Marshall Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore,
National Park Service,
Marin County

In brief:
2.9 mile out and back hike to Point Reyes' Marshall Beach.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.9 mile out and back hike is easy. Trailhead elevation is about 350 feet. The hike drops down to sea level, then climbs back to the trailhead; total elevation change is about 360 feet.

Exposure:
Almost completely exposed.

Trail traffic
:
Light.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt fire road.

Hiking time
:
Just over an hour.

Season
:
Nice year round.

Getting there:
From US 101 in Marin County, exit Sir Francis Drake/San Anselmo. Drive west on Sir Francis Drake about 20 miles, to the junction with CA 1, turn right, drive 0.1 mile, and then turn left onto Bear Valley Road. After about 2 miles, Bear Valley Road ends at Sir Francis Drake; turn left. Continue on Sir Francis Drake about 5.5 miles, and turn right onto Pierce Point Road. Drive about 1.3 miles (just past the Tomales State Park entrance) and turn right onto Duck Cove/Marshall Beach Road. The road starts out narrow and paved, but soon becomes a wide dirt/gravel road, with open range cattle roaming about and sometimes sitting on or along the road. Drive about 2.5 miles, following the brown "parks" signs to the trailhead: go straight at the first junction with a dirt farm road, then left at the Y. The trailhead is at the end of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/370

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 38 9'15.07"N
Longitude
12255'11.24"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Pay phone, stores, and restaurants back 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 -- enquire 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, on 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. No amenities whatsoever: no water, toilets, maps, pay phone, or designated handicapped parking (and trail access is obstructed). Just a rough dirt parking area (although there are pit toilets at the beach). The road should present no problems for low clearance vehicles during dry months of the year, but you might want to inquire at the ranger station about conditions after a storm or during winter. The Bear Valley Visitor Center (look for the sign on Bear Valley Road) has maps and drinking water. There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead.

Rules:
Trails are multi-use. No dogs.

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

Map Choices:
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.
• Don and Kay Martin's Point Reyes National Seashore has a good map and trail descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).
Hiking Marin, by Don and Kay Martin, has a good map and trail description (order this book from Amazon.com).


Marshall Beach in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.



Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page




Lonely and primitive, Marshall Beach Trailhead offers hikers a choice of two short out-and-back hikes, to Lairds Landing or Marshall Beach. TrailheadJust 0.1 mile of steep rocky cliffs looms between the beaches accessed by either trail, making a loop impossible. I suppose you could hike both trails in one visit, but there's no real reason to, as the trails, terrain, and destinations are so similar. Trails are wide fire roads, and you are more likely to encounter cows than any real wildlife, although you might see deer and small mammal footprints on the sandy shoreline. Marshall Beach is not far from Tomales Bay State Park, and offers less crowded bay beach access in warm summer months.
     Start at the trailhead and squeeze through the very narrow stile at the northern gate marked by a small sign that reads "Marshall Beach Trail." The wide multi-use trail starts out nearly level, and takes a straight course through cattle range (watch your step). Trailside vegetation is primarily cow-disturbed grassland, with some coyote brush shrubs. After a second gate (and stile), the trail begins a slight descent, and views across Tomales Bay to the east open up. Descending on Marshall Beach TrailOnce past/through a third cattle gate, Marshall Beach Trail heads downhill toward the bay. On a clear day, you'll have great views south to Mount Wittenberg and north to Hog Island, but on my visit the sky was hazy and landmarks were barely discernible. The grade is moderate but still easy (at least until the return leg uphill). A few toyon shrubs are conspicuous mixed through the coyote brush, and as you descend you might notice a small forest of pines and cypress nestled into a moist crease in the hillside. The trail turns right and then left, and then straightens out. Look for silktassel shrubs on the left side. At 1.30 miles, the trail ends at Marshall Beach. Stands of cypress and eucalyptus have crept all the way to the bay on the left, while a sandy crescent-shaped beach stretches south to the right. Turn right and walk on the sand, keeping an eye out for rogue jellyfish. Marshall BeachAt 1.47 miles a rocky outcrop blocks further progress south (to Lairds Landing), and huckleberry, lizardtail, salal, ferns, creambush, and wax myrtle cling to the slopes. I saw raccoon, deer, and some other small mammal prints on the damp sand. If the tide is accommodatingly low, you may walk back along the shore past the trail to the north, to a small secluded beach that makes a nice lunch stop. Noise from across the bay filters west, reminding you of the narrow margins of "wilderness." When you're ready, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 2.94 miles (or more if you poke around the shoreline to the north)
Last hiked: Friday, November 9, 2001