Backpacking in Point Reyes

IMG_7923Last year, we made reservations in Point Reyes at Sky Camp, a mere 1.4 miles from the trail head. We figured it would be a good opportunity for the then-3 year old to rather slowly get herself to the campsite on her own power. However, that was one of the weekends that it absolutely poured. While we are people who try to be tough, the thought of sitting in a wet tent with a three year old for hours did not really appeal. So we stayed home.

Fast-forward to this year, when we made reservations for the same weekend in Point Reyes. The only possible place to get reservations was Glen Camp, a secluded (wait for it) glen about 2.5 miles from the coast. Ten days before the reservation, the forecast was for another deluge and I was joking that apparently breaking the drought would just have involved me making reservations at a Point Reyes campground. But as luck would have it, the weather turned and we were treated to an absolutely breathtakingly warm and lovely weekend.

Point Reyes is an amazingly family-friendly backpacking locale. There are four backpacking campsites, of varying distances from the trailhead. The shortest distances to each campsite are as follows: Sky Camp (1.4 miles); Coast Camp (1.8 miles); Glen Camp (4.6 miles) and Wildcat Camp (5.5 miles- but note that this is from the Palomarin trailhead, which may not have parking. 6.3 miles from Bear Valley.). Point Reyes is overflowing with trails, so any of these hikes can be made miles longer, but these are the quickest routes.

The most popular campgrounds are those right on the beach (Coast & Wildcat) but our experience at Glen Camp showed me that one should not always follow the crowds. Hopefully we’ll eventually have reviews of all campgrounds for you, but this review will stay focused on Glen Camp.

IMG_7924The shortest route to Glen Camp follows the Bear Valley trail (out of Bear Valley Visitor Center). This is a wide and well-used trail. It does slope gently up over the 3 miles, but it’s mild enough that your hikers probably won’t be aware that it’s a hill. Right now, Bear Valley Creek is flowing and the wildflowers are starting to explode. We saw three banana slugs. You will not feel alone on this trail, but it’s still beautiful.

IMG_7938At the end of the Bear Valley trail, the trail to Glen Camp climbs up and you have one of a very few actual hills. Forget-me-nots (see picture above) were starting to come out all over this trail– in a couple of weeks, it will probably be blue on both sides of the trail. This little bit of single-track was quiet and we saw no one outside of our hiking party the 1.6 miles into the campground.

Glen Camp, like all Point Reyes campgrounds, can fit up to 6 people in a campsite. Food storage lockers are provided and there is water available (and a pit toilet). Campers are encouraged to travel with a backup filtration plan in case there are issues, but water is definitely available. Each campsite has a grill, and while you cannot start a wood fire, if you are so inclined to schlep charcoal into your campground, you could fire up the grill and throw a couple of steaks on. (Also, REI has this very useful wine transportation device, should you require a beverage with your steak…)

IMG_7932Campsites are spaced far enough away that you have a modicum of privacy and do not feel like you’re aware of every conversation happening throughout the campground.

The one thing to be aware of? In the spring, Glen Camp is home to literally thousands of stinging nettles. They look like this. The good news is that the stinging doesn’t last as long as the itching of poison oak. The bad news is that they hurt if you bump into them. However, even the go-everywhere-at-a-dead-run four year old figured out how to avoid them. If you are backpacking with a toddler, I would recommend sites 1, 2, 10 or possibly 4. These sites have less privacy but also less nettles. (And just to be clear, Point Reyes is part of the National Park system, which means Fido must unfortunately stay home.)

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