Chimney Rock - Headlands Overlook Trail, Point Reyes: Chimney Rock Trailhead, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California
Chimney Rock - Headlands Overlook Trail - 1.8 miles
Point Reyes: Chimney Rock Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||1.8 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||110' - 162' (202' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+52' net elevation gain (+225' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Chimney Rock - Headlands Overlook Trail - 1.8 Miles Round-Trip
Chimney Rock caps the eastern head of Point Reyes Peninsula where the Pacific Ocean meets Drakes Bay. The headland is an ideal spot to observe elephant seal colonies and seasonal whale migrations. Panoramic views extend across Drakes Beach, Drakes Estero, Limantour Beach and out to the Farallon Islands:
It climbs past the Historic Lifeboat Station and up a low ridge to the south, over which steep cliffs drop to inaccessible beaches down the peninsula's Pacific flank.
The trail edges back to center and levels with rangy views of Drakes Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Social trails branch off along this segment to precarious cliff edges over the bay and ocean.
Keep your heading and save these options for the return. The main trail crests in .65 miles (202'), gliding gently down to the Chimney Rock Overlook (.9 miles : 162').
Sea stacks dot the cliffs' base, which is buttressed rhythmically by powerful waves. Chimney Rock is the largest promontory just off the eponymous overlook point.
Those unphased by steep drop-offs should consider returning by the social trail along the peninsula's Pacific cliffs. Extreme caution is a must along these highly exposed, unstable edges.
Those who venture this way will enjoy great views across the entire Point Reyes Peninsula, and of secluded beaches and coves below. Look for elephant seals, raptors, various seabirds and deer. This diverting alternative traces the cliff's edge back to the main trail's approximate midpoint.
- N37 59.701 W122 58.770 — 0.0 miles : Chimney Rock Trailhead
- N37 59.413 W122 57.908 — .9 miles: Chimney Rock Overlook
- January - March is peak season for watching Gray Whales on their annual migration from summer grounds in Alaska to wintering grounds in Baja, California.
- April and May at Chimney Rock see some of Point Reyes' most prolific wildflower displays. Between whale watching and wildflower blooms, this trail can be very busy through late spring. Arrive early to secure parking and a measure of solitude.
- No matter the weather elsewhere in Point Reyes, anticipate strong winds and rapidly changing weather conditions at Chimney Rock. Come prepared with multiple layers, wind and rain protection.
- Cliff edges are perilously steep and unstable. Be mindful of your footing, keep children at a safe distance and avoid cutting through sensitive vegetation to reach them.
Rules and Regulations
- To reduce traffic and regulate crowds, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is closed beyond South Beach Junction to motor traffic on weekends and holidays from late December - mid April, 9 am to 5:30 pm.
- Access to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock during this closure is only available by Shuttle Bus, bicycle, or foot.
- The shuttle is $5 per person, and free to children 16 and under.
- Vehicles more than 24' long are not permitted on Chimney Rock Road.
Directions to Trailhead
The Chimney Rock - Elephant Seal Overlook Trailhead is located 20.25 miles from the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
From the Visitor Center, turn left and follow Bear Valley Road 1.75 miles northwest to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Turn left and follow Sir Francis Drake Boulevard 17.6 miles west to Chimney Rock Road, just south of the Historic "A" Ranch.
Tip: Follow road signs for "Lighthouse" until you see a sign for Chimney Rock. Turn left and follow Chimney Rock Road 0.9 miles east to the Chimney Rock Trailhead Parking Area.
Point Reyes National Seashore
1 Bear Valley Rd.
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Visitor Information: 415.464.5100 x2 or 415.663.8522 x2
Headquarters: 415.464.5100 x 1
Volunteer Information: 415.464.5145
Education Programs: 415.464.5139
Special Use Permits: 415.464.5111