Magnificent animals graze on former dairy ranch’s windswept meadows.
In the 1990s the National Park Service reintroduced tule elk to Point Reyes National Seashore. The subspecies, at one point nearly extinct, had been gone for more than a century at the time. Now there are several hundred. These magnificent animals can often be found grazing at a few spots within the Tule Elk Preserve accessed via the Tomales Point Trail.
Elk Near and Far
From the Pierce Point Ranch parking lot (directions below), follow the Tomales Point Trail. You’ll first pass an atmospheric former dairy complex and a stand of cypresses. From there a dirt fire road leads in less than a mile to the aptly named Windy Gap, a funnel for often heady Pacific Ocean breezes. On some weekends docents train a telescope here on elk grazing in the distance. Two miles farther along, after walking alongside chaparral and sagebrush while hawks and vultures fly overhead—you might also espy beetles, weasels, and other small wildlife—you’ll find yourself reasonably close to elk grazing in a spring-fed meadow they find irresistible or elsewhere nearby.
Tule Elk Preserve Details
Difficulty level: Moderate
Why locals love it: stately elk; beetles, weasels, hawks, and other wildlife; Pacific Ocean views
Cut to the chase: On weekends, rangers sometimes have high-powered binoculars pointed at elk grazing in a meadow about a mile from the parking lot.
Reward yourself: Drop by the Cowgirl Creamery’s Cantina, inside Tomales Bay Foods in Point Reyes Station, before your hike to pick up picnic items or afterward for soup, salad, or a sandwich. Another option, and the place to go when the Cantina is closed, is Side Street Kitchen, across the street.
From Point Reyes Station, take Sir Francis Drake Boulevard west for 6.5 miles and Pierce Point Road north for another 9 miles, following signs for Pierce Point Ranch. Park at the ranch, near the big white dairy building you’ll find the trailhead for the Tomales Point Trail.
Tomales Point Trailhead
Pierce Point Ranch
Point Reyes National Seashore 94937
More Marin County Hikes
Battery Mendell to Battery Townsley
Coastal, Wolf Ridge, Miwok Trails Loop
Mount Tamalpais Muir Woods Loop
Rodeo Lagoon to Point Bonita Lighthouse
Rodeo Lagoon Trail Loop
Roy’s Redwoods Open Space Preserve
This story first appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in 2020.