Same Trail, Different Seasons: Tomales Point Tule Elk Reserve

by Amanda Bartnell, Girls Who Hike SF/NorCal Ambassador


Tomales Point Elk Reserve

9.5 mile out and back
1259 ft elevation gain
bathrooms at trailhead
no dogs
no water at trailhead
free parking

In the past, I’ve found myself sticking my nose up at hikes that I’ve already completed unless they’re particularly spectacular. But recently I’ve discovered how much can change along the same trail  in different seasons. Tomales Point Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore was the perfect example of this. This hike proved to be a completely different experience in the two different times that I have visited.


The first time I completed this hike was on a winter day in January. The weather was bright and sunny with a light breeze, but despite the perfect weather, the trail was muddy in many places. Navigating the muck was difficult at times. The rolling hills had steady streams of water carving channels in the slopes. Near the end of the trail I was thankful to find soft, moist sand replacing the muddy trail. Greenery was abundant along the entire trail, with fresh green grass growing in many places. This route meanders through a Tule Elk reserve, and they were everywhere. Their cream colored fur stood out boldly against the green pastures, and  They are absolutely amazing creatures, and you won’t believe how large they are until you see them in person. We also spotted a few lizards, a sly coyote passing the trail behind us, and lots of birds. The amount of wildlife in this area was a very pleasant surprise.



August brought a completely different perspective to this trail. Light cloud cover kept the area cool, and the skies gray. The dirt was hard packed, and much easier to navigate, giving me more time to focus on the amazing ocean views. The dry sand at the end of the trail was now the more difficult terrain. Tule Elk could still be seen in large herds along the trail, but this time I had to search. Their fur coats now matched with the browned vegetation. Colorful flowers gave sharp contrast to the dead grass. Wildlife was still abundant this time around. Huge beetles, a snake, and enormous birds were spotted.


Both times of year were beautiful, of course, and it really opened our eyes to how different the same trail can be a few months apart. Let us know which trails you like to visit in different seasons below!

Amanda is the ambassador for our San Francisco/Northern California chapter. This entry was originally written on her personal website, which can be found at

You can join her local meetups and discussions through the SF/NorCal chapter by clicking here. To become a member of Girls Who Hike, click here.