Most of the trails and fires roads in Point Reyes have been off-limits to mountain bikes for years, but a few offer pleasant excursions into the wilderness-like lands of this expansive national seashore. One of my favorite, family-friendly dirt road rides in Point Reyes is the short but very pleasant route along Santa Maria creek from the Point Reyes Hostel to a quiet stretch of Limantour Beach called Santa Maria Beach. This peaceful, uncrowded part of unspoiled beach is goes on for miles in either direction: to the east are sheer coastal bluffs and, to the west, Limantour Spit and the distant mouth of Drake’s Bay and the tip of the Point Reyes peninsula.
Start by following Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to Bear Valley Road. Turn left on steep and windy Limantour Road and up and over woodsy Inverness Ridge for about 5 miles to the Point Reyes Hostel, where you can park on the gravel shoulders of the access road. Here’s where the fun begins. Cycle past the Coast Trail fire road gate on a relatively level route through narrow canyon of Santa Maria Creek. After passing coastal scrub and woodsy sections, you come to view of the ocean and make a slight ascent the grassy coastal bluffs above long and broad Limantour Beach. This is a pleasant place to dismount and head out for a beach stroll or picnic, or continue your ride for about a mile to Coast Camp, where you have the option of primitive overnight camping (park camping permit required).
While this is one of the best rides in Point Reyes National Seashore, there are a variety of other off-road biking opportunities through its diverse habitats and terrains. There are trails through evergreen forests, coastal scrub, or along estuaries and beach bluffs. Visitor Centers offer a free map of the park’s trails indicating which trails are designated for bike travel. These maps are also available to download from their maps page. Point Reyes permits biking only outside of wilderness areas along emergency access/dirt fire roads, paved roads and a few single-track trails.
Be aware that horseback riders have right-of-way on the trails with hikers coming second. The park ask bicyclists must yield to both of these trail user groups. Many horses are easily spooked when approached from behind so its vital to reduce your speed when approaching horses or hikers. When approaching from behind, announce your presence. Stop on the downhill side of the trail while horses pass. The speed limit on all trails, even when headed downhill, is 15 mph. Above be courteous; if trails are dry and dusty, slow down even more so as not to leave hikers in a cloud of dust.