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Backpackers on the California Coast

Photo: My son, Mayu, walking on the Coast trail. Photo by Veronica Miranda.

By Veronica Miranda

In May of 2021, I backpacked for the first time with my son at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes NS has over 70,000 miles of forest, grassland, and shoreline combined; it’s on the traditional lands of the Coast Miwok. Point Reyes NS offers 4 backpacking campgrounds (Coast, Glen, Sky, and Wildcat; Sky campground is currently closed due to a previous wildfire).   

My son and I backpacked into the Coast Campground; the coast campground is a great choice for a first-time backpacker. A moderate 2.1 mile, out-and-back trail that is close to the coast. The trail is a gradual incline that plateaus and then makes its way into a grassy canyon before it reaches the coast. There are lots of birds and different flora and fauna to observe along the way. Every site has a table, bear-resistant container, grill, and pit-toilets (a bonus for backpacking). Potable water is available at the campground, but I brought purification tablets just in case the water was not drinkable. 

Mayu sitting at out campsite. Photo by Veronica Miranda.

We explored the beach on our second day. The beach is accessible via a short walk from the campground. There was lots of weathered rock formations, shells and a small tidepool area to explore. Many species of birds flew by as we walked the coast, and we saw some seals in the ocean.  

Our last day on our trip we decided we had to look for the Tule Elk that are native to the park. When we made it to the trailhead, we hopped in the car and drove around the seashore looking for the elk. In a grassy field close to McClures Beach, we observed the elk for a while and talk about our backpacking experience. We both agreed that it was tough carrying so much extra weight, but the views were worth the struggle.  

Tule Elk in a grassy meadow. Photo by Veronica Miranda.

Tips on being a first-time backpacker: 

  • Don’t bring a lot of clothes. (It’s excess weight that is not needed, 2 sets of clothes are good enough for a weekend).  
  • Bring a lightweight sandal or shoe to give your feet some rest from hiking shoes/boots.  
  • Bring trekking poles (They will help stabilize all the extra weight you are carrying). 
  • Plan meals ahead and bring an extra day’s worth. 
  • Binoculars for wildlife viewing. 
  • Water filtration system or purification tablets. 
  • Don’t forget sunscreen and bug repellent. 
  • Carry a printed and digital map of your route and area you will be camping in. 
  • Let someone know what route you will be taking and when you are expected back. 

For more info on Point Reyes National Seashore visit the National Park Service website. And check out this helpful backpacking gear guide.