Chimney Rock Trailhead, Point Reyes National Seashore,
National Park Service,
Marin County
In brief:
2 mile partial loop on a Point Reyes bluff overlooking the ocean. Spectacular wildflowers in spring, and good seal, sea lion, and whale watching as well.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2 mile partial loop hike is easy, with about 250 feet of elevation change.

Exposure:
Full sun.

Trail traffic
:
Moderate-heavy.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time
:
About 1 hour.

Season
:
This hike is best for the peak of spring wildflower season.

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 make the first left onto Bear Valley Road. Drive about 2 miles to the junction with Sir Francis Drake, and turn left. Continue about 16.5 miles, and turn left at the sign for Chimney Rock. Drive slowly down this narrow road to the trailhead.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/414

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 3759'41.82"N
Longitude
12258'46.78"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurants at Point Reyes Station. There are a few stores and restaurants in Inverness. Pay phones at the Bear Valley and Ken Patrick Visitor Centers. 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.

Trailhead details:
No entrance or parking fees. Limited parking in a gravel lot, with no designated handicapped parking. Pit toilets on site. There's a map under glass at the information signboard, but none to take with you. During some times of the year, vehicle access is restricted in this southwestern corner of the park, and visitors are bussed from the visitor center. You may check with a ranger at park headquarters (415-663-1092) to be sure you will be able to drive all the way out to Chimney Rock. There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead.

Rules:
Hikers only. No dogs.

The Official Story:
Point Reyes website.
Park headquarters 415-663-1092.

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Download the park map pdf from NPS
Other Point Reyes maps from NPS
• 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.
Hiking Marin, by Don and Kay Martin, has a simple map and trail descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).


Chimney Rock in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from the featured hike (2002)
View 30 photos from the featured hike (2000)


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Chimney Rock may seem like the McDonalds of the wildflower world, reliably serving thousands of aficionados every spring. Trailhead The trailhead gets crowded (even on weekdays) with amateur and professional photographers, as well as nature lovers clutching field guides. Hikers seeking a quiet nature experience may wish to look elsewhere. The display is impressive, though. Carpets of flowers such as goldenfields, blue-eyed grass, and mule ear sunflowers are dramatic against a backdrop of cliffs receding sharply to the ocean. There are two short official trails, one which drops down from the trailhead to the historic lifeboat station, and a second which runs out to a bluff overlooking the ocean. From the overlook near the trailhead, elephant seals can sometimes be glimpsed during winter, their mating season. In spring, bring binoculars to spy on migrating whales.Chimney Rock Trail
     From the trailhead, start out on the trail to the right of the information signboard. Flowers found among the grass in spring include checker-blooms, California buttercups, paintbrush, sun cups, clovers, Douglas iris, blue-eyed grass, baby blue eyes, lupines, strawberry, and California poppies. This is just a teaser for the main display further along the trail. At 0.39 mile, an unsigned path doubles back to the left, on the way downhill to the old lifeboat station. Continue straight.
    After skirting a fenced off portion of cliff on the right, the trail rises a bit, then levels off. Yellow bush lupine is common along the trail here. An arrow sign points you away from an unsigned side trail. Flowers at the coastlineAs you get closer to the official end of the trail, great carpets of blossoms sprawl on both sides of the trail in spring. You may see goldenfields, pussy ears, linanthus, paintbrush, blue-eyed grass, lupines, poppies, and mule ear sunflowers. A side trail veering left at 0.76 mile offers a tour through a good selection of blooms. The main trail ends at a fenced cliff edge at 0.92 mile. Off the shore sit two large rocks; presumably the flat-topped one is Chimney Rock. From here, you can simply retrace your steps to the trailhead, or take a side trip on an unsigned path that doesn't appear on any of the official maps. (This path is narrow and uncomfortably close to the cliff edge at places, so use good judgment and caution.) Follow the fenceline around the point at the end of the main trail to the right, then pick up a path running parallel to the coastline. View west from the bluff
     The narrow path is lumpy but it climbs easily through grassland where you might see mule ear sunflowers and blue-eyed grass in spring. The path reaches a flat grassy spot with incredible views west along the coastline. In spring, with binoculars you may be able to make out beached sea lions or seals in a cove to the left. Carefully pick your way back to the main trail, through the grass. This area is notoriously unstable so stay well back from the cliff edges. At about 1.56 miles you'll return to the main trail. Turn left and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 2.02 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, April 13, 2005