Just 50 miles north of San Francisco, on the Point Reyes National Seashore peninsula, Tomales Bay State Park straddles the notorious San Andreas Fault. Here, the Pacific Ocean has filled the gap to form Tomales Bay, which is surrounded by a landscape of rolling hills, mixed forests, sprawling meadows and lush wetlands. Unique to the area are granitic rock formations that originated 300 miles to the southeast, transported to this location by more than 10 millions years of movement along the fault. In more recent history, the area was home to the Coast Miwok for more than 8,000 years. These native peoples hunted, fished and farmed these coastal areas until Europeans arrived and claimed the land in the late 16th century. In 1952, before the peninsula was completely taken over by agricultural interests, the state established a 2,000-acre park to preserve the area’s diverse flora and fauna, and ensure public access to the bay’s many pristine beaches.
Tomales Bay State Park is a day-use area only, and overnight camping is not permitted. The main recreation area is located at the north end of the park, on the west side of Tomales Bay, at Heart’s Desire. Here you’ll find picnic areas with barbecues, scenic viewpoints, nature trails, and access to several beaches. There aren’t any launch facilities, but kayaks and SUPs can be put into the bay from the beaches. A short hiking trail leads to the Jepson Memorial Grove of rare Bishop pines. Near the south end of the park, Shell Beach features a nice swim area, but is only accessible via a short trail from the small parking area, or by hiking the Johnstone Trail from the Heart’s Desire area. On the east side of the bay, a small public area at Millerton Point features a small beach and a scenic, barrier-free trail. Dogs are not permitted on any of the park’s beaches or trails. Park entrance is $8/vehicle, and the park is closed when the parking lots are full. Camping can be found south of the Point Reyes area, near Olema.