Alamere Falls is a hike along the coast with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean which passes by lakes before ending at cascades and a spectacular waterfall (or tidefall) which drops into the ocean. Difficulties encountered on the unmaintained Alamere Falls Trail (which is no longer recommended for hikers) include being aware of poison ivy and "dangerous conditions", exercising caution when walking around the crumbling and eroded cliffs and cascades, only walking on the beach during low tide, and using safety ropes and equipment. A Google Earth map of the hiking route including the umaintained Alamere Falls Trail (turned to the northeast for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the parking lot are 37° 56.049'N, 122° 44.831'W. GPS coordinates for the unmaintained Alamere Falls Trail junction are 37° 57.234'N, 122° 46.689'W. GPS coordinates for Alamere Falls are 37° 57.224'N, 122° 47.006'W.
For most of my life, I have lived in Marin County and Sonoma County, California. One of the tough things about Death Valley being so far away from home (about 10 hours driving) is finding good hikes to do in between trips there. For the past few years, I had heard that the best hike in the Bay Area was the hike to Alamere Falls. However, due to a variety of factors, I held off on doing this hike. One of the factors was that when I finally did the hike to Alamere Falls, I wanted to see the waterfall at its best and fullest capacity. That is only possible in the late Winter and early Spring, in particular after a good rainstorm has come through the area. Another factor was the need to visit Alamere Falls during low tide. Thus, it is necessary to consult tidal charts for the area and plan the hike so that you arrive at the waterfall during low tide. Otherwise, you will not be able to get down to the beach. Alamere Falls is located along the Point Reyes National Seashore. It can be reached by driving to the town of Bolinas and following Mesa Road all the way to the end, past the Point Reyes Bird Observatory to the Palomarin Trailhead parking area. From there, the hike follows the coastal trail for 2.2 miles along some spectacular cliffs with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Then, the trail turns inland for the next 1.6 miles as it passes by Bass Lake and Pelican Lake. Finally, a side trail to the left leads 0.4 miles down to the base of Alamere Falls on the beach. Getting down there can be a bit tricky and involves some minor scrambling. The park service describes the route as having "dangerous conditions". Caution is definitely in order during the fairly challenging area right near the end. Alamere Falls is an extremely special waterfall, comprised of the upper fall, middle fall, and lower (main) fall. What makes Alamere Falls so unique is that it is 1 of only 2 major waterfalls (also known as tidefalls) in the state of California that plunge directly into the Pacific Ocean. The other waterfall is McWay Falls in Big Sur. I have even seen Alamere Falls listed as 1 of the top 10 lesser known most beautiful waterfalls in the world. That's quite a statement, but if you visit Alamere Falls, you will see why. The total hiking distance is about 4.2 miles each way (8.4 miles round-trip). Within the included full set of photographs, we have also added a few pictures from a visit to McWay Falls (the other California tidefall) in December of 2012. Our hikes took place on February 8, 2010 and April 6, 2011.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (JANUARY 2017) -- Since we published this original report about five years ago, the NPS has provided some updated information regarding the unmaintained Alamere Falls Trail. They are no longer recommending use of this spur trail because of safety concerns and injuries occurring nearly every week requiring rescues. Apparently, the spur trail has gotten a lot worse since we last used it. Thus, the NPS is now only recommending using the longer 13 mile round-trip route to reach Alamere Falls. This route involves hiking all the way to Wildcat Camp before accessing the beach (if it is low tide and safe to do so). With this in mind, the hiking route detailed above and in our photographs may be considered historical information rather than currently useful information. Please note the following information taken directly from the NPS official web site. "Please take note! Many social media posts and older (and some newer) guide books reference the Alamere Falls Trail: this is NOT a maintained trail, and poses many hazards to off-trail hikers -- crumbling and eroding cliffs, massive poison oak, ticks, and no cell phone service. Visitors who use this unmaintained trail may endanger themselves and rescuers, and inadvertently cause resource damage. On an almost weekly basis, visitors get hurt scrambling down the heavily rutted route leading to the top of the falls or sliding down the crumbly cliff-face to get to the beach, sometimes requiring search and rescue teams to be mobilized. The National Park Service strongly advises visitors against using this unmaintained route. Please use the recommended routes to visit the falls."
This hike contains sections of climbing, crumbling and eroded cliffs, dangerous high tides, and exposed bypasses and/or high waterfalls and may require safety ropes and equipment in order to complete the entire hike. Those without the proper training, experience, and safety gear should not attempt to use the unmaintained Alamere Falls Trail but should instead use the longer route which accesses the beach by way of Wildcat Camp.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT