Abbotts Lagoon Trailhead,
Point Reyes National Seashore,
National Park Service
In brief:
2.3 mile out and back hike along a lagoon, leading to a sandy beach.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
Very easy. This 2.3 mile out and back hike with about 50 feet in elevation change is a good outing for beginners.

Exposure:
Full sun.

Trail traffic
:
Moderate.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trail that shifts to loose sand as the route reaches the turn-around point.

Hiking time
:
1 hour.

Season
:
Good anytime, although often muddy in winter and early spring.

Getting there:
From US 101 in Marin County, exit San Anselmo (Sir Francis Drake). Drive about 20 miles west on Sir Francis Drake. Turn right onto CA 1, then after about 0.1 mile, make the first left onto Bear Valley Road. Drive about 2 miles to the junction with Sir Francis Drake, and turn left. Drive about 5 miles to the junction with Pierce Point Road, and turn right. Continue about 3 miles more to the trailhead on the left side of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/372

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 38 7'24.59"N
Longitude
12256'8.49"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Pay phone, stores, and restaurants back on Sir Francis Drake in Inverness. Gas in Point Reyes Station. There are overnight accommodations available on the eastern fringes of the park, including a handful of motels in Inverness, and numerous bed and breakfasts just off Sir Francis Drake. Point Reyes has several hike-in campgrounds -- inquire at the Point Reyes Ranger Station in Bear Valley, or read more about the options here. No car camping in the park. Point Reyes Hostel, down Limantour Road, is an inexpensive lodging option. Read my page describing Point Reyes hikes, accommodations, food, and more.

Trailhead details:
No entrance or parking fees. Plenty of parking in a dirt lot. Pit toilets on site. There's a map under glass at the information signboard, but none to take with you. There are 2 designated handicapped parking spots, and the first 0.4 mile of the trail is wheelchair accessible. There is no direct public transit to this trailhead.

Rules:
No dogs. No bikes. No horses permitted past the 1 mile mark (with no outlet you will probably not encounter equestrians on this out-and-back hike).

The Official Story:
Point Reyes website.
Bear Valley Visitor Center (Ranger Station) 415-464-5100

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Point Reyes maps from NPS
Hiking Marin, by Don and Kay Martin, has a simple map and trail descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).
• Point Reyes by Jessica Lage (order this book from Amazon.com) has a good map and descriptions of this hike.
Trail Map of Point Reyes National Seashore, by Tom Harrison (order from Amazon.com) is the best all-purpose map to Point Reyes.

Abbotts Lagoon in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from the hike (2002)
View 34 photos from the featured hike (2000)




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page


Abbotts Lagoon is proof that good things do come in small packages, and that short hikes can be as exciting and eventful (or quiet and peaceful) as long ones. TrailheadAfter visiting Chimney Rock in the spring of 2000, I decided to take a quick hike at Abbotts Lagoon before heading home. I'm glad I did, because Abbotts Lagoon had a calm and bucolic vibe, while the mood at Chimney Rock was frenzied. There were too many people at Chimney Rock; only a few hikers at the lagoon. Wildflower spotting can seem like a competitive sport at Chimney Rock, with cameras slung over aficionados' shoulders like weapons. At Abbotts Lagoon, I saw wildflowers in abundance along the sides of the trail, and in one secret spot where I stood in quiet solitude and awe at the wonder of spring blossoms.
     A lagoon, according to the interpretative display at the trailhead, is "a brackish water lake separated from the ocean by a narrow strip of beach." Abbotts Lagoon is comprised of a north wing and a south wing, and the only trail here runs between the wings, then crosses a bridge and heads through the sand to the ocean. Rest bench along the trail For the first 1 mile only the north wing is visible from the trail; views of the south wing are blocked by hills to the south. This is one hike where you may want to wear slip-on shoes or sport sandals. Hiking boots and sand do not mix well. In the winter, expect cold, muddy, and windy conditions. Spring, when the wildflowers are blooming, is the best time for a visit. The weather on Point Reyes is notoriously unpredictable, so you may want to check current conditions with the ranger station at Bear Valley (415-663-1092) before heading out.
     Start at the interpretative display at the trailhead, where you can learn more about this lagoon, and the abundant wildlife that thrives here. As you start down the narrow, flat trail, in spring you may notice lots of wildflowers, most notably poppies, wild radish, yellow bush lupine, checker-blooms, and fiddlenecks. Poison hemlock grows beside the path, so be sure to avoid that plant. A bench just before a bridge on the left side of the trail is a fine place to sit and birdwatch. You will probably see red-winged blackbirds and California quail. Both have distinctive calls and love to sit on fenceposts. The north wing of the lagoon is visible to the right. Salmonberries, which are uncommon in the bay area, grow in large bushes on the right side of the trail. Look for the distinctive pink-purple blossoms in April, and then fruit later in May. A view of the lagoon from the trailAt 0.44 mile, there's a second bench, and the trail transitions from crushed gravel to dirt. Soon after the trail narrows just before a damp (often muddy, or downright wet) stretch. Do not be surprised to see snakes here, especially on warm days in the spring and summer. I saw three garter snakes (and one frog) in one afternoon in this lush section. The trail dries out a bit as it edges along the fence line, bordered by grass. Lots of poppies grow along the trail in the spring, but also look for the less conspicuous mission bells, Douglas iris, and baby blue-eyes. At 1.05 miles, a bridge crosses over the confluence of the north and south wings of the lagoon. After this, the path (such as it is) crosses through loose sand the final 0.2 mile to the ocean. (Continue to the beach if you like, and retrace your steps to the bridge.) Before the bridge, near a horse hitching post, look to the left for a faint, unmarked path. Carpet of goldenfield
     Carefully climb uphill on the trail that leads to a small bluff overlooking both wings of the lagoon and the ocean. I can't think of a nicer spot for a picnic (unless it's a windy overcast day). In the spring, the bluff is heavily sprinkled with wildflowers, including pussy ears, lupines, California buttercups, blue-eyed grass, and goldenfields. On a mid-April hike, the side of the hill facing west was thoroughly carpeted with goldenfields. It's an amazing spot, and for me it was even more enjoyable to have it to myself for just a few minutes. When you're ready to continue, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total mileage: 2.26 miles
Last hiked: Monday, April 29, 2002