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Secret Beach of Pt.Reyes

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Location : Pt.Reyes National Seashore, CA.

Parking : Free

Trail type : Out and Back

Trail Length : 7 miles

Elevation Gain : 534 ft

Difficulty : Easy

Trails traversed : None. Walk on Beach.

Dogs Allowed ? On leash upto Sculptured Beach.

Pro Tip : Wear sturdy, waterproof boots. Download map of area before trip, as signal is sketchy.

Post Hike Grub Stop : Marin French Cheese Company, Petaluma, CA.

Pt.Reyes National Seashore

Pt.Reyes National Seashore has a special place in my heart for being one of the most majestic and dramatic shoreline in all of California. Every time I think I have seen all what this beautiful region has to offer, I discover yet another new trail or area to explore. One such place is Secret Beach, a truly hidden beach of Pt. Reyes, accessible only at low or negative tide. It is a wonderland of sea caves, interesting rock formations, tide pools filled with colorful marine life, a natural amphitheater and even a coastal waterfall.

There is no AllTrails description for this beach. Instead, follow the description to "Sculptured Beach via the Coast Trail". Secret Beach is south of Sculptured Beach. There are two ways to access Sculptured Beach - via the Coastal Trail, as per AllTrails, or, like what we did - walk along the beach. My description below is for the latter.

As mentioned earlier, timing this hike is of atmost importance, as the arches that lead to the Secret Beach, are only accessible during low tide. Check the tide charts for Pt.Reyes, and select a time for your hike when tide is at the lowest, or negative. After continuously monitoring the tide charts for weeks, I found negative (-0.7ft) tide at around noon on a Saturday which worked perfectly for us. We planned to start our hike at 10am, in order to reach Secret Beach at noon.

Parking : Trailhead parking is towards the south/left of Limantour Beach parking lot (look at AllTrails map in the link provided above). There was ample parking when we arrived at 9:45am on a Saturday. When we returned at 1:30pm, the parking lot was full, but many cars were parked on the side of the road. So parking shouldnt be an issue. A port-a-potty is available in the parking lot.

A sandy path starts in front of the parking lot and takes you all the way to the south end of Limantour Beach. The sand close to the water is packed and is easy to walk with sneakers/hiking shoes.

Sand by the water line is packed and firm and easy to walk on with shoes.

When we reached the water, we turned left and walked all of the 3 miles to Sculptured Beach, with views of dramatic cliffs and sandstone formations ahead and to the left of us. The Coast Trail also runs parallel to the beach, but on the bluffs above, so you can switch to the trail at any time.

Interesting sandstone formations on the cliff walls.

As you walk towards Sculptured Beach, be on the lookout for whales or even seals swimming past you. We were lucky to have a chance encounter with a seal pup.

We were unsure if the seal pup was trying to avoid the waves or wanted to get into the water. Only when I saw this video after I got home did I realized that it might have been injured.

Sculptured Beach can be recognized by the numerous tidepools teaming with thousands of mussels and sea anemones.

An abundance of sea anemones in the tidepools

If you look closely under the rocks, you will even be able to spot a starfish or two.

Two starfishes hidden amongst the mussels

I fondly nicknamed this the Phallic Rock!

This beach has significantly fewer people than Limantour Beach, where you started. The ones on the beach, will be, like you, trying their luck to access Secret Beach.

Towards the end of Sculptured Beach, the landscape suddenly gets rocky. This is where Sculptured Beach connects to Secret Beach through a couple of arches. This is where the hike gets a little hairy. A sharp rocky drop near the cliff wall requires you to scramble on your behind and jump down to the beach to continue on. It doesnt look as intimidating once you sit down and start sliding down slowly.

The hubster trying to make his way down the rocky wall.

Once at the lower beach level, there are a number of caves to explore as well as more tidepools before passing through two small archways.

One of the Secret Beach archways that opens up only at low tide.

Passing through these mussels covered arches is more of a balancing act so as to be careful not to tread on the mussels.

Archway covered with mussels. Check out the mussels behind me!

Once you cross the two arches and climb over the rocks, you are on Secret Beach! You will find lying ahead of you a mile long pristine coastline framed by cliffs with interesting striations.

The highlight of this beach is the amphitheater, also called the Pt.Reyes crater which can be accessed by a narrow tunnel (the “blow hole”) just past the entrance to the beach. This remarkable and unique natural phenomenon is a nearly perfect spherical amphitheater with colossal vertical cliffs sculpted by erosion over millions of years. The golden cliffs juxtaposed with the shaded floor of this natural bowl is striking.

Pt.Reyes Crater

Also known as Secret Beach Amphitheater

As you make your way further down the beach, you will pass a number of sea caves formed in the cliffs walls - some shallow, others deep enough to explore inside.

Endless caves to explore

About a quarter of mile down the beach, you will come across the second highlight of Secret Beach, a small fresh water waterfall that flows into the sand and disappears, instead of flowing into the ocean. This small area feels like your own personal mini oasis.

Secret Beach waterfall

This would be a good point to turn back and retrace your steps to Limatour Beach. If you want, you can continue for another 3/4 of a mile, passing by two more interesting arches before the beach ends at Point Resistance.

On the return, the most challenging part is the climb up the rock wall you had jumped off earlier. Find a strong foothold and grasp at the rocky surface to heave yourself up and over the rock wall. It may lead to scraped hands and knees (as it did to us), but you will realize it was all well worth the trip. Then make your long, 3 mile walk back to your car.

For post-hike grub stop, I highly recommend checking out Marin French Cheese Company in Petaluma. It is a 20 mile drive, and along with cheese tasting, they also offer hot and cold sandwiches which can be enjoyed in front of their picturesque lake.

Marin French Cheese Company, Petaluma, CA


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