Marin Section 2
Lawson's Landing to Heart's Desire Beach, Tomales Bay State Park
Once you have found a boat ride across Tomales Bay, you enter Phillip Burton Wilderness Area, part of Point Reyes National Seashore. Little used and lightly populated, Tomales Bay is 13 miles long by one mile wide, a flooded rift valley on the San Andreas fault, a scenic and biological wonder. Great white sharks, harbor seals (shark food), halibut, sting rays, a herring run, and small commercial oyster farming are just a sample of its resources.
Ask your boat captain to drop you at Blue Gum Beach directly across from Lawson's. Eucalyptus trees line the base of the hill. Find the trail leading up the bluff on the north end of the beach. In ⅜ mile you meet the main trail about 100 feet north of Lower Pierce Ranch site, where only a row of trees and a pond remain. The pond often attracts the tule elk herd. Take the path as it passes the pond and heads south. This is the Tomales Point Trail, actually the old ranch road, which follows the ridge with views of the Pacific to the west and Tomales Bay east. At 3⅝ miles the trail ends at the historic Upper Pierce Ranch, one of the original 19th century dairies on Point Reyes. A short interpretive trail explores the numerous old farm buildings, creamery, one-room school, a huge barn, and the ranch house.
Come to the Tomales Point Trailhead and a small parking area in front of the ranch buildings. An outhouse, water and a phone are down the road ⅝ mile toward the ocean at the McClures Beach parking area.
A few yards from the Pierce Ranch parking lot, pick up an unofficial and obscure trail starting by a guard rail. (The alternative is to walk the road, but the old farm roads and open land CCT follows are much safer and more pleasant.) Follow the trail up the west slope of the draw. At the top it turns left across the top of the draw, then goes to the right, descending gently to the elk fence at 4⅝ miles. Cross the fence at the cattle guard. Walk the farm road paralleling the main road. At 5⅜ miles you continue straight as the paved road swings sharply west. Walk the ranch road downhill. Around 6¼ miles you pass through a farm gate. The side trail east through the stile ends at secluded Marshall Beach, about one mile round trip from here. Continue straight ahead to a gravel road and the Marshall Beach parking lot at 6⅞ miles.
Our trail continues south on the gravel road for 1¼ miles to a road at 8⅛ miles. A park service sign identifies it as the "HISTORIC L RANCH, ESTABLISHED 1885." Turn left here and come to a locked gate at the top of the rise at 8⅜ miles. Duck under the fence. The trail drops steeply down the road through Bishop pine forest. Shortly beyond the sign marking the Tomales Bay State Park boundary at 9 miles, make a hard right turn onto a road with a pipe gate. At 9⅛ miles turn left onto a service road and soon come to Indian Beach. Three re-creations of bark dwellings used by the original inhabitants, the Coast Miwoks, sit near the shore. Walk south on the beach briefly, cross the bridge, and walk up the hill through a lovely forested area. At 9¾ miles you'll find the parking area for Heart's Desire Beach.
SUGGESTED ROUND TRIPS & LOOPS: Start at Heart's Desire Beach and walk CCT north to Marshall Beach, 8 miles round trip. Start at Upper Pierce Ranch and walk CCT north to Blue Gum Beach or Tomales Point, 7¼ or 9⅜ miles round trip.
Distance: 9¾ miles by trail plus a ½-mile boat ride (15.7 + .8 kilometers).
Open to: Hikers.
Surface: Trail, paved road, gravel road.
Access point: Lawson's Landing.
How to get there: From the town of Tomales on Highway go west on Dillon Beach Road 4 miles to Dillon Beach. Turn left at the beach and drive I. I miles to Lawson's Landing.
Other access: Pierce Point Ranch.
Elevation gain/loss: 860 feet +/900 feet-.
Cautions: To avoid a long detour on Highway you must arrange in advance a boat ride from Lawson's Landing across to Tomales Point. Lawson's has told some hikers that a boat shuttle is no longer available from them. Be aware that the often calm bay can be windy and rough. You'll find no services before Upper Pierce Ranch. On the trail, avoid poison oak and don't approach the tule elk living on the point. Beyond Upper Pierce Ranch, the route follows ranch roads through grazing areas. Even though the ranch land is leased from the park and open to the public, respect the dairy operation and the privacy of farm buildings and residences.
Further information: Point Reyes National Seashore (415)464-5100, Tomales Bay State Park (415)669-1140, Lawson's Landing (415)878-2443 for a boat ride.
Facilities: Chemical toilets, water, camping (no showers) at Lawson's. Chemical toilet, phone and water at Upper Pierce Ranch. Restrooms, water at Tomales Bay State Park.
Campgrounds: Lawson's Landing, Tomales Bay State Park (hike and bike only).
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