Every year, my friend Bo takes a trip back to the Bay from his home in Shanghai and wants to do something “outdoorsy”. On his first trip back, we camped in Yosemite and did the monstrous all-day hike to Half Dome. The next year, we camped in Tahoe and did a day hike to Susie Lake in Desolation Wilderness. The next two visits were short trips, so we only had enough time to do day hikes to Mt. Tamalpais and Pt. Reyes. While I love Mt. Tam and Muir Woods, Pt. Reyes has to be one of my all time Bay Area favorites.
Bo wanted to be exposed to some of the best hiking that the Bay Area has to offer, so I thought I’d take him on the scenic (albeit mild) hike to Alamere falls (he usually wants a longer and a more rigorous hike, a la Half Dome – but I know of very few enjoyable and SCENIC hikes of that caliber within two hours of Oakland. If anyone has any recommendations, please send them my way).
While the hike was not that challenging, it didn’t matter – we couldn’t have asked for more amazing weather or a more picturesque day!
To get to the start of the hike at the Palomarin trailhead, you basically go towards Stinson Beach but keep going up Hwy 1 until you reach the town of Olema. After that point, you must drive on an unpaved dirt road (bring the 4 Runner!) for a mile or so until you reach the trailhead parking lot.
At Palomarin, you have a few options…
If you just want to enjoy the beautiful coastline and go to the beach, you can take a short 0.5 mile hike down to the ocean from the Coast Trail. If you want to make it to the backpacking campgrounds or Alamere falls, continue on the Coast trail towards Wildcat camp. Hiking to Alamere falls from Palomarin is about 3.5 miles one way, while hiking to Wildcat camp is about 5.5 miles. I was thinking of taking the group to Wildcat camp and then walking about a mile on the beach to get to the falls (to get more hiking in for the day), but we just didn’t have enough time.
The hike is really pleasant – wide dirt trails, it’s very up and down, and it’s never too steep. We kept a fairly fast hiking pace the whole way to the Alamere Falls trail junction. You have to look out for it though! The wooden sign is on the left of the trail, and isn’t extremely big. People who hike looking straight ahead the whole time might miss it. The one thing I forgot about the 0.4 mile trail to the falls from the Coast trail is that it’s kinda covered in poison oak. Bring a long sleeve shirt and a pair of pants, as well as a change of clothes so you can wear poison oak-less clothes while you’re just hanging out.
I can’t emphasize enough how perfect the day was.
To get down to the area above the falls, you gotta climb down some narrow dry dirt crevices. On your way down, you’ll pass by a stream and some mini falls before you come to the final “big” waterfall that cascades onto the beach and into the ocean. The falls were pretty small since it’s already October (June is a much better time to see the falls), but still – SO AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS.
We decided to enjoy the views of the beautiful coastline by picnicing right on the edge of the cliff. My shared lunch consisted of salami, smoked gouda, olive bread, and hummus spread. And chocolate covered fruit. And fresh grapes. And cucumbers. Cucumbers and hummus make for an incredibly tasty lunch. We did it up pretty bougie. If only we had brought champagne…
If you want to go down to the beach, just go to the far right of the cliff area and climb down another dirt path/crevice to get to the sand below. Once you get down there, you pretty much have miles and miles and miles of sandy beach to explore.
On our way back, we stopped to admire some of the lakes along the Coast trail. Sometimes if you listen closely, you can hear distant laughter and water splashing as the people hanging out around the lake jump from a rope swing into the cool waters below.
Another day, another highly recommended Bay Area hike.