

8. Follow the trail to Arch Rock to your right for some postcard-perfect Point Reyes Seashore views. This is a good spot to grab lunch if the wind isn’t too chilly.

9. Return to where you connected with the Arch Rock trail and turn right on Bear Valley Trail.

10. Follow Bear Valley Trail all the way back to the parking lot. You will hike along Coast Creek, through Divide Meadow and beside Bear Valley Creek. There are some very rustic (i.e. no running water) bathrooms at Divide Meadow.

Photos

Trail Notes & Tips

Longer and shorter alternatives

If a nearly 12-mile hike is too much for you, or you really want to make a weekend of the hike as a backpack, there are plenty of variations you can make on this hike to suit your desires.

Arch Rock out-and-back

If you’d rather skip that hefty climb but still want to see the views from Arch Rock, you can make this a less strenuous out and back along the Bear Valley Trail. It’s still a somewhat long hike at about 9.2 miles round trip, but the elevation gain will be considerably less (500 feet or so).

Make it a shorter loop on the fly

One of the good things about this loop is that there are three trails that bisect it if you decide part way through that you might have bitten off more than you can chew. So you can start on the proposed route and cut it shorter partway through. Meadow Trail, Old Pine Trail and Baldy Trail will take you straight from Sky Trail to Bear Valley Trail. The only downside is you’ll miss out on Arch Rock.

Bag a peak too

You can bag the 1,407-foot Mount Wittenberg peak in addition to this hike for a slightly longer and tougher variation. At the Mount Wittenberg summit intersection, simply make a right and do the out-and-back to the top of the peak, then continue on the detailed route.

Backpacking in Point Reyes

This particular hike doesn’t go directly past any of the backpacking camp areas, but Sky Camp and Glen Camp aren’t too far off course. Give a look to the official map to plan your own route including an overnight at one or both of these stop. Just be sure to make a reservation as campsites often fill up early, especially in the summer and on weekends.

Getting There

Directions

Here’s the trailhead map where you can plan driving, transit or biking directions, care of transitandtrails.org.

From San Francisco and the South
  • US-101 North over Golden Gate Bridge
  • Exit 450B at Sir Francis Drake Blvd./San Anselmo
  • Stay in lane for San Anselmo; exit onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard heading west (do not head right onto the Richmond Bridge)
  • Follow Sir Francis Drake for about 22 miles, passing through San Anselmo, Fairfax, Samuel P. Taylor State Park and into Olema
  • Turn right on Hwy 1 (Shoreline Hwy) in Olema and take the first left in about 100 yards on Bear Valley Road
  • Follow signs for the visitor center, making a left just after the big red and up a left-fork of the driveway to the parking lot.
From the East Bay
  • I-580 West across the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge
  • Exit on Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
  • Follow Sir Francis Drake for about 22 miles, passing through San Anselmo, Fairfax, Samuel P. Taylor State Park and into Olema
  • Turn right on Hwy 1 (Shoreline Hwy) in Olema and take the first left in about 100 yards on Bear Valley Road
  • Follow signs for the visitor center, making a left just after the big red and up a left-fork of the driveway to the parking lot.
From the north (Petaluma)
  • US-101 South
  • Exit East Washington Street
  • In .6 miles turn left on Lakeville Street
  • Go one block then turn right on D Street, which becomes Point Reyes-Petaluma Road
  • Continue for 16 miles to the junction with Platform Bridge Road
  • Turn right to stay on Point Reyes-Petaluma Road
  • In 3 miles turn left on Hwy 1 (Shoreline Hwy) and drive south through Point Reyes Station
  • Look for a brown “Point Reyes National Seashore” sign just beyond Olema RV Resort and Campground and make a right on Bear Valley Road.
  • Follow signs for the visitor center, making a left just after the big red and up a left-fork of the driveway to the parking lot.
Transit Directions

Thanks to the stellar Transit & Trails site, you can now plot transit directions to a lot of trailheads, including this one. So if you don’t have a car, don’t let that stop you. Get transit directions here.

Parking

There is a large parking lot at the trailhead and visitors center as well as an overflow lot across the street. Unlike many national parks there is currently no fee here to park or hike the trails.

A special thank you to Team in Training for inviting me along as a guest on this hike recently. If you are interested getting in exceptional hikerly shape, you can train with a coach for a hike adventure while raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Learn more here!