Drake Awakening

Hiking Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore

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!

Gallery image 1 of 8
Gallery image 2 of 8
Gallery image 3 of 8
Gallery image 4 of 8
Gallery image 5 of 8
Gallery image 6 of 8
Gallery image 7 of 8
Gallery image 8 of 8

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.

Trending Stories Northern CA

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Tam Slam!

    This 8-mile (round-trip) hike is a pure classic, with redwoods, water-flows, and soaring views of the coastline. Oh yeah, and that ladder!

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Easiest Best Hike in the World

    Choose the easiest and most view-rewarding hike in Yosemite. Okay, we’ll go first: the combination of hiking to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point. Both of these lookouts are within a couple miles of each other on Glacier Point Road

    View
  3. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Road Trip Ahead: Oregon Outback

    Remote open spaces, camping under true Dark Skies, hiking and biking trails galore, wildlife refuges, and hot springs! Plan your road trip to the Oregon Outback this summer.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Nice Ring to It

    This tiny but mighty open space preserve on the Tiburon Peninsula can often exhibit a wide range of wildflowers late into the season, not to mention one of the most jaw-dropping views of the bay.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Bouquet of Waterfalls

    Like a good love letter, some of the best hiking trails are short and sweet. Cue the hike to Bouquet Falls in Santa Clarita Valley’s Bouquet Canyon.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    All Roads Lead to Rogue

    Idea for your next road trip: Go Rogue! The Rogue Valley in beautiful Southern Oregon has some of the state’s best hiking, swim holes, and wineries, and the charming historic towns of Ashland, Medford, and Jacksonville.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    New Rules of the Trail

    As some parks around California begin to re-open, we came up with tips for being responsible on your outdoor adventures. Let’s do our part so we can all keep enjoying the parks.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Big Time Hike

    This is the largest grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite. We recommend this grand tour hike at 7.5 miles which includes a spectacular overlook.

    View