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This trip was my son's first backpacking trip (he is 6) and he had a blast. Point Reyes National Seashore offers a number of camping options. Coast Camp is a short 3.1 miles each way via the Coast Trail or a really short 2.1 miles via a "Fire Lane Trail", see map and profile below. Tyler and I decided on doing the short route, since it was shorter, and because the longer route (Coast Trail) was closed. It was closed earlier in the season due to flooding of the creek that runs through there, but today it was closed because a salvage crew was removing a wrecked salmon troller from the beach and using the trail to transport material on. Here is the link to the youtube video (shot by someone when it was on the beach intact a few days earlier). You can read the blurb on the youtube video, but basically the captain fell asleep at the wheel and ran aground on the beach. I did not follow my own rule on this trip of calling a ranger ahead of time to find out current conditions, so this news was a surprise (and provided some excitement for my son). The other surprise was that the rangers were requiring us to pack in our own water... they said the line was shutoff as the water line runs along the Coast Trail where the heavy machinery was traveling. I did not ask for details, as I was considering my options on the carrying enough water for the trip. I decided to play it safe and carry an extra gallon to share between the two of us, after topping off our containers for the way in. I also had a filter with me as I knew there is a creek that runs into the ocean here. The ranger told us to not use the creek though since they expected many campers and did not want everyone accessing the creek to get drinking water. Again I did not question the logic I just went with it (with the short hike in even carrying a gallon of water was not really much of an inconvenience).

The beauty of this camp is you are right on the water (well a really short hike down to it) and you can explore the beach once you have setup camp. Wildcat Camp is also the same distance from the ocean but the sites are really close together. At Coast Camp sites 1 through 7 are the best with each offering some privacy from the other sites. We stayed at site #4 and it is adequate for 1 tent maybe a second but it would block access into the site and be on a slight slope. See my previous trip here for a description of larger site #7. All 14 sites are pretty exposed as you can imagine being this close to the beach, Sites 1 through 4 are probably the best if you still want to see a corner of the ocean (no breaking waves just blue ocean). Even if you can't see the ocean you will hear it in the evening/early morning. Things to note are poison oak is plentiful and the raccoons here are no joke. Lock up anything that smells or looks like food. Each site has a metal locker, picnic bench and barbeque. There is a really nice pit toilet near sites 9 and 10 with water near the beach access trail. Sites do book up for the weekends so reserve your site early. We went on a Friday and most (if not all) sites were occupied that night. Permits can be obtained through www.reserveamerica.com. Permits must be picked up from the Bear Valley Visitor Center on your way in. If you are arriving outside of the visitor center's hours they will post permit outside for you. Shot is of beach looking south from Coast Camp.

 

 

Tyler and I were hiking in from Laguna Trailhead using the Laguna Trail, to the "Fire Lane Trail", to Coast Camp. Getting to the trailhead is easy. After you leave the Bear Valley Visitor Center( located at 1 Bear Valley Road) take a left onto Limantour Road. Look for a sign for the Hostel/Laguna Trailhead on the left. Take the left onto this one lane road and pass the Coast Trailhead on the right and then the Hostel on the left. On the right you will see the Laguna Trailhead and cross a bridge over the creek and into the parking lot. As you can see leaving on a Friday afternoon cut down on the vehicles in the parking lot. We had a total of three cars in the lot with us.

 

 

The trail is well marked with you headed in a southwest direction for the bulk of the trip in. My gps confirmed the sign mileage of 2.1 miles each way and around a 200' of up and another 250' of down on the way in. The way out seems more uphill than downhill even though it is pretty even. Here is Tyler getting ready to hand the water to me after he discovered what a gallon of water weighs.

 

 

So the driveway/trail is prominent in this shot. The buildings house some equipment and also some rangers. The trail makes a quick right following the ridge.

 

 


The first junction happens before you are even warmed up. Stay right/straight at this junction to get to Coast Camp. Notice the directions to the Hostel. This is the hostel you passed on the way in along the road. We talked with some people staying there on the way out and they reported it as very clean and reasonable. I guess it books up but they rent out the group area space, if there are no groups, without a reservation needed.

 

 


This is the same shot with the view pulled back some. Hard to miss the junction here. We saw a guided trip going in on our way out the next morning. They were stopped here discussing the plant you don't want to get too close to on this trail, Poison Oak. It is plentiful along the trail and at camp. If you stay on the trail and are mindful of keeping out of the bushes at camp you will be fine.

 

 


Tyler's first water break headed up to the ridge on the way in. Weather was perfect with a high near 60 with a breeze that kept the fog away all night.

 

 


There are plenty of plants that grow through here (besides Poison Oak). The larger plants that have the purple flowers on the way in are Point Reyes Creeper. This one in the shot below is of some Common Horsetail. To me it looks like spiky bamboo.

 

 


Stay right/straight at the next junction as well unless you are headed over to Sky Camp. This shot is a the junction looking towards the Sky Camp "Fire Lane Trail".

 

 

Here is the same junction looking at the other signs on the post. This is about the halfway point if you are headed to Coast Camp.

 

 


This hike is exposed. There is no shade so bring a hat and some sun block. This is the only shot I have of trees on this trip. They look like they have been on their way out for some time now.

 

 


Here is one friend we saw along the way. Some of the bigger animals that use this trail are horses. We saw two groups headed out that day.

 

 


Once you get to the top of the ridge you will start to see the blue ocean in the distance (so make sure you aren't just looking at your feet)..

 


Another shot of the trail on the way down to camp. The big tree in the center is along the trail from Coast Camp to the beach.

 


Apparently I needed to have Tyler hike a little farther as he seemed to have plenty of energy left for some air guitar. Notice the number on the food locker (that is sadly not mouse proof) and the bbq. We setup camp and headed to see what this shipwreck was all about. Many of the hikers that we ran into that day told us it was worth checking out..

 

 

Tyler brought a few essentials for the sand...

 

 

Here is that tree I mentioned earlier. It had a brand new swing setup on it. Pretty sweet. It had an email address from the people that set it up a few days earlier so I was sure to send them a thank you from Tyler and I for going to the trouble.

 

 


Tyler thought it was cool enough to try out for a bit before we headed to dig for treasure.

 

 

As we headed to the beach I took this shot back towards sites 1 through 7. Notice you can only see one site. The park service did a great job spacing the sites out and making sure to leave enough of the natural landscape to camouflage them well. Although you may hear your neighbors at camp, you aren't going to see them.

 

 

This is the creek that runs down to the ocean. As you can see it is pretty small but flows enough to be a good water supply (at least this time of year). Tyler and I picked a good spot to jump over it and headed north on the beach to the front loader we saw cruising along..

 

 


It was very hard to miss the action on the beach. The excavator and front loader were both being used to demolish the leftovers of the troller that wrecked here a few days earlier..

 

 


Did I mention it was a little windy?! We got sandblasted a couple times on the way to the action.

 

 

 

We spoke to ranger Nat for a bit to get the lowdown on the work being done. You can see him helping load the 55 gallon drums of fuel into the front loader. This was the last load of the day as the dump was closed until Monday, so they couldn't haul any more debris until after the weekend. Nat was nice enough to show us some pictures on his phone of the boat the day after it ran aground. They had pretty much cleaned it up by the time Tyler and I got there. Most of what was left was debris and drive shaft. The life boat that the captain used was still intact and on the beach though.. Nat told us that the boat was pulled up above the tide line to be worked on after most of the valuables were taken off it the first day. The youtube link shows the boat actually in the surf.

 

 


After watching the front loader head off Tyler decided he would create a dam in the creek.

 

 


We had a quiet evening at camp and most of our neighbors did not stay up too late (or if they did they were very stealth about it). It was windy that night but the bushes around camp kept us somewhat sheltered. We had locked up everything that resembled food into our food locker.. except my water bag. That night I heard quite a bit of animal activity. When I heard the sound of plastic getting chewed on the picnic table nearby I investigated to find my water bag with a single puncture and tipped on its side. Luckily it held water fine if tipped on its side, opposite the puncture. Silly raccoons were thirsty, or mad that I locked up everything. I also heard either a rabbit or racoon get into it with something that growled. Whatever it was it certainly lost that fight, and probably is no longer based on the final "scream" noise it let out. Tyler slept through all of the nighttime noises and was bright the next day. Here he is filling up the canteen the next morning at our makeshift sink. We also lost one cliff bar to a mouse that evening. Apparently the mouse can sneak into the food locker.

 

 

 

Tyler said goodbye to the beach the next morning and we hit the trail. Weather was a little warmer than the previous day and a little less windy.

 

 

We saw rangers moving this water tank before we left the camp area that morning. The building is the pit toilets. I imagine that this was a temporary water solution for the weekend and possibly the next week for the final stage of the salvage operation.

 

 

A quail that decided to check out the view from atop a bush. .

 

 

So we made it out. This is a great trip for testing out some new gear or a new backpacker. You can see that this a popular trailhead on the weekends based on the number of cars parked this Saturday. We saw 4 other families with small kids on this trip that were spending the night so if you are looking for a good entry level trip look no further. Stay tuned for the next family friendly trip to Angel Island in a few weeks.

 





Red line shows the path we hiked and then section of trail to get to site #4 (and our path to the beach the morning we left). Elevation profile shows how easy this hike is on the lungs/knees. Click either for a larger version.
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