The ultimate holiday mixer isn’t eggnog and rum (although it’s a close second); it’s Drake’s Estero! Part salt water, part fresh water, Drake’s Estero is smack in the middle of Point Reyes, and one of only two marine wilderness areas in the entire nation. Yeah, it’s worth a look. Get the extended version by hiking right alongside it. The Estero Trail is one of the lesser-used trails in the park. Start off with views of the rolling green coastal hills, and distant tule elk—our version of reindeer.
Soon you’re walking through a quiet forest that was once a Christmas tree farm. Take a break at the bridge over Home Bay, one of the “fingers” of the estero. Now the birdlife bonanza begins: Great egrets, great blue herons, loons, and even bat rays and leopard sharks like these waters.
For the remainder of your hike you’ll be paralleling the estero and passing through a few cattle gates: The farms have been here since the 1850s and they’re not moving anytime soon. Wander the quiet land of loping green hills. Afternoons here are sublime, with the low-slung sun beaming through oak trees and piercing the placid water. Turn around whenever you like, but we recommend going all the way out to Sunset Beach (3.5 miles one-way). Here the rollicking Pacific comes into view, as do the Farallon Islands far out in the distance. Three cheers for this holiday mixer!
From Hwy. 1 in Point Reyes Station, take Sir Francis Drake Blvd. into Point Reyes National Seashore for 8.3 miles, and then take the left turn for the Estero Trailhead. Hike on the Estero Trail, and at the intersection in 2.4 miles, follow the sign to Sunset Beach. Return the way you came. The trail to the beach is overgrown, and recent rains may make it mushy. No dogs.