Alamere Falls Hike in Point Reyes

Alamere Falls Hike in Point Reyes

United States
United States

When Is the Best Time

Point Reyes is beautiful and exceptional and a popular park in northern California. The Alamere Falls Hike is located 35 miles north of San Francisco. Even if you can't hike for so long to the falls, there is so much more to explore. Lots at Point Reyes is easily accessible by car and foot.

Alamere Falls on a sunny day in September
Alamere Falls at low tide

Several trails are leading to the Alamere Falls. We chose the shortest one. Continue reading to get all the necessary information for an awesome hike and waterfall experience. 

Point Reyes covered in fog
Fog appears in summer.

During summer, from July to September, the Park is frequently covered in fog while the inland has sunshine and warm temperatures. However, it is a mystic place despite the weather always worth visiting.

Summer Fog at Point Reyes
This is the early morning fog.

The fog usually disappears in the afternoon. However, Point Reyes and the Alamere Falls are spectacular throughout the year. 

Avoiding Crowds

Beach at Low Tide
Hikers are spread along the entire trail - rarely crowded at the falls.

It is a popular park due to the close location of just one hour drive north of San Francisco. The Alamare Falls are much loved, and the Palomarin car park already fills up early morning at weekends. If possible, hike to the falls mid-week. You have to line up or leave if you can’t get a parking space—occasional parking lot closure during the summer. No parking fee is requested.

Foy at Palomarin Parking
Thanks to our early arrival, we spotted a fox.

Shoulder parking is not permitted! The trail, lakes, and Wildcat Beach are rarely too crowded. Some are swimming in one of the many lakes, while others explore the entire stretch of the beach. However, you can walk on Wildcat Beach at low tide only!

Best Time to Go to Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls after Midday

The best daytime during the week to start this hike is roughly 3 hours before low tide. During weekends and especially the entire summer, you don't have any option than arriving early latest 8 am, to get a parking lot. Tide Times for the hike to the Alamere Falls or check at the Bear Valley Information Center. However, the entire trail is awesome. Go for a swim first, enjoy the upper waterfalls and wait for low tide. 

Overall the best times to hike to Alamere Falls regarding weather and crowds are spring in April and May, the end of the summer in September and the beginning of fall in October. However, also the winter can be an excellent time on a sunny day. It is rare that the Bay Area experiences minus degrees. 

Tip for Photographers

Alamere in the afternoon
Perfect light conditions from the early afternoon onwards

The best light for a good shot of the falls is after midday. Of course, the falls are always fascinating, but the morning light is terrible.

Swimming at Alamere Falls 

People swimming in Pelican Lake
Pelican Lake is one of three lakes along the trail.

Swimming is not safe here. The beach is not patrolled, and strong currents can occur. Nevertheless, there are several awesome spots like Bass Lake, Crystal Lake or Pelican Lake.

Bass Lake for swimming
Bass Lake is another awesome lake to refresh.

Bass Lake is the first one to the left, Crystal the second to the right, and Pelican Lake the last one to the left, where we went swimming on the way back. If you go swimming in one of the lakes, it is at your own risk. 

Points of Interest Inside the Park

Harbor Seals warning sign
Please, don't get too close to the seals.

If hiking to the falls, try to combine your visit with one of the other attractions depending on the day and month of your visit;

  • Point Reyes Lighthouse was built in 1870
    300 steps leading down to the picturesque lighthouse with a spectacular view if it is not foggy. Unfortunately, only open from Friday to Monday.
     
  • Chimney Rock
    The overlook is close to the lighthouse to spot elephant seals while breeding from December to March. Many visitors want to observe the spectacle, which causes much traffic and shuttle buses are offered.
     
  • Tule Elk Reserve on Tomales Point 
    These specific elks were reintroduced in 1978. It’s a more than 9 miles / 15 km hike on the peninsula to Tomales Bluff and back. A shorter option is the 2 miles / 3.2 km hike to Windy Gap and back, where you may spot elks at a spring. The Tule Elk Rut Season from around August to late October/beginning of November is spectacular.
  • Migrating grey whales can be spotted around the lighthouse and Chimney Rock between January to April. Humpback whales migrate past Point Reyes from November to March. 

Weather Point Reyes for All Seasons

Wildcat Beach at low tide
You get trapped at Wildcat Beach if you don't check the tide times first.

Point Reyes has a coastal and mild climate with dry summers and cool winters. Only very view rain occurs from mid-April to October. Most of the precipitation happens from December to March. It’s often windy at Point Reyes, and strong winds are common in November and December. Fog occurs in summer, mostly from June to September. If it’s hot in the backcountry, the fog might stay until the afternoon.

Spring (March-May)

Temperatures are pleasant in the spring ranging from 64-70°F/18-21°C. March experiences still a high amount of precipitation above 5 inches. Decreasing rainfall in April and May. In late spring and early summer, the "June Gloom" occurs. It describes a specific weather pattern for California when the wind and fog create a colder temp. However, it usually disappears during the day. Nights temps are cold, roughly 46°F/8°C.

Summer (June-September)

The summer is the hottest and driest season of the year. Nevertheless, Point Reyes, located at the cooling ocean experiencing a light breeze, rarely experiences temperatures above 86°F/30°C. The sun is intense; sunscreen and a hat are essential for hiking on this exposed trail with few shelters. If you plan to camp, consider the cold night temps around 54°F/12°C. This special kind of fog, the "June Gloom", can appear until September.

Autumn (October-November)

October is still warm in the mid 70°F/24°C during the day. Temps drop below 68°F/20°C in November but still pleasant. Increasing rainfall in October is around two inches but already above five inches in November. Night temps are bearable for camping on average around 50°F/10°C. Stronger winds are common in November and December.

Winter (December-March)

The winter months are the wettest and coldest months of the year. It is frequently very windy in December. Day temps are, on average, around 59°F/15°C. It is a pleasant time for hiking on a sunny day. It is the quietest time excellent to enjoy the breathtaking nature with very few other hikers. The ocean influences the climate; therefore, freezing temperatures usually don't occur. Night temps range between 44-46°F/7-9°C. 

Hotels Nearby Point Reyes

Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny day

To get a parking space in the morning you must get up in the middle of the night; you already must have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge before the rush hour. The best way for a relaxed start into the day and hike; book one of the nearby hotels or the hostel inside the Point Reyes National Park for one night. 

Best Months to Visit

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Location and Tips

California, San Francisco
United States
United States

The Point Reyes National Seashore and Peninsula were protected in 1962 and separated from the mainland by the San Andreas Fault. In 1906, it caused an earthquake which can always happen again. Close to the Bear Valley Visitor Center is the Earthquake Trail which gives you an impression of the immense force of the earthquake more than 100 years ago. 

Many trails leading to Alamere Falls; these three hikes are the most common ones to get to the falls:

The Upper Alamere Falls close to the beach
The Upper Alamere Falls at track number 3, the shortest trail of all.
  1. Starting point Bear Valley Information Center; the hike is 15 miles/ 24 km long, and low tide is essential to walk along Wildcat Beach to get to the falls and back.
  2. From Palomarin Trailhead to Wildcat Campground to the Alamare Falls is a 13 miles/ 21 km long hike recommended by the National Park Headquarter. Low tide is essential for the walk along Wildcat Beach to the falls and back. Otherwise, your walk may be cut by the tide. In winter and spring, Wildcat Beach is inaccessible during high tide.
  3. We hiked to Alamere Falls from Palomarin Trailhead with a shortcut through thick bush and a steep climb downhill. This trail is 8.7 miles/14 km long and took us 2 hours one way. At high tide, the falls might be not accessible, but it’s just a two-minute walk along the beach after the steep and slippery climb. You don’t get trapped by the tide. However, always watch the surf; huge waves can occur. Wear proper shoes for this option; hiking poles may help. This hike is not marked and not recommended by the park headquarter. The last part is unmaintained, and visitors get injured each week. So, please, be careful!

     

The beginning of the trail.

We hiked the shortest trail to the falls from Palomarin Trailhead. It’s an easy up and down hike gaining an elevation of 300 feet. In the beginning, the hike leads through the eucalyptus forest and afterwards along the coast.

The coastal part to Alamere Falls
This part is sun-exposed.

It can be a little hot during the summer. The night before was cold with less than 50°F, and we had a beautiful blue sky in late August. Later on, the trail leads through dense forest and passes several lakes.

Eucalyptus Forest in the beginning.
Thick forest and a well-maintained hiking path that gets muddy after rainfall.

Afterwards, you walk along with open meadows and bushes until you have to turn left through thick bushes after around 3.7 miles/ 6.0 km. 

An arrow made with pebbles marks the shortcut
The shortcut is marked by a stick draped in face masks on the ground in summer 2021.

It’s not well-marked watch carefully that you don’t miss the turning. We used a hiking map on our mobile so we couldn't miss it. Do you like to know which mapping app we use? Check out my tips and gear section. After turning left, you hike stooped through the thick bush for roughly 328 feet/ one hundred meters, and it’s narrow in points. Now it is less than half a mile to reach the Alamere Falls.

Another upper fall
The Upper Alamere Falls. You can see another in the back.

When reaching the upper part of the falls, turn left again. Now comes the tricky part, which is steep and slippery. This part is unmaintained, and visitors get frequently injured. I don't want to encourage you to hike this trail. If you do, so it is at your own risk. Therefore, please wear proper shoes! Down is more difficult than scrambling up on loose rocks.

The most tricky part before reaching Alamere Falls.
That is the most difficult part of the hike. Please, don't underestimate the climb.

The falls flow over different levels before the lower fall cascades over a 30-foot-tall cliff onto the beach. At high tide and a strong swell, it might be dangerous to walk to the bottom of the falls. Enjoy your picnic at the beach. Due to the remote location, it is not overrun although the parking is full.

Packing List - 7 Things to Consider

  1. Wear proper hiking boots, at least trainers. We saw people on the trail in flip-flops that I can't recommend on this uneven track, especially when climbing.
  2. Plenty of water is needed, especially in summer.
  3. High energy food or a picnic for the day hike.
  4. Sun protection; a hat and sunscreen for the intense sun; expect UV 10 in summer.
  5. Bring a wind jacket in your backpack for the strong breeze along the coast.
  6. A mapping app is always helpful. Although most of the trails are marked, you can easily take the wrong way when looking for a swim in one of the lakes. 
  7. Swim clothes and a towel in the summer. The sea is too rough and cold, with a maximum of 64°F/ 18°C.
Attention

Poison oak is found throughout the park, often a groundcover and thick bush. The oily substance on the leaves, stems, and roots is irritating to the skin, which gets itchy for days.

Camping

Point Reyes has four backcountry campgrounds; the Wildcat Campground is ideal for getting to the Alamere Falls, Coast Camp, Glen Camp and Sky Camp. If you wish to hike to Alamere Falls from Wildcat, you have to watch the tide even more. It is one mile walking along the beach. Annually hikers have to get rescued because trapped by the incoming tide. 

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Created by
Micha Herber-Bleich
Micha Herber-Bleich
I love adventurous trips and my husband…