The Family Guide To POINT REYES
Sample Chapter

As local Garrett Whitt who consulted on this chapter pointed out, there is access and there is access. Some people have operator chairs that are narrow, some have motorized chairs that are wide; some are equipped with all-terrain tires, some not. In this section I provide as much information about the gradient, width and surface of a particular trail as I can. For definitive information regarding wheelchair access, call the Park Service trail maintenance people at (415) 663-8522


  • Water at trailhead only
  • Restrooms at trailhead and Divide Meadow
  • Carry binoculars
  • 1.6Miles to Divide Meadow
  • 4.1 Miles to Arch Rock and the ocean

DIRECTIONS: From Point Reyes Station head south on Highway #1. Just over the green bridge take an immediate right onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Take the first left (minding the on-coming traffic from around the blind curve.) About a mile down you will see the marked right turn for the Point Reyes National Seashore Headquarters. Follow this drive to the end, past the barn-like Bear Valley Visitor Center. Park in the lot and head out from the main trailhead with the information kiosk. Trailhead about 2 miles from Point Reyes Station.

WARNING: This trail is used by mountain bikers who may not resist the temptation to hurtle down the slope back to the trailhead at high speed. Stay right and listen for approaching bikes behind you.

This trail is my all-time/all-people favorite for nearly any combination of ages and agility. It is the old Bear Valley Road that people traveled by horse-drawn carriage to the hunting lodge that existed in Divide Meadow until the early 1900s. The lodge is now gone, but the knoll on which it sat with the stately Douglas fir trees and sweeping view down across the meadow are still there waiting for you.

From the time my son was a newborn in a front-slinged pack until, as a hiking preschooler, we never tire of the changing scene along Bear Valley Trail.


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For nearly twenty years this has been my first choice for brisk exercise with local friends at any time of the day or year. It is the trail I choose when my mother and my aunt, both in their seventies, come to visit. Local joggers use Bear Valley Trail because it starts out nearly level, moves into a gentle incline, and provides a number of natural turn-around spots along the way. The trip back from Divide Meadow is a gentle glide down the slope to the trailhead.

Bear Valley trail is not paved; the surface is somewhat rocky, hard-packed, decomposed granite that is well maintained and very wide. It holds its surface even in very stormy weather (read: "no muddy potholes"). The first stretches of the trail through the Bear Valley meadow parallel the burbling creek. The trail is nearly level for a good third of a mile into the woods. It then begins a gradual climb for another quarter of a mile before it pitches up fairly steeply for the last fifty yards to Divide Meadow, so called because this is where the watershed divides: Coast Creek turns here to run south to the ocean and Bear Valley Creek drains north from here to its outlet at Tomales Bay. The parade of creatures on the trail is always a delight to me: solitary birders with binoculars, hiking groups loaded up with gear piled high for an overnight in one of the campgrounds, people on horseback, wheelchairs, babies in jogger-strollers, joggers, naturalist seminars, deer, cottontails - all of these speaking any number of languages.

As you head out the trail, it cuts through the open meadow where axis deer, fallow deer and black-tailed deer feed. Brought here in the late 1940’s from India, the axis deer are shy and graceful, and produce fawns at any time of the year. They have a reddish brown coat with white spots that are invisible throughout the year.  A white "bib"on their chests and a dark stripe that runs the length of their backs are distinguishing features. The bucks’ antlers are shed every winter.

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