Sunday, May 17th, 2015
Of the many trips I have made to the Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero, I had always wondered how many other significant lighthouses are nearby and after doing a little research I discovered that almost 30 lighthouses still stand along the California coast with just over a dozen that are open to the public.
Point Reyes Lighthouse was the next lighthouse to visit on my list and with that came the inevitable road trip. With batteries all charged and camera gear bagged up, I loaded my rig with equipment and snacks, then high tailed it northbound. Unfortunately for me, I had a really rough night, so I had slept in a bit and needed to move fast to make my destination with a reasonable amount of daylight available.
“I was welcomed by a mass of incoming clouds as I neared the borders of the Point Reyes National Seashore”
“There were hundreds of dairy cows in this area and as I recently learned, the home of the Farmstead Cheese Company and Clover Milk Products”
“The drive was very interesting as some parts of the highway would be as little as 1 foot above sea level and subject to flooding”
Point Reyes LighthouseGPS Coordinates: 37.982371° N, -123.0143192° W
As I arrived, the biggest problem was the immense traffic I hit a mile before the Lighthouse parking area. I knew that I would not be able to get a parking spot up ahead as we inched along, so I took the first opportunity to make a 12 point turn just to get out of there. The road was rather narrow with a steep sloping hill to the right and a 400ft vertical drop over on the left. I realized that I was in far too good of shape to be making an issue of parking a mile away, so that is exactly what I did.
The entire sky was overcast and breezy which would not have bothered me had it not felt like freezing snow weather. Luckily I had some gloves packed away in the truck and suited up for one cold adventure. I had my camelpak, camera gear, and a whole host of snacks and water… “Let’s do this!”
“Curious sign as I started my hike”
“Apparently this place is a whole lot busier than it looked on the Google Maps satellite image…lol”
Just up the road, there was a great little offshoot with a nice wooden staircase that led down to a really great view of the surrounding sea cliffs and the shoreline below. I wanted to get some shots from here while simultaneously letting some time pass so that more people could leave.
“I had this viewing area all to myself”
“There were signs like this posted at viewing areas like this and for good reason”
“On the north side of the road, the view of Point Reyes’ straightest 12 mile stretch of shoreline seemed to go on forever”
“The parking lot was overfilled hence the reason for all the traffic”
“Just a short walk from the main parking lot, I found a path for a short hike”
“Looking back, I could see a better view of the sea cliffs and all the traffic congestion”
“I was surprised to learn that there were deer hanging out here, there are 4 in this image”
“After hiking the sea cliffs for a bit, I got on the asphalt road leading to the lighthouse”
“The pathway ahead was lined with some very interesting weathered rock”
“This plaque commemorating the lighthouse into the National Register of Historic Places has definitely seen better days”
“This is a Gray Whale Skull”
“A small path around the rocky structure leads to the lighthouse stairway access and a vista point”
About the Lighthouse
Operating since 1860, the Point Reyes Lighthouse is made of Brick, Cast Iron and Concrete. At only 37ft high, it is one of the smaller lighthouses on the California coastline.
A lighthouse was originally assigned to be built at Point Reyes in 1855, but construction was delayed for fifteen years because of a dispute between the United States Lighthouse Board and the landowners over a fair price for the land. The lighthouse has a twin called the Cape Mendocino Light and is located much further north on the California coast.
Electricity became available to the lighthouse in 1938, and the concrete steps were built into the cliff in 1939. Finally, in 1975, the lighthouse became automated. The main chamber of the lighthouse, known as the Lens Room and features a Fresnel lens that works by a clockwork mechanism. Not many are aware of this, but this lighthouse was used as a location for the 1980’s John Carpenter film, The Fog.
“Point Reyes Lighthouse, unfortunately this was as good a shot as I could get as I was not aware that access was denied after 4:30pm”
“This sign would have been great if it were posted at the parking lot, regardless, I was still having a good day of shooting”
“I hung out at the vista point right next to the gate closure, it was a bit cold”
“Looking 400ft down from the vista point overlook”
“I left the lighthouse overlook and started my way back toward the parking lot”
“I then found a small path to a second overlook of the northern coastline”
“There was an abundance of these curious yellow flower blooms along the trail”
“There were also many of these very interesting purple blooms”
“This was the end of the trail, the view was gorgeous”
“From this perspective, it looks like I photographed the shoreline from a plane”
“After hiking around and shooting as much as could, I took off to meet a second location before dark”
Chimney RockGPS Coordinates: 37.9895155° N, -122.9638856° W
The road to Chimney Rock is practically a one lane highway, so I urge caution to anyone who heads out this way. The parking lot is a bit smaller than the parking lot at Point Reyes Lighthouse, but there are restrooms here too. This place was not planned out, I just kinda saw it along the way and wanted to see if there was perhaps a really cool geological outcrop that gave it the name “Chimney Rock”.
There are a couple of trails, one starts as a driveway that has a break off point via footpath which leads to an overview area where you can see a loud Elephant Seal colony, the other is more of a driveway that is closed off to the public and passes near a small home which inevitably leads to the Point Reyes Historic Lifeboat Station, and the last trail which starts by the restrooms is almost a mile to Chimney Rock.
“The trail leads out to the very edge”
“Looking back, the Point Reyes Historic Lifeboat Station is just
“There were many signs along the way warning visitors to stay clear of cliff edges”
“I tread beyond the sign anyway and found a small cove with Elephant Seals lined up along the shore”
“The view from the cliff edge was absolutely awesome!”
“I had a feeling that I was near the end of the line”
“I was a bit disappointed when I arrived, Chimney Rock turned out to be completely underwhelming, but at least the view of the cliffs was amazing”
I was happy that I was able to get in a fair amount of hiking and never went hungry with all the healthy snack that I had brought with me. The sun was starting to set very fast beyond the fog and it was now time for me to begin my long drive home. Point Reyes National Seashore region is a very cool place and there are many other areas here that I would like to explore and discover in the near future including Alamere Falls, but that will have to be another day.
Until then, thanks for visiting and remember to always “Shoot the Planet!”
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