Marin Section 3
Heart's Desire Beach, Tomales Bay State Park, to Hostel, Point Reyes National Seashore
Inverness Ridge is the defining feature of this hike from the gentle shore of Tomales Bay to within a mile of Drakes Bay. You must climb from sea level to the top of the ridge, more than 1300 feet. The Bishop pine forests and the sweeping views from the ridge make it worthwhile.
Tomales Bay State Park is one of the prettiest places in California. Located on the east slope of the ridge defining Tomales Point, the park spans from the bay to the ridgetop. It features a virgin Bishop pine forest and a rich variety of plants and animals. Along the water's edge a series of stunning little white sand beaches have shallow water safe for swimming, Slopes plunging to the shore have flora hanging over the water, reminiscent of a Buddhist ink drawing. The Coast Miwok Indians lived here for centuries.
From the south end of Heart's Desire Beach, climb the short set of steps to the bluff above. Walk through the picnic area and past the restroom to the parking lot around ¼ mile, then turn left onto the driveway. As it circles around, watch for the Jepson Trail on the west side. Follow the trail up through enchanting Jepson Memorial Grove. Around one mile you come to a junction. Turn right on the short trail marked "PIERCE POINT ROAD." At 1¼ miles turn left onto the road. Walk its broad, grassy shoulder to Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Carefully cross busy Sir Francis Drake Blvd., turn left and walk its shoulder for ⅜ mile to 2¼ miles. Turn right onto a fire road marked by a split rail fence on the south side of the boulevard. Follow the fire road as it climbs southwest up Inverness Ridge through more Bishop pine forest. Of the three intersections on this stretch, go straight past the first one, then go left at the other two. At 3⅛ miles you meet paved, one-lane Mount Vision Road. Turn left and ascend the paved road. As you gain elevation, the views open up to Point Reye. Continue up the road through the parking lot and past the gate. Às you approach the top of Point Reyes Hill, watch for the radio range station behind a fence at 5¼ miles. Take the marked Bucklin Trail which begins here and skirts the north edge of the station for 200 feet across the crest of Point Reyes Hill. On clear days the views of the Point and Drakes Beach are stunning. The summit offers a great but often windy place for lunch.
The trail drops off the hill and descends sharply to the west, passing burnt trees from the 1995 Vision Fire. Bishop pines depend on fire for regeneration. When the trees were destroyed here, the cones burst from the heat reseeding a new forest. Ghostly blackened trees rising from an intensely green undergrowth with countless little pine trees provide a striking scene. At 7⅝ miles go south on the dirt Muddy Hollow Road, reaching the Muddy Hollow parking lot at 9 miles. Continue up the road, carefully cross Limantour Road, and follow the one-lane paved road to section's end at the Point Reyes Hostel at 9½ miles.
ALTERNATE ROUTE: To use the Johnstone Trail instead of the Jepson continue along the bluff past the restroom to a junction at ⅜ mile. A left turn follows a short trail to quiet Pebble Beach, but you go right, climbing gradually. It's 2 miles to Pierce Point Road and the junction with the Jepson Trail.
SUGGESTED ROUND TRIPS & LOOPS: Jepson Trail and Johnstone Trail combine for a wonderful 3¼-mile loop from Heart's Desire Beach. Heart's Desire Beach to Shell Beach at the south end of Tomales Bay State Park makes a day hike of about 8 miles round trip. You can combine it with the Jepson/Johnstone loop.
Distance: 9½ miles (15.3 kilometers).
Open to: Hikers. Bicyclists on Pierce Ranch Road and Mount Vision Road.
Surface: Trail, road shoulder.
Access point: Heart's Desire Beach at Tomales Bay State Park.
How to get there: From the junction of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. and Highway at Point Reyes Station, turn west on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Continue straight through Inverness, and at 6.4 miles turn right on Pierce Point Road. At 7.65 miles turn right into Tomales Bay State Park entrance. Pay a fee at the kiosk about half way down the .75 mile road to parking at Heart's Desire Beach.
Other access: At top of Mount Vision on Mount Vision Road.
Elevation gain/loss: 1680 feet+/1520 feet-.
Cautions: The hostel is closed during the day and facilities are not available.
Further information: Tomales Bay State Park (415)669-1140, Point Reyes National Seashore (415)464-5100.
Facilities: Restrooms and water at Heart's Desire Beach.
Campgrounds: Tomales Bay State Park has hike and bike camping, no cars overnight.
Lodging: Point Reyes Hostel (415)663-8811. The Inverness area has B&Bs and motels.
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