Coastal Hiking Areas

Northern California backpacking doesn’t get any better than these parks near the Pacific Ocean.

Pt Reyes National Seashore – Hiking from Palomarin Trailhead to Wildcat Campsite is nice, but the campsite is not great.   Many Troops like Coast Camp becasue it is close to the beach (but there is a 2 mile hike into camp). The entire area is very beautiful.  Trails with ocean views (watch for whales and sea lions), and interesting Ranger Center, even an Earthquake Trail provide lots of opportunity for exploration.  Campsites may be reserved up to three months (to the day) in advance. To obtain a reservation, call (415) 663-8054 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Pt. Reyes is also an excellent place for a day hike. Read about Scouts in action.

Ventana Wilderness – The coast south of Monterrey is considered one of the ten most beautiful areas of the world.  And the Ventana Wilderenss sits right in the middle of it all as past of the Los Padres National Forest.  Recent fires have done a lot of damage, but the trails have reopened and are mostly accessible.  Its not unusual to see California Condors floating overhead, and there are occassional glimpses of the ocean from ridge trails.  The beauty of the Big Sur area and the hot springs attract lots of hikers, but not always the Scout kind.  Read about Scouts in action.

Big Basin – There are lots of trails, beautiful views, and backpacking campsites. Leaving from the Park Headquarters and hiking down to Twin Redwoods trail camp is a good twenty miles round trip (downhill on day one and uphill on day two) but after leaving the gear in camp, you can take a short (1.5 mile) side trip down to the beach and watch the windsurfers do aerial tricks. Berry Falls in the middle of Big Basin is also a popular destination. Just remember to bring your water filters because virtually all the water is too polluted to drink and keep an eye out for bananna slugs, rattlesnakes, ticks, and poison oak. All are part of the backpacking adventure, but you don’t want to sit on any of them! For backpacking campsite reservations call 831-338-8861. You can reserve a backpacking campsite two months ahead.

Marin Headlands – Beautiful views, easy access, and interesting things to see (Forts, Nike Missiles, Lighthouses, Beaches, lots of beautiful scenery) and do (hiking, camping, picnicking, and cycling).   Hiking can be scaled to the abilities of the group, from easy to difficult.    Check out this Marin Headlands hiking map. 

Mt. Tamalpais : There are many great trailheads from the north or south. Unfortunately, the website is terrible and you don’t get a good idea of the trails or facilities. Here are some links to a great hike in the Fairfax area, starting and ending at the dam between Alpine Lake and Bon Tempe Lake just north of Mt. Tamalpais. Waterfalls, views, and shade make it a great practice hike on a hot summer day.
Lake Alpine Hike Map.
Lake Alpine Hike Profile.

Lost Coast – Although it seems like a big adventure to hike at a place called “Lost Coast’ the reality is that its also a lot of hard work. The beach is narrow and walking through the sand with a backpack loses its appeal after a mile or so. Permits are required for fires, and watch out. When our Troop was there, some local hikers noticed the fire and hiked out to inform the ranger – who showed up the next day and wrote the Troop a ticket for $200. (No permit.) Its the kind of place you go – once.

Your turn. What are your favorite places to hike along the Pacific Coast?

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  1. 50miler says:

    Big Basin has fantastic redwood lined trails anda easy to moderate elevation changes. This makes it very, very popular with day hikers. If you have a campground, drive directly to it, park there and leave the vehicle. Parking at the camp HQ is very difficult on weekends and the short trails next to the HQ are usually very crowded. The longer distance trials are typically wide open. The large group campsites are perfect for Cub Scout packs as they work well with families and are situated away from the general population. Racoons are abundant and very brave. Make sure your food is secured at night. (Mike Warriner , Troop 420)

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