Something about Abbotts Lagoon personifies the word melancholy. Maybe it’s the lagoon itself, a large, moor-like environment that compares to some of those I’ve visited by trail in Scotland. Then there are the lonely, wind-swept grasslands and the (perpetual, it seems) gray skies. It’s the kind of place you photograph in black and white.
While a bit on the somber side, the lagoon and lands beyond are by no means dreary and depressing; in fact, the landscape encourages reflection—an inward journey to accompany a fine outer one. And spring is positively jubilant with abundant wildflowers, particularly California poppies, iris, and lots of lupine.
On a weekday excursion, your thoughts may very well be your only companion on this rather lightly visited trail, which leads 1.6 miles to Point Reyes Beach. A low ridge hides Abbotts Lagoon from the sight of passing motorists on Pierce Point Road; this positioning seems to discourage drop-in visitation of the kind that occurs else-where along the coast of the national seashore.
Gray-hued the lagoon may be, but it’s anything but lifeless. Lots and lots of birds, both migratory and year-around residents congregate in an upper freshwater lagoon and a more brackish lower lagoon. Look for the western grebe and its pint-sized cousin, the pie-billed grebe, as well as lots of coots and terns.
If you can arrange a ride or car shuttle, a one-way hike (4.5 miles) from Abbotts Lagoon along the beach north to the Kehoe Beach Trailhead on Pierce Point Road is a great way to go.
From the hamlet of Olema, head north just 0.1 mile on Highway 1, then turn left on Bear Valley Road. Proceed 2.25 miles and fork left on Sir Francis Drake Highway. Drive 5.5 miles to Pierce Point Road, fork right and continue another 3.2 miles to the signed Abbotts Lagoon Trail and gravel parking lot on the left (west) side of the road.
THE HIKE: The wide, level trail leads across open fields. Gently rising, the trail offers better and better views of the lagoon. A well-located bench offers a fine place for quiet contemplation of water and wildlife.
The trail crests about the 0.8 mile-mark, then descends slightly to reach a bridge a mile from the trailhead. The footbridge bisects the upper and lower lagoons or as more lyrical naturalists refer to it—the wings of the lagoon.
From here an unmarked path edges around the base of the dunes between the wings of the lagoon to reach the ocean shores of Point Reyes Beach. Seals and sea lions have been known to snooze on this beach. Walk to your heart’s con¬tent for miles, up-coast or down.
Northbound hikers can travel along the dune-lined beach about 2.8 miles to junction Kehoe Beach Trail, then hoof it another 0.6 mile to the trailhead on Pierce Point Road.
Interested in more hikes in Point Reyes National Seashore? Check out my “HIKE Point Reyes Pocket Guide” at the Trailmaster Store.