The California North Coast (Bay Area) Travel Guide is a resource for Bay Area visitors who wish to sample the beautiful California coastline without extensive driving. The North Coast features exciting scenic drives, great hiking, beautiful beaches, rugged cliffs overlooking the ocean, redwood forests, quaint towns, bed and breakfasts, mountains, and historic attractions - all within a two hour drive of San Francisco.
(Right: Golden Gate Bridge)
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The California Coast North of San Francisco
The California coast north of San Francisco offers a wealth of scenic beauty, recreational opportunities, historical sites, and cultural sites. It features rugged cliffs overlooking the ocean, pristine beaches, redwood forests, and mountainous terrain. You can drive exciting scenic routes or hike on the plentiful trails.
The two largest park units on the north coast are the Marin Headlands unit of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and
Point Reyes National Seashore. The Golden Gate offers numerous units in and around San Francisco including historic sites like Alcatraz and a number of old military forts. North of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands features outstanding scenic views, hiking trails, walk-in camping, an old lighthouse, and the remains of many old gun batteries which once protected the entrance to San Francisco Bay. Other north coast units include Muir Woods with its beautiful virgin redwood forest, the coastline up to and including Bolinas Lagoon with its rich wildlife population, Olema Valley, and Tomales Bay.
Point Reyes National Seashore offers coastal scenery and recreation. This includes over ten beaches of widely different character. Point Reyes Beach on the north side of the peninsula faces the open ocean and the incoming weather, with the possibility of very rugged surf. The beaches sheltered in Drakes Bays on the south side offer a calmer experience. Beaches on Tomales Bay are even more sheltered, with warmer water. Several beaches are accessed only by hiking trails. Point Reyes also features its historic and scenic lighthouse, a network of trails, an elk herd, and even a series of historic dairy farms in its interior.
(Right: Rugged cliffs on the tip of Point Reyes peninsula.)
There are three state parks on the north coast:
Samuel P. Taylor, and
Tomales Bay. The triple-peaked Mt. Tamalpais features the highest mountain in the area with excellent views of the coast. It is an area of mountains, valleys, and thick forests with ample opportunities for hiking and biking. A rugged scenic drive goes across the three peaks. Samuel P. Taylor offers hiking and recreation along Bolinas Ridge while Tomales Bay features beaches and picnic areas on both sides of the sheltered bay.
Scenic California Highway 1 is the main route along the north coast. It leaves the US-101 freeway just north of Marin City, winds its way to the coastline and heads north to the town of Tomales on the north end of Tomales Bay, then continues north for many more miles. It is only about 55 miles from San Francisco to Tomales via Highway 1.
Note: Some of the links in this guide are to publications in PDF format. The PDF's can only be viewed or printed using
Adobe Acrobat Reader (available free, online).
California North Coast (Bay Area) Travel Guide Index
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