Winter Family Fun at Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore offers lots of fun opportunities for kids. And with their upcoming Open House on December 15th, there is no better time to head out and learn more about this extraordinary place in Marin. While at Point Reyes, children can discover the wonders of wildlife-watching, breathtaking hikes along a variety of trails, build sand castles, watch for whales, seals and sea lions, discover the lighthouse, and become a Junior Ranger! Fill out the fun booklet and head back to one of the visitor centers to receive a Junior Ranger patch. 

The Winter Shuttle Bus from Drakes Beach to the Point Reyes Lighthouse starts Saturday, December 31, 2016, through late March or mid-April 2017.

View tule elk and wander through Pierce Ranch at Tomales Point. Hike the fairly level Windy Gap (3.2 km / 2 mi.) with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. 


Lighthouse, tours provide a glimpse into the 19th Century, when machines were king. Enormous metal structures were created on a colossal scale for art, science, and industry. The first-order lens—with 1032 pieces of hand-ground crystal—and the clockworks that drove it are in good condition and look almost as if they had just arrived. Wear very warm clothes, a flashlight for the 0.6 km (0.4 mile) walk, access to the Lighthouse requires a strenuous descent and ascent of 308 steps.

Families can also join a tour with a Park Ranger to learn more about the natural and cultural history of Point Reyes National Seashore. Topics may cover earthquakes and plate tectonics, the Coast MiwokSir Francis Drake, the U.S. Lifesaving Service, or area flora and fauna. Stop by or call the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 415-464-5100 x2 x5 for information. Program schedules are subject to change. Most programs are not offered on December 24 & 25.

Whale and Elephant Seal Ranger-Led Programs

Note: Due to the high volume of traffic out to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock areas during the gray whale migration, visitors wishing to attend the following programs may be required to ride a shuttle bus from Drakes Beach. On weekends and holidays from New Year's to Easter each year, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from the South Beach junction to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock areas is closed during shuttle operating hours (9 am to 5:30 pm), weather permitting. On the day you plan to attend one of the following programs, call 415-464-5100 x2 x1 to find out whether shuttles are operating. More info on the shuttle bus system may be found on our Winter Shuttle Bus page.

Journey of the Whales, 1:30 pm, weekends and holidays, late December through April. Join a Ranger to learn about gray whales as they migrate past Point Reyes. Learn about their habits and adaptations, and hope for a whale sighting from the Observation Deck. Program lasts 30 minutes. This program is given out-of-doors. Come prepared for windy, cold and damp weather. Meet at the Lighthouse Visitor Center. If the shuttles are operating, be sure to arrive at Drakes Beach at least an hour before the program start time to ride the shuttle in order to arrive at the program on time.

Experience Gray Whales, Weekends and holidays, late-December through mid-April, weather permitting. Volunteer docents will be stationed at the Lighthouse Observation Deck from 11 am to 4:30 pm to answer questions about gray whales. Visitors will be able to view gray whales through park-provided binoculars and scopes.

Historic Lifeboat Station Open House, Weekends and holidays, late-December through mid-March. Open House 11 am to 4:30 pm., Visit a site where heroes of our coast were housed. See the historic lifeboat, view exhibits, and experience 80 years of lifesaving history at Point Reyes. Kids activities, a 10-minute video on elephant seals, and complimentary hot beverages (cocoa, tea, coffee) will be available. Hands-on interactive activities allow both children and adults to learn about seal and whale adaptations. Special slide programs may also be available at the Historic Lifeboat Station, depending on staffing availability. Check at one of the Visitor Centers for whether the slide program is being offered. The slide programs last about 30 minutes.

Experience Elephant Seals, Weekends and holidays, late-December through March. Docents will be stationed at the Elephant Seal Overlook from 11 am to 4 pm. View an elephant seal colony through binoculars and scopes. Ask volunteer docents about the amazing adaptations and life cycles of northern elephant seals. A special slide program about elephant seals may be available at the Lifeboat Station at Chimney Rock, depending on staffing availability. Check at one of the Visitor Centers for whether the slide program is being offered. The slide program lasts about 30 minutes.

7th Annual Point Reyes Christmas Bird Count for Kids, ages 3-18, Gather your fledglings for this half-day event celebrating nature, parks, education and outdoor family fun. The event brings together all the basic elements to introduce the next generation of stewards to birding, the importance of birds in the ecosystem, and the annual tradition of bird counts., registration is limited, Clem Miller Environmental Education Center, Point Reyes Station.


Kule Loklo Workday, 10 am, second Saturday of most months Help maintain a replica Coast Miwok village that offers a glimpse of life in pre-European California. Workdays are typically held on the second Saturday of the month; please contact Loretta Farley by phone at 415-464-5140 or by email to confirm when the next date is scheduled. Volunteers are not required to sign up for more than one day.

Habitat Restoration Workday, meet in front of the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 9 am on various Sundays and Thursdays throughout the year. Call in advance to confirm the workday (occasionally the team travels to another park) and to discuss carpooling needs. Contact Ellen Hamingson at 415-464-5196 or by email for more information. For more information and for specific dates, check out our Volunteer: Habitat Restoration - Short Term page.

These are some of my favorite things to do with kids at Point Reyes National Seashore. Do you have any favorites?