How to Backpack Point Reyes

Looking for a quick weekend getaway into the wilderness? Look no further than Point Reyes National Seashore. Just 1 hour north of San Francisco, Point Reyes has it all – forests, coastal cliff views, and great camp sites.

We booked our site on January 1st early in the morning. The only disadvantage of this park is that it is immensely popular. So, plan ahead and be ready to check out availability on recreation.gov on the first of the year. If you are feeling really adventurous, you can book some of the limited kayak-in sites (on my bucket list!).

I haven’t backpacked since my freshman year pre-orientation, where we spent a week in the Adirondacks. I remember being kind of slow, eating moldy cheese, and hiking 5 miles in the pouring rain in the wrong direction. It was a little traumatizing. However, I have been wanting to try it out again as the “next frontier” to my hiking and camping experiences. After I took the plunge and bought a new, light backpacking sleeping bag at an REI sale last year, I knew I had no more excuses.

I had been traveling the globe with my handy 60L Gregory Diva pack ever since I bought it to study abroad in India in 2011. However, I had never actually worn it for what it was intended – backpacking! Here is what else I packed (I was traveling with J – so we split the supplies)

Backpack list:

·      1 pair of alternate clothes: a change of underwear, sports bra, socks, leggings and t-shirt. I wore those clothes to sleep and then all of the following day to save space.

·      2 packages of dehydrated food – pad thai and risotto - (backpackers pantry brand)

·      Snacks: 2 cliff bars, dried fruit in a baggy, and a chocolate bar

·      Headlamp – just bought a new Petzl Actik (I'm always losing headlamps for some reason)

·      Sleeping bag (REI Joule)

·      Sleeping pad (Therm-a-Rest)

·      J’s sleeping pad (he took the tent)

·      Thermos

·      Water bottle

·      Camelbak

·      UV Water filter (didn’t need it, but just in case!) (SteriPen)

·      1 book and 1 journal

·      2 peppers

·      1 block of cheese

·      1 roll of toilet paper

·      1 trashbag

·      propane canister for the camping stove

J packed:

·      MSR PocketRocket backpacking stove

·      MSR Quick 2 System Cookset

·      His clothes, thermos, sleeping bag, camelback

·      Remainder of lunch food including wraps, cheese, and mustard packets

·      Tea/coffee/hot cocoa packets

·      Dehydrated ice cream (mmmm...)

We booked Glen Camp, which, at it’s simplest, is a 5 mile hike from the parking lot at Bear Valley visitor center (where, after claiming your campsite permit, you can get a car permit to park overnight). About half of the hike-in is on a very well maintained dirt path, which is frequented by mountain bikers and trail runners. Once you turn off for the campsite though, the trail becomes more rugged and narrow. We were there right after it had rained for about 2 weeks straight, so much of the rest of the trail was mud (or stream) covered, with some downed trees. It was quite an adventure, and made us feel like we were much more remote than we really were.

When arriving to our campsite, we were greeted with trash disposal, pit toilets and a water spiget. Given this was supposed to be “backpacking”, it was pretty luxurious! Glen camp has about 12 campsites. Ours was tucked up in the trees and set back from the rest of the sites, which gave some usually hard to find privacy in the campsite. The sun started to set around 5:30pm and we got our campsite ready. Glen Camp sits in a beautiful meadow, but in the later part of the day receives little sun.

That night, we had the most incredible stargazing before the full moon emerged. I woke up in the middle of the night actually wondering why it seemed someone was shining a flashlight outside our tent – and it was the moon!

The next morning we packed up and decided to take an alternative route back, by the sea. We followed some trails from our campsite to Arch Rock, and had incredible coastal views. As a California transplant, I still never get over the dramatic look of the cliffs over the Pacific Ocean. By mid-day, we ran into a bunch of trail runners and day hikers as we made our way back inland to the visitor center. The trail wasn’t exactly crowded, but it wasn’t completely remote either – which as a newbee to backpacking, I found re-assuring. The well-maintained trails also made me realize that this part of Point Reyes would be great for some trail running training down the road!

All in all, we hiked about 12 miles with a single overnight. It was pretty straightforward with no considerable elevation gain (Point Reyes is by the sea, after all!). It was a great place to get my feet wet again with backpacking. Highly recommended!