So the Pops’s longtime hobby is photography, and since he never likes any of the material things we’ve bought for him throughout the years, we thought taking him on a scenic outing for his birthday would be best.
I decided on the Point Reyes Lighthouse.
There’s plenty of beautiful pictures of this place online, and I thought the Pops would get a kick out of the nature and whatnot.
First thing I learned about going out here was that it takes FOREVER. Seriously, when you think you’re almost there, SURPRISE, you’re not. Plus there are some small hills along this road where I swear if I went too fast and missed a turn, I would be swimming in the Pacific right now.
All bitching aside, this place is actually pretty nice. We saw deer, a coyote, and a bunch of birds. It was overcast on this day, so we didn’t get the nice sunny view that some of the online pictures have, but it was still clear enough to see pretty far into the horizon. The weather was a chilly 60-ish Fahrenheit, but no biting wind that many previous visitors have commented on.
After the parking lot, we walked about a half a mile to the visitor’s station, which has very informative displays about the area wildlife. If you want to make it to the actual lighthouse, you’ll need to walk down the staircase.
It’s 302 steps (they’re numbered, I’m not obsessive enough to keep count myself) plus a ramp down to the bigger rectangular building to the right of the lighthouse in the picture. Another 6 steps (308) to the bottom of the actual lighthouse. There are displays and information about the daily lives of the people who cared for the lighthouse and we were able to go inside and look at the actual lighting fixture. The Family and I loved looking out over the ocean, and the Pops furiously snapped photos and seemed to enjoy himself. The Mother even got us into a family selfie (I talked her into keeping her selfie stick to herself).
If you’d like to go home after touring the lighthouse, please remember that you still have to get back to the parking lot.
There are little pull-outs along the staircase where you can rest along the way. It was no easy feat. 2/3 of the way up, I was sweating profusely and would have gladly snatched an inhaler from a small child. I’m pretty sure these old-school light keepers had great asses because my legs are still burning and I only climbed up and down once. The sign at the top of the stairs states that walking up and down is the equivalent of a 30-story building or something along those lines, but I don’t believe that. Maybe 10 stories.
We also found a short, sandy trail off to the side of the parking lot that had a real nice view of the other side of the cliff. I felt that this area was much quieter than the lighthouse — I could hear the waves crashing below much more clearly. There were also seals down at the bottom of the cliff. Not sure what kind because they looked like really loud worms from where I was standing.
Anyways, I have an obsession with knowing everything about a place before I get there because I don’t like surprises. I researched through the NPS website and various blogs for some tips on visiting the area, and below I’ve listed what I think was most useful to me during this trip:
- Go early to avoid the crowds. I hate crowds. The stairway is narrow so I can see that being a challenge during a busier season (we went in August). The parking lot closest to the lighthouse Visitor’s Center is also really small, with maybe 30 or so spaces. We got there about 09:40 with plenty of spaces, and the lot was completely full by the time we left at 11:15. People arriving after the lot was full parked on the side of the road. On the other hand, the fog and clouds may clear up later in the day, so if you’re keen on getting the sunshine in your photos, you may want to try that. Or try Photoshop.
- Think about whether you’ll make it up before you go down to the lighthouse. I’m not particularly fit, and I witnessed several small children making the climb as well, but for those who may have health conditions, you may want to think twice. My runner’s knee started acting up, and I wished I had thought of bringing my knee brace while walking down to the lighthouse. The Pops has a history of asthma and had shortness of breath halfway up that caused him to stop and rest. The Mother stopped halfway down and asked me what she should do if she couldn’t get back up. I told her to call for a MEDEVAC.
- Sir Francis Drake Blvd is not a well maintained road for many areas. I would not drive the fancy new Audi out there. The road is one lane each way and very windy. There are quite a few potholes with shoddy patchwork around the dairy farms/ranches closer to the lighthouse.
- Check the NPS website for weather information, operating hours, and updates on the park. Weather affects access to the area and operating hours for the lighthouse. Be sure to know before you go.
Hope that helps. Feel free to ask if you need any more scatterbrained advice.