Pt Reyes Lighthouse-South Beach-Tule Elk

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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From its thunderous ocean breakers crashing against rocky headlands and expansive sand beaches to its open grasslands, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges, Point Reyes offers visitors over 1500 species of plants and animals to discover. Home to several cultures over thousands of years, the Seashore preserves a tapestry of stories and interactions of people. Point Reyes awaits your exploration.*1

This wonderful ride goes through the gorgeous Pt Reyes National Seashore on Sir Francis Drake Blvd to Pt Reyes Lighthouse. The route includes a short scenic jaunt out to South Beach and another out & back along Drakes Beach Rd in the search of Tule Elk.

Begin this ride from the Earthquake Trail parking lot at Pt Reyes National Seashore Bear Valley Visitor Center.

Exit the parking lot and head north on Bear Valley Rd; the short climb is followed by a nice flat stretch along the eastern edge of Pt Reyes National Seashore with views of the low marshlands and woodlands.

Continue on Sir Francis Drake Blvd to Inverness; the road hugs the shoreline along Tomales Bay through the small residential and business community around Pt Reyes National Seashore.

Enjoy the views of Tomales Bay!

The climb up from Inverness to the summit on Inverness Ridge is 0.9 mile with an average grade of 8.7% and steep pitches maxing out at 11%!

The road drops down to a Y intersection, 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 past Historic G Ranch, circa 1869.

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

The flat road continues out past Historic F Ranch towards Bull Point Trailhead with views of Creamery Bay.

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

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

Turn right to stay on Sir Francis Drake Blvd towards the lighthouse, the road opens up with beautiful coastal views!

Sir Francis Drake Blvd winds around and drops down to Historic C Ranch; watch out for the cattle guards!

It continues on rolling terrain through the coastal meadows and pastoral prairies.

The road descends quickly towards the stock pond followed by a bumpy stretch over the cattle guards to the Historic B Ranch.

The road continues past the ranch before kicking up with a steep mile long climb with gradient ranges of 9-11%; the coastal views from the top are spectacular!

The road rolls along the top of the ridge followed by another climb; it begins at the junction with Chimney Rock at Historic A Ranch; it’s half a mile with gradient ranges of 9-13%.

Sir Francis Drake Blvd rolls on top of the ridge to the parking lot with fabulous ocean views! Go through the closed gate for the climb up to the Lighthouse.

Enjoy the gorgeous vistas!

Pt Reyes Lighthouse: observation deck & visitor area

Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent. Weeks of fog, especially during the summer months, frequently reduce visibility to hundreds of feet. The Point Reyes Headlands, which jut 10 miles out to sea, pose a threat to each ship entering or leaving San Francisco Bay. The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse warned mariners of danger for more than a hundred years.

The Point Reyes Lighthouse, built in 1870, was retired from service in 1975 when the U.S. Coast Guard installed an automated light. They then transferred ownership of the lighthouse to the National Park Service, which has taken on the job of preserving this fine specimen of our heritage.*1

Enjoy the views!

Exit the lighthouse and reverse the route back onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd to the Chimney Rock junction. Return past Historic A Ranch, the road pitches up for a short climb followed by a fast descent to Historic B Ranch.

At the cattle guard crossing, Sir Francis Drake Blvd kicks up for a climb back up to the ridge before dropping down to Historic C Ranch.

After exiting the ranch area, turn left at the South Beach sign and follow the road down to the beach area.

South Beach -enjoy the wonderful views!

Exit South Beach and continue on Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

The road winds up along the ridge for another climb up to the junction at Drakes Beach Rd.

In the search of Tuke Elk, turn right onto Drakes Beach Rd for an out & back ride towards Historic D Ranch.

The tule elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) is one of two subspecies of elk native to California. Its numbers were severely reduced in the mid-1800s, primarily due to uncontrolled market hunting and displacement by cattle. By some accounts, fewer than 30 remained in a single herd near Bakersfield in the mid-1870s. A conservation minded cattle rancher named Henry Miller had the foresight to preserve this last isolated group discovered on his ranch in 1874. Until this discovery, tule elk were thought to be extinct. All of the estimated 3,900 tule elk present in 22 herds across California (as of 2012) were derived from this small remnant herd, thanks to his initial efforts. Tule elk are endemic to California, meaning they are found only here.

After relocation from Tomales Point to the Limantour area, several elk were observed to have traveled across Drakes Estero where they established a sub-herd near Drakes Beach. In 2012, over 55 elk inhabited the Drakes Beach area while over 65 remained in the Limantour-Muddy Hollow-Glenbrook area. Opportunities for wildlife viewing have been greatly enhanced by the presence of these herds, and visitors can expect to view and photograph tule elk at Point Reyes even if they never travel to the far end of the park and into the Tomales Point Preserve.*2

A herd of Tule Elk bulls!

A herd of Tule Elk cows!

Reverse your way back along Drakes Beach Rd to Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

Sir Francis Drake Blvd continues on rolling terrain back to Historic E Ranch.

The road gently rolls along the coastal meadows and grasslands to Historic G Ranch. It continues along Schooner Bay and returns through the wetlands for the gentle climb back towards the junction of Pierce Point Rd.

The short climb on Sir Francis Drake Blvd is followed by a very fast descent with a couple of tight turns-use caution! The road continues on a gentle rolling descent back through Inverness.

Return on Bear Valley Rd back to the Bear Valley Visitors Center.

This is a spectacular ride out through the scenic Pt Reyes National Seashore! Enjoy one of the most beautiful rides in Marin County on the long endless remote road which seems to go on forever to the middle of no-where! Take an out & back ride on Drakes Beach Rd in search of Tule Elk, you might spot the magnificent free-ranging animals along the top of the ridge!

*1 https://www.nps.gov/pore/learn/historyculture/people_maritime_lighthouse.htm

*2 https://www.nps.gov/pore/learn/nature/tule_elk.htm

Garmin Stats:
46.28 Miles with 3530′ of elevation gain
Max Elevation: 535′`
Max grade: 13%
Terrain: Hilly with a few steep climbs

Weather: Sunny and warm with some coastal fog! Temps ranged from the low 60’s to the high 70’s with NW winds.

View the interactive RGPS route map & profile

Follow this route for today’s ride:

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