We never cease to be amazed by the weather along the coast in the fall. It is so often calm and pleasant all day and into the early sunset. At Limantour Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore this week the water was flat with small perfect waves gently rolling in. Our daughters frolicked in the waves for about an hour. The water is freezing cold but the kids didn't seem to notice until they turned blue and started begging for a hot shower.
Limantour Beach faces south and is sheltered from the northern swells by the southern tip of Point Reyes. In addition, the big winter storms have not yet arrived, so the beach is very flat and expansive, making for great walks along the shore, playing in the water and watching the shore birds run in and out with the waves.
Many people come out to this area to look for shore birds and ducks in Drake's Estero, along the shore and in the old freshwater stock ponds that were built when the area was used for ranching. If you are birdwatching we recommend that you park at the main parking area and head out to the shore. Then go to the right or west out along Limantour Spit. The beach will be on your left and the Estero De Limantour on your right where duck and shore birds find food and shelter. The spit is almost two miles long and a walk to the end and back in the sand can be demanding.
If you would like more privacy then head east or southeast along dunes until you reach Sculptured Beach where Coast Camp is located on the hill just above the beach. Here you can catch Coast Trail, which follows the beach along the cliff tops. The view is fantastic, but the trail contours in and out and up and down, so you don't move along the coast as quickly as you would on the shore. This weekend the low tides are mostly during early morning or late evening, so the beach will be smaller and passing under the cliff at the southeast end of the beach can be more of a challenge. Either way there are still miles of beach and trails to explore in the area.
Try to find one of these stellar clear days in the afternoon or early evening. The small south parking lot is closer to the less crowded part of the beach, but there are only a dozen or so parking spots there. If you have kids bring plenty of towels, extra clothes and warm soft sweatshirts or similar to put on after they play in the water. The is no good place to wash off sand, so we like to bring a large amount of water to rinse hands and feet. We have found that a large camelbak can practically sub in for a shower. Dogs on leash are only allowed on the beach to the left or southeast of the south parking lot.
See the book "Hiking Marin: 141 Great Hikes in Marin County" for more details. Click here to go the Marin Trails website, where you can find more information about the book.