Coast Trail to Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls is a 40-foot waterfall that flows right into the ocean at Wildcat Beach. The trail to the falls is one of the most popular hikes in the Point Reyes area, and it showed by how many hikers were there on a warm summer weekend.

Hike Overview: ~8.5 miles total (out and back), ~4-5 hours depending how long you stay at the beach
Trails: Palomarin Trailhead, Coast Trail, Alamere Falls Trail (unmarked)

 

Go early, the parking lot was already full by the time we got there at around 10am and there were cars parked alongside the road for up a half mile from the trailhead (and way farther out than that by the time we finished). There are a couple bathrooms at the trailhead.

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The beginning of the Coast Trail is wooded and shady

 

Take the Coast Trail all the way. It’s a beautiful hike along the coast, hence the name. There are some forested areas but a lot of it is open with awesome views as you hike. It’s definitely one of the more crowded trails I’ve done. Granted, it was a Saturday and perfect weather.

 

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Beautiful views as you hike along the coast

 

The majority of the trail is not too hilly, which makes it very doable for even beginner hikers. It’s a different story once you start climbing down to the falls. At about 2.5 miles you will pass by Bass Lake. We didn’t stop by but apparently there is a trail that leads to the lake where swimming is allowed.

 

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Bass Lake

 

Keep your ears open and you’ll be able to hear the falls when you’re close. Learn from our mistake and don’t miss the fork to the falls. There’s no official signage as the trail is unofficial and unmaintained. Somehow we missed the crowds of hikers and the stack of stones marking the turnoff. We ended up hiking past until we reached a sign for Ocean Lake Loop Trail, noticed we no longer heard the falls and realized we had gone too far.

 

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A very wrong turn through stinging nettles

 

After turning back, we tried another wrong path along the creek and ended up wading through stinging nettles (not fun–wear long pants!). Finally we found the stack of stones and followed a narrow path through the brush. There was a bit of a traffic jam as a big group of hikers were making their way out through the narrow pathway.

 

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The turnoff to Alamere Falls Trail that we missed, marked by a cairn
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Also marked by an orange ribbon. Turn into this very narrow pathway.

 

After going through dense brush, the trail opens up again and soon you’ll find yourself above the falls. From this point it is time to scramble down some steep rocky ledges. It does get a bit precarious in spots which means more traffic but it’ll be worth it.

 

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Traffic jam climbing the steep path down to the upper falls

 

After the first steep descent, you’ll reach the smaller upper falls and you can follow the water to the top of the main falls. Take a right and you’ll find a trail winding down to the beach. Here is another steep drop and lots of sharp loose rock and dirt. It got pretty windy and difficult to navigate because dust kept blowing into my eyes. (Tip: Bring sunglasses)

 

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Upper falls
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Sharp rocks on the descent down to the beach

 

Make it down to the beach and you’ll see the 40 foot falls emptying right into the ocean. The beach is a great spot for a snack or a full picnic as many others were having. We didn’t spend too long here. After a few pictures and a stroopwafel break, we got in line to climb back up to the main trail and headed back the way we came.

 

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The majestic Alamere Falls
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Seriously, there were a LOT of people here

 

The nearest cities on the way back towards SF are Stinson Beach or Mill Valley, both good spots to stop for a post-hike meal. We tried Sol Food, a casual Puerto Rican restaurant in Mill Valley. Delicious and hearty sandwiches and combo plates were exactly what we needed.

 

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Pollo Sandwich from Sol Food

 

Tips:

  • Wear long pants to protect against poison oak, ticks, stinging nettles, and sharp rocks
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks. Optionally, a picnic to enjoy at the beach
  • Make sure to watch for the cairn/markers for the Alamere Falls trail
  • Bring a swimsuit and towel if you want to stop by Bass Lake for a swim

 

Resources:
https://www.theoutbound.com/san-francisco/hiking/hike-to-alamere-falls
http://www.everytrail.com/guide/the-coastal-trail-to-alamere-falls
https://www.nps.gov/pore/planyourvisit/alamere_falls.htm
http://bahiker.com/northbayhikes/palomarin.html
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sol-food-mill-valley

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