Tule Elk in the Marin County California Reserve
#The Lowdown

Outdoor Activities for Wildlife Lovers in Marin County, California

By Travel Savvy

Everyone knows that Marin County is the perfect weekend destination for so many reasons. Along with the eccentric charm of Northern California, Marin’s mild year-round weather and direct access to the Pacific make the county especially irresistible for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Although summer is always a good time to plan your Marin getaway, don’t underestimate the beauty of Marin in winter. In fact, animal lovers of creatures on land and sea should head to the county during the winter months in order to best observe the California Grey Whale, elephant seals, and egrets. Winter wildlife watchers should plan on visiting these three points of interest in Marin County, as they are the best places to see and admire these local creatures.  

California Gray Whales in Pacific Ocean 1

Photo Credit: NOAA Photo Library | Creative Commons

Point Reyes National Seashore  

One of the best places in all of Northern California for whale watching is Point Reyes National Seashore. Every Fall, small groups of California gray whales migrate south to the warmer waters near Baja California.

While the Point Reyes Lighthouse is a must-see for Marin newcomers, this vantage point can get crowded during the winter months. If you’re visiting during peak migration season, we recommend heading to Chimney Rock for the perfect views.

Tip: Winter bus shuttles operate on weekends and holidays, making this destination super easy to travel to!

Elephant Seals in Marin County California's Chimney Rock 2

Photo Credit: Marin County CVB

Chimney Rock

Gray whales aren’t the only animal you’ll spot from this Point Reyes location; expect to catch more than a glimpse of elephant seals, harbor seals, and sea lions lounging on the beaches year-round. There are multiple marked ‘lookouts’ for these adorable marine creatures, including the Sea Lion Lookout and Elephant Seal Lookout.

Tip: Elephant seals were absent from this shore for over 150 years, but began returning every year to the Point Reyes Headlands in the early 1970s.

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Hawk Hill in Marin County 3

Photo Credit: Flickr | Creative Commons

Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands

Renowned as one of the best destinations for bird-watching enthusiasts to spot hawks in the country, Hawk Hill is just a hop and a skip away from the Golden Gate Bridge. These gorgeous birds come by the hundreds during their autumn migration, catching the thermal wind currents to cross the Golden Gate waters.

Tule Elk grazing in Reserve in Marin County California 4

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Tule Elk Reserve at Tomales Point

Tule elk are one species that is only found in the state of California. These majestic mammals once freely roamed the Point Reyes peninsula, Olema Valley, and other Marin County grasslands. Unfortunately, due to a spike in hunting in the 1850’s, they became extirpated (or locally extinct.) In the 1970’s, the California Department of Fish and Game reintroduced Tule Elk to Marin County’s Point Reyes shores, and Point Reyes has since become a safe haven and reserve for the native species.

Today, there is a easy hiking trail, open to the public, through the Tule Elk Reserve. The Tomales Point Trailhead can be found at the end of Pierce Point Road, with free parking available to tourists and locals alike!

View of Muir Beach in Marin County California 5

Photo Credit: Pixabay | Creative Commons

Muir Beach

With over 75 species of butterflies found throughout Marin County, lepidopterists and casual animal-lovers alike flock to Muir Beach to spot Monarch butterflies during their fall migration through California’s Rocky Mountains. Other butterfly species spotted in the area include Anise Swallowtail and Western Tiger Swallowtails (found on the San Pedro Ridge) and the gorgeous Western Pygmy-Blue (seen at Bolinas Lagoon.)

For everything you need to plan your Marin County vacation, check out the many resources from our friends at VisitMarin.org on their  website or Facebook page!


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