About Alamere Falls
Alamere Falls is one of those waterfalls that will probably stay in our memories for a very long time.
When we close ours eyes to envision a waterfall spilling onto a beach, we can reminisce about our feet standing on coarse sand in front of this waterfall.
Meanwhile, waves would crash against the beach behind us under a warm afternoon glow.
In addition to the crashing waves, we’d only hear the constant hiss from the tumble of the waterfall, ocean breezes, a few sliding pebbles and shale from the fragile cliffs nearby, and the occasional birdsong from gulls.
Sound like a fantasy?
Well, as you can see from the photo above (as well as photos and videos on the rest of this page), it’s a reality!
In fact, it’s within the Point Reyes National Seashore and it’s yet another scenically located waterfall tumbling onto a beach before rejoining the Pacific Ocean.
And like McWay Falls, people have referred to these ocean-neighboring waterfalls as tidefalls.
Anyways, there are actually several tiers of Alamere Falls.
It’s usually the bottommost tier (probably 40 or 50ft) that spills right onto the beach that people associate with this falls.
However, there are also several upstream cascades further upstream culminating in an attractive 15-20ft tier nestled up against more shale cliffs and usually fronted by wildflowers as well as poison oak and other shrubbery.
The Alamere Falls Hike
The catch to experiencing Alamere Falls is that you’ll have to earn this gem of a waterfall with a roughly 8.5-mile round-trip hike.
The last half-mile consisted of a combination of brushing up against poison oak overgrowth, scary cliff scrambles, and a stream crossing.
Overall, we probably spent on average about 5 hours to do the hiking, the photographing, and just basking in the rugged beauty that epitomizes what’s best about the scenery of the California Coast.
But before you lament the trail itself, realize that it also offers gorgeous coastal scenery, wildflowers (in the Spring), gum trees, and even lakes!
Alamere Falls Trail Description – hiking along the Coast Trail
All the times we’ve hiked to Alamere Falls, we began at the Palomarin Trailhead on the southern end of Point Reyes National Seashore near the coastal town of Bolinas.
And on each of our visits, the trailhead had been full of cars.
However, not everyone parked here were just visiting the falls as there were other beaches and backpacking campsites nearby amongst the network of trails on offer here.
Anyways, as we proceeded onto the trail towards Alamere Falls, we noticed that the Coast Trail was wide and seemed friendly to mountain bikers.
On one of our visits back in 2010, we even noticed a pair of mountain bikers on this trail.
Indeed, it appeared that some sections of the trail had remnants of concrete so I suspected that parts of it used to be a road.
Shortly after getting started on the hike, we then passed through a small grove of attractive white-barked gum trees.
Then, the trail opened up and provided gorgeous coastal scenery (provided that it’s not foggy as it was the first time we did this back in 2004).
In some sections, the trail hugged the cliff that dropped directly below to the waves and beaches.
Since our visits came during Spring, we saw wildflowers coloring the landscape along the trail.
This open stretch of coastal bluffs and wildflowers persisted for about the first mile.
Then, the trail veered inland away from the coast as it climbed before descending past a trail junction and towards the Pelican Lakes.
The first few lakes seemed more like serene ponds (some with lilypads on them).
However, as we went further on the trail, we saw the pretty big Pelican Lake itself.
The first time Julie and I visited this falls back in 2004, we encountered nude hikers on the trail around this area.
That said, the last time we were here, there weren’t any nude hikers, and we wondered if it had to do with the increasing popularity of Alamere Falls.
After getting past the lakes, the trail descended gently with distant views of the ocean once again.
Alamere Falls Trail Description – overcoming obstacles to access the falls
Eventually at over 3.75 miles or so from the trailhead, we noticed a signposted junction for the Alamere Falls trail (unless someone removed such signs, which were noticeably missing on my 2019 visit).
And it was here that we felt more comfortable putting on long sleeve jackets as the unmaintained spur trail (0.5 miles to the falls) required us to brush up against lots of overgrowth (including some poison oak).
Once we got past the overgrown part of the narrow trail, we then came to the top of a steep, crumbling gully that led to the upper tiers of Alamere Falls.
Depending on the flow of the creek, the stream crossing to get to the other side of it maybe easy or tricky.
Fortunately for us, both times we were here, it just required a short hop to get over the fast-moving part of the stream.
Once on the other side, we were able to see the main drop of Alamere Falls from its top as well its stream snaking through the beach towards the ocean below.
That view motivated us to continue further and find a way down to that beach.
The descent involved another steep cliff-side scramble several paces north of the falls.
That was where a dry gully narrowed into a steep, shale-covered descent onto the beach.
This scramble was steep enough to force both Julie and I to do the sit-and-scoot maneuver (not wanting to lose balance and take a nasty spill).
Both this scramble as well as the one just to get down to the plateau above the main falls were definitely not for everyone.
Nevertheless, we thought they looked worse than they really were.
Still, we figured that if you’re reasonably fit (you must be if you made it this far already) and cautiously proceed on the scrambles, it should be doable.
Of course, I do wonder over time how natural erosion (especially given how fragile the shale cliffs are here) might affect future access with all the weathering and wear.
So far in the 15-year span that we’ve visited Alamere Falls, we’ve been able to manage just fine on these scrambles.
However, I still think it’s just a matter of time before the danger level of these scrambles get up to a point where it can be very dangerous, especially with this place’s increasing popularity.
Alamere Falls resides in the Point Reyes National Seashore near Bolinas in Marin County, California. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit their website.
There are quite a few ways to reach the Palomarin Trailhead at the start of the Alamere Falls hike.
However, I’ll just describe the driving directions from San Francisco since it’s the most obvious route that also paints the context of how far the drive is and how much time to allocate for it.
From the Golden Gate Bridge (US101), we drove north on the freeway for about 4 miles to the Mill Valley / Stinson Beach exit (445B).
Then, we followed Hwy 1 for about 17 miles before turning left onto the Olema-Bolinas Road.
Following the Olema-Bolinas Road for about 1.8 miles south, we then turned right onto Mesa Rd.
We then continued on Mesa Rd to its end in about 4.5 miles.
The last 1.3 miles was on unpaved road, and it had some fairly deep potholes and ruts.
We definitely had to take it slow on this road or risk damage to the alignment and other aspects of the drive train of our vehicle here.
Overall, this 33-mile drive took about 90 minutes (though this depended on traffic).
For geographical context, San Francisco is 37 miles (over an hour drive) south of Olema, 11 miles (over 30 minutes drive) west of Oakland, 55 miles (over an hour drive) north of San Jose, 52 miles (about 90 minutes drive) south of Napa, 96 miles (over 2 hours drive) south of Sacramento, and 382 miles (6 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.