Pt Reyes National Seashore: Drakes Beach-North Beach-Tule Elk

Monday, April 13, 2015

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A wide stretch of beach backed by dramatic white sandstone cliffs makes this a very popular place. Drive-up access, a small café and a visitor center add to its appeal. The sands of the Drakes Bay cliffs were deposited in a shallow sea 10–13 million years ago, compacted, then uplifted. Erosion has revealed the striations of this story in the cliff faces. (

This short ride goes through the town of Inverness along Tomales Bay to the beautiful Pt Reyes National Seashore on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Stop at Drakes Beach and North Beach before visiting the Historic Life-Saving Service and G Ranch Cemetery near Schooner Bay.

Exit Olema Campground onto CA-1 S.

The 1.7 miles along Bear Valley Rd to Sir Francis Drake Blvd begins with a very short climb followed by a nice quiet stretch of flat terrain to the turn at Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

Sir Francis Drake Blvd runs north along Tomales Bay to Inverness.

Enjoy the views of Tomales Bay.


The climb out of Inverness towards Pt Reyes National Seashore begins at the intersection with Camino Del Mar; it’s less than a mile with gradient ranges of 8-11%.

At the bottom of the descent at the Y intersection, we continue left to stay on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. The flat terrain on this road goes along a creek that flows out to Schooner Bay at Drakes Estereo.

The road winds along the bay pass Historic G Ranch, circa 1869.

The short pitch up from the ranch takes you out to the open grasslands and coastal scrubs out to Historic F Ranch.

The flat road extends to Bull Point Trailhead with views of Creamery Bay.

The road continues with a series of climbs and descents towards the Historic E Ranch with splendid views of Drakes Estero.

Enjoy the beautiful coastal views!


The road winds up, down and around the expansive pastoral lands to the Pt Reyes Lighthouse/Drakes Beach junction.

Go straight and continue on Drakes Beach Rd to Drakes Beach.

The views from the top of the ridge are spectacular!

We spot a herd of male Tule elk on the east side of the road -WOW!





From Historic D Ranch, the ocean comes into view followed by a steep descent to the Visitors Center/Drakes Beach parking lot.

Enjoy the gorgeous coastal bluffs and sandy beach!


The steep descent is now a steep climb out of the beach area. It’s 0.5 mile with steep pitches of 11-14% grades!

We spot more Tule elks on the west side of the road- it’s an all female herd-WOW! They’re running towards the fence line looking to cross over to join the male herd but then they start running; they get spooked by the car load of tourists who stop abruptly to watch them.



Spring is the time to enjoy the open fields of wildflowers! There’s an abundance of wild purple irises blooming along the side of the road-WOW!

At the Pt Reyes Lighthouse junction-continue straight on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. The rolling terrain leads back to Historic E Ranch followed by a descent.

We spot a coyote running across the grasslands and catching something to eat-WOW!

At the Pt Reyes North Beach sign, turn left and head down to the beach area.

Enjoy the sounds of the crashing waves and coastal dunes!


Return east on Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

At Schooner Bay, turn left at the US Coast Guard sign for a detour out to the Historic Life-Saving Service and G Ranch Cemetery. Cross the cattle guard to the parking lot; you can either ride the bike or take a short stroll up to the hilltop cemetery under the eucalyptus grove.

Historic Life-Saving Service and G Ranch Cemetery. From 1890 to 1914, the United States Life-Saving Service was stationed at Point Reyes along the great beach. In 1914, the U.S. Coast Guard was formed and the tradition of the Life-Saving Service carried on until 16 Dec. 1968, when the Point Reyes Lifeboat Station was deactivated. Four of those Surfman from that era are buried here and have continued their watch over Point Reyes National Seashore. (

Hilltop views of the surrounding Pt Reyes Natl Seashore area:

Continue east on Sir Francis Drake Blvd and make your way back up Inverness Hill.

Drops back down through Inverness and head south along Tomales Bay.

Take Bear Valley Rd to Hwy 1 for the return to Olema Campground.

Life is a beach-this is California living at its finest! Come out and explore the spectacular coastal beaches around Pt Reyes National Seashore-you’ll love it as much as I do! Keep an eye out for the herds of free-ranging Tule elk around the open grasslands-they’re magnificent!

Garmin Stats:
37.08 Miles with 2264′ of elevation gain (start from Olema Campground)
Max elevation: 312′
Max grade: 14%
Terrain: Hilly with a couple of steep climbs

Weather: Sunny, cool and breezy. Temps ranged from the high 40’s to the low 60’s with strong NW winds.

View the interactive RGPS route map & profile

Drakes Beach

Follow this route for today’s route from Bear Valley Visitor Center:


One Comment

  1. Fantastic! I know I love California and you keep reminding me why! Thanks Nancy.

    Yes, CA living is great-it can’t get any better! Nancy


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