Point Reyes Lighthouse Century

Monday, January 21, 2013

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Today I’m heading out to the Pt Reyes National Seashore for a Century ride out to Pt Reyes Lighthouse. I begin the ride heading west on Lucas Valley Rd for the climb up to Big Rock summit. The slow icy descent through the valley and redwoods lead me out to Nicasio Valley Rd; through the town of Nicasio and along the beautiful Nicasio Reservoir. It’s a gorgeous day-the sun is out and it’s a very quiet morning with minimal traffic and cyclists on the roads.

I continue SW on Pt Reyes Petaluma Rd for the next flat 3 miles where the road opens up to fantastic views of the rolling hills and grasslands surrounding the reservoir. At the colored bridge, I take Platform BrIdge Rd out to Sir Francis Drake Blvd for the short climb up Olema Hill.

I descend into Olema and continue north on Bear Valley Rd for 2.2 miles along the marshes, past the Bear Valley Visitor Center and Limantour Beach towards Inverness. The 19 miles out to the Lighthouse begins on Sir Francis Drake Blvd, through Inverness Park and Inverness; which is immediately adjacent to the Point Reyes National Seashore. There is a short steep climb out of Inverness to the Pt Reyes National Seashore sign; the gradient ranges from 8-11%.

On the descent at the Y intersection, continue left to stay on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. This remote road goes on for miles and miles with stunning views of the open pastoral lands, rolling hills, unbroken fence lines and expansive coastal grasslands and prairie.

The terrain out to the Lighthouse begins on the flats and small rollers out to Bull Point and continues with a series of climbs and descents from the junction at Drakes Beach Rd. The reward for the steep climbing is the stunning breathtaking vistas and views of the whole surrounding area; the Pacific Ocean, salt & fresh water marshes, the valley grasslands and stock ponds. The vastness and stark beauty of this coastal area will astound you!

Watch for all the cattle-guards as you enter and exit the historical working dairy and beef ranches. The pastoral land is dotted with grazing cows, farmhouses, old barns and creameries.

For the holidays and weekends during whale watching season; New Year’s to Easter, the road from South Beach out to the Lighthouse is closed to vehicles. Visitors must ride a shuttle bus. Great for me-I don’t have to worry about all the heavy vehicle traffic but I do have to keep an eye out for the huge buses passing me from behind.

As you near the Lighthouse, there is one section of the road covered with drifting sand-proceed with caution! From the top of the ridge, you get commanding views of the stunning coastline with its sandy beaches, the granite headlands, wind-blown conifers and sweeping hillsides.

The Lighthouse Overlook area is filled with many visitors peering through their huge scopes and binoculars for migrating whales! The 308 steps down to the Lighthouse is lined with people going up and down too!

Point Reyes National Seashore is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place in North America! Winter is the best time to come out here-I hit the jackpot today; it’s sunny and warm with very mild winds.

Now all I have to do is turn around and reverse the route back to Inverness. I make a quick stop at the Inverness Store for a can of Coke and a bag of chips. The headwinds coming back from the Lighthouse wore me out! During this stop, I caught a picture of a little mole peeping in and out of his hole!

My route continues on Sir Francis Drake Blvd to Hwy 1 into Pt Reyes Station to Mesa Rd; a quiet detour through a residential neighborhood. I head north on Hwy 1 for the next rolling 7.6 rolling miles along Tomales Bay to Marshall. Another Coke stop at the Marshall Store and I’m ready for the climb up west Marshall Petaluma Rd aka Marshall Wall.

The stair step climb up west Marshall Wall is 2.8 miles with gradient ranges of 6-7% with steeper pitches of 9-11%. The top of the ridge offers magnificent vistas of the surrounding grasslands and Tomales Bay. The ridge line descent is absolutely fabulous; the road sweeps through the open valley down to Walker Creek Ranch. The road continues for another rolling 5 miles to Hicks Valley Rd.

From Hicks Valley, I head south on Pt Reyes Petaluma Rd for a quick water and pit stop at the Marin French Cheese Factory. The sun is starting to set and the glow it casts on the yellow wildflowers around the surrounding valley floor is gorgeous!

I descend Rocky Hill to Nicasio Valley Rd; the sun is setting and creates a beautiful silhouette of Nicasio Reservoir. The winds have picked up a bit and the temp has dropped a few degrees too! I return on Lucas Valley Rd back up to Big Rock and arrive at the summit at dusk. I turn on my headlight, put my long fingered gloves and wind jacket on before making the descent to Miller Creek Rd.

Wow-I had a fantastic day of riding out to the Lighthouse! Next time, a shorter lunch stop will have me back before sunset, but then again, who can resist the warmth of the sun and the great ocean views at Pt Reyes National Seashore!

104 Miles with 6932′ of elevation gain

Weather: WONDERFUL! Sunny blue skies with mild 5-10 mph winds at the Lighthouse. Starting morning temp of 35F with an afternoon high of 63F and stronger afternoon winds.

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
~Jacques Cousteau

Click here to view the route map & profile

Follow this route for today’s ride:



  1. Nancy Stunning pics! Great commentary! It feels like I was on your ride. Thanks

    Thanks Jim! you gotta get out there sometime soon! Nancy


  2. You have an impressive goal for the year, and you’re off to a great start. I do love the routes that you do (but only rarely get to do them myself – I’m down on Monterey Bay).

    Tony, Thanks! I’ll be mapping out a Century route around Marina-Monterey-Carmel soon. Am looking forward to riding in that area! Nancy


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