Backpack the Bear Valley to Coast Camp Loop

15.09 miles 2834 ft gain  - Loop Trail

Added by Jeff Driscoll

Experience all that Point Reyes National Seashore has to offer with this loop that covers everything from sea level to the park's highest point.  

Permit and Trail Camp Info

To stay overnight in Point Reyes, you must stay at one of the Trail Camps.   Camping anywhere else in the park is not allowed.   

Permits for the Trail Camps can be booked up to 6 months in advance.  If you are looking to go on a weekend, then you'll want to start looking close to 6 months in advance.  If you are open to going on the weekdays, then you will find it much easier to get permits, sometimes as soon as the day before.   

To make reservations for a Trail Camp go to, www.recreation.gov

Day 1

Your first day begins with picking up your permit at the Bear Valley Visitor Center in Point Reyes.   They open at 9 am on weekends, and 10 am on weekdays, but you can arrange for an after-hours permit pickup if you contact them in advance.  For contact information, here is a link to their website, click here.  Please note, you can not reserve permits on their website and have to go to www.recreation.gov for permits.

Once you've picked up your permit, you'll set off along the Bear Valley Trail, which is located right next to the Bear Valley Visitor Center.   If you don't have a map, make sure to pick one up at the Visitor Center.   The first 1.6 miles of the trail will be a gradual climb along a wide fire road until you reach Divide Meadow.  You'll be hiking through the beautiful coastal mountains following a nice little creek so make sure to enjoy the shade and peaceful sounds of the forest (above).

Divide Meadow is a beautiful meadow with benches you can sit on to enjoy the scenery.  Divide Meadow is also the high point of today's journey so it will be mostly downhill from here to the coast.   Once on the coast you'll have some slight ups and downs as you hike along the coastline, but you won't climb back up into the mountains again until your hike out tomorrow. 

From Divide Meadow, it's about 2.4 miles to the junction with the Coast Trail.   Continue along the trail from Divide Meadow as you pass through the forest and follow a quiet little creek (above).  After about 2.4 miles of easy downhill hiking, you'll reach the junction with the Coast Trail and the trail to Arch Rock.

Arch Rock is beautiful and worth checking out, but as of 2016, the trail to Arch Rock is still closed due to a rockslide that killed someone in 2015.   

If you aren't able to make the side trip down to Arch Rock, you'll head right from this junction and begin following the Coast Trail all the way until you get to Coast Camp.  It's going to be approximately another five miles until you reach Coast Camp.   About a mile after turning onto the Coast Trail, you will encounter a side-trail for Kelham Beach.  This is a great spot to grab lunch!   The beach is beautiful, and there is a nice big tree near the junction for Kelham Beach that you can rest under if you want to get a break from the sun.

Once you are back on the trail, enjoy the breathtaking vistas of Drake's Bay as you hike the cliffs along the coastline (above).  If you happen to be hiking during the Humpback Whale migration season, keep your eyes peeled for them just off the coast as they come up for air.  We were lucky enough to see them migrating with their calves and saw them all day long.  

As you hike along the Coast Trail you'll eventually see a sign that leads down to Sculptured Beach, this means you are very close to Coast Camp and have maybe another mile and a half to go.  If the tide is low, you can head down to the beach here and follow it up to Coast Camp or stay on the trail.  I chose to remain on the trail and then visit the beach once I got to camp.  

As you roll into Coast Camp, you'll first pass the larger group sites, the restrooms, and the water spigot.  If you are staying in one of the smaller, more secluded sites, keep heading through the camp and the trail to these sites will be at the end of the camp on your right.   On your left at this junction is another trail that leads down to the beach (above).  I recommend setting up camp and spending the rest of the day on the beach until sunset. 

Day 2

Day 2 is going to have a lot more climbing than yesterday as you take a different way back to the Visitor Center by hiking up Mt. Whittenberg on the return loop.  Start your day by heading back along the Coast Trail until you reach the junction with the Woodward Valley Trail, approximately one mile from Coast Camp.  

When you reach the Woodward Valley Trail, turn left and start heading back up and into the mountains.  The Woodward Valley Trail will continue for two miles through some beautiful, lush, coastal mountains full of vegetation (above).  

After two miles on the Woodward Valley Trail, you will reach a junction with the Sky Trail.  Turn left here and follow the Sky Trail for .8 miles.  This will take you to a three-way intersection.  At the intersection follow the signs for Mt. Wittenberg and the Mt. Wittenberg Trail.   You'll proceed for approximately half a mile and reach another intersection.  You will have the option to follow a side trail up to the top of Mt. Wittenberg but due to the trees there is not much of a view, so don't expect the typical "summit views."  To get back to the trailhead, stay on the Mt. Wittenberg Trail and you'll eventually begin descending for another 2 miles until you reach the Bear Valley Trail.  From here turn left and it's a short .2 mile walk back to the trailhead and your car.    

Read More

Tags

Chillin
Camping
Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Bathrooms
Beach
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Groups
Picnic Area
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Coast Camp Alternate Route

My friend and i just returned from backpacking to Coast Camp. We parked at the Laguna Fire Trail lot and took this trail the 1.8 miles to Coast Camp. We hiked out via the Coast Trail, 2.8 miles. Sounds short, but with all the exploring we did after we set up camp we covered about 12 miles in those two days. There's so much to see, and everything changes with the light.

Stay Nearby

Point Reyes Station, California

The Quail's Nest Cottage

Mother Nature provides endless awe-inspiring sights here. This area is also home to the Quail's Nest Cottage, a permaculture retreat near Point Reyes Station. The two-bedroom, two-bath vacation ho...

From $218/night

Point Reyes Station, California

Point Reyes National Seashore Campground

Overview 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 ove...

From $20/night

Bolinas, California

200’ To Beach! Waterfront Hideaway W/ Ocean Views

• TurnKey photo-verifies this home is professionally cleaned with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19. Admire gorgeous ocean and lagoon views from this 3BR waterfront hideaway, lo...

From $300/night

Stinson Beach, California

Beach Bungalow With Hot Tub, Deck & Fire Pit

• TurnKey photo-verifies this home is professionally cleaned with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19. •Enjoy complete relaxation amid resort-style indulgences at this 2BR/2BA bun...

From $231/night

Nearby Adventures

  • Backpack to Sky Campground in Point Reyes National Seashore

    Entering Point Reyes National Seashore from Bear Valley Road the Sky Trailhead is a 4.9 mile drive.  Camping in Sky Camp requires a Camping Permit.  You can get one at Recreation.Gov or reserveamerica.com.  Getting a Permit in person at a visitors...

    2.2 miles 185 ft gain

  • Hike the Sky Trail in Point Reyes

    Sky Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore is a dramatic, mostly single-track trail that runs along the main spine of the Inverness Ridge and across highest mountains in Point Reyes, looming above the Olema Valley and Highway 1 which mark the San ...

    11 miles 1250 ft gain

  • Backpack to Pt. Reyes' Coast Campground

    This campground is the closest you can get to staying overnight on Pt. Reyes coastline if you're backpacking in. Once you get there, enjoy the view!The easiest way to get to the camp is from the slightly uphill hike along the Laguna Trail and the ...

    3.6 miles

  • Hike the Laguna Trail & Coast Trail Loop

    Leave your car on a side of the road. When navigating there, put "HI Hostel Point Reyes" in your navigation - you park literally on the other side of the road, opposite to the hostel. Go to the west and soon you'll find the start of Coast Trail wi...

    5.2 miles 300 ft gain