Length 9.0 mi · Climbing 970 ft
Although the interior of Point Reyes is dominated by Drakes Estero, surprisingly few trails offer any sort of view of the large body of water. The Estero Trail is the best of those trails. The strikingly calm, baby blue waters of the Estero combine with the flat landscape of the area to create a distinctive landscape. The real payoff, though, is at the end of the hike, where the trail climbs to a bluff with a superb view of the ocean and estuary. The trail runs almost entirely over the low, treeless, coastal scrub-covered hills that are characteristic of eastern Point Reyes.
The main drawback of this hike is that the landscape is so flat that the scenery doesn't really change that much. Nonetheless the hike is quite popular, especially given how long and remote it is; expect to pass a group of hikers every 5 – 10 minutes on a summer weekend.
Start at the Estero Trailhead. The trail runs through rather mundane coastal scrub for a while before descending into an attractive pine grove.
The trail leaves the pine grove and crosses an arm of the estuary on a footbridge. There trail then winds over a series of three hills with great views of the estuary. The trail in this area was recently covered with a strip of gravel to prevent erosion, which makes the trail somewhat unattractive and unpleasant to hike.
At the end of the gravel section, skip the Sunset Beach Trail, which is somewhat misleadingly named; the "beach" is actually a mud flat. Instead, turn left onto a faint track. The scenery becomes much less attractive as the trail leaves the views of the Estero behind and runs over brown cow pasture.
Turn right onto the Drakes Head Trail, a faint track that runs through brown scrub. The scenery is nothing special although there are some views of the Estero and the distant sound of the crashing surf. There's a long, gentle descent followed by a slight climb to the top of the bluff. At the end of the trail, a magnificent sweeping view of the ocean and the estuary.
© 2016 David Baselt