Apparently It's Everything Season at Point Reyes

Whales, waterfalls and elephant seals. Let's review.

By Diane Rommel

Apparently It's Everything Season at Point Reyes
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15 March 2017

Like whales? Maybe a waterfall hike? Want to show your kid an elephant seal? 

People, it is everything season at Point Reyes. 

We talked to a ranger this weekend who said they'd spotted "13 to 15" whales — by 11 a.m. "And we're only going to see more," he said. 

It's best to split it up. You should split it up. Or you could see everything, as long as you don't mind a 13-mile trail run. 

Here's your guide to the best-ever day at Point Reyes. Just try to come on a weekday — otherwise you'll be fighting for a parking space at the Palormarin Trailhead and need to take a shuttle for the animal-watching. 

STEP 1: The Alamere Falls Hike
All this rain has made for super-charged waterfalls across the Bay Area — the problem, of course, is that all this rain also damaged trails and infrastructure, leaving McWay Falls, for example, "completely off limits." Good news: Alamere Falls is open for visitors.

Ask a ranger — we did — and he'll tell you the best thing to do is the 5.5-mile hike from the Palomarin Trailhead to Wildcat Beach at low tide, followed by a mile-long walk to the falls — up and back. He will also tell you emphatically not to follow the unmaintained Alamere Beach Trail, which is shorter but "poses many hazards to off-trail hikers — crumbling and eroding cliffs, massive poison oak, ticks, and no cell phone service." Your decision, but we don't want to be the reason search-and-rescue gets a call. Also: exercise good, ticks bad. 

STEP 2: Whale Watching
We repeat: Over a dozen whales spotted from Point Reyes lighthouse by 11 a.m. in the morning this past Saturday. Our gray whale friends are returning north from their winter vacation off Baja California, and now's the time to spot them. 

If you do go on a weekend (generally through Easter), expect Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to be closed between South Beach and the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock. Shuttles from Drakes Beach will be in service. The reward for dealing with the shuttles will be additional rangers on duty, there to help you keep an eye on the water for signs of whales to come. 

STEP 3: Elephant Seals
Bring a pair of binoculars to spot the colony of elephant seals — now mid-migration between their warmer winter homes and the Aleutian Islands — from Elephant Seal Overlook, accessible via Chimney Rock. (If you come on the weekend, park staff are often on hand to share binoculars.) This is the season for some serious elephant seal stuff: mating and pupping, as well as "male dominance contests." Nature! It's spectacular and weird, in equal measure. 

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