Elk is the largest species in the deer family, and there are four species within the elk family. These four species are: the Roosevelt Elk, Manitoba Elk, Rocky Elk, and the Tule Elk. We got to see the latter- the Tule Elk.
We live in California, and in California you can find Tule Elk in six different places. Those six places being: Carrizzo Plain National Monument, Pacheco State Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, parts of the Owens Valley from Lone Pine to Bishop, Coyote Ridge in the Santa Clara Valley and areas surrounding the San Luis Reservoir. Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the places closest to us and that's where we went to see some Tule Elk.
At Point Reyes National Seashore they have an Elk Reserve in which you are not allowed to hunt or collect elk antlers. As you enter Point Reyes National Seashore you will see signs for this Elk Reserve. Then you will drive until you see a parking lot at Pierce Point Ranch. Here, you can park for free here and take the Tomales Point Trailhead. The parking lot was full when we got there so we parked off the side of the road, alongside other cars who did the same.
Not too far into the trail we were enjoying ocean views and within the first five minutes of walking we got to see a coyote scurrying alongside the trail and also some elk in the distance. After about 30-45 minutes we found a nice view spot and had our midday lunch. Not too long after that we ran into a group of elk that included one male with its antlers. The elk weren't too far from the trail, and though they seem to be used to human traffic, they still have their "antennas" up or in this case- antlers. We spent a long while with this group of elk and then we finally decided to keep walking.
As we walked, we ran into many more groups with more males, we even got to see baby elk, and elk running across the trail. After a little over three miles we decided to turn around and head back,, which was a good choice because by the time we got back to our car, the sun had gone down. We hiked a bit over six miles that day and the hike in total is almost ten miles out and back if you make it to the end of the peninsula. I hope to go back one day and complete the entire hike.
How to get there:
- When you click the location link below it will open to Google maps and direct you to Tomales Point Trailhead.
- Check the weather before you go and make sure to wear layered clothing as it could get very windy.
- Carry water/snacks
- If you have binoculars, take them. We saw different types of birds, coyote, bobcats and elk in the area.
- Mountain Lions are also known to be in the area, so use caution. Signs tell you not to run and stand your ground if you encounter one.
- Be cautious when observing elk. Try not to get too close unless you want antler scars.
- There are no bathrooms at Pierce Point Ranch nor on the trail. So be ready to hide behind trees (which are scarse) or behind a bush/rock. There is a vault restroom in the parking lot of Mcclures Beach which is right beside Pierce Point Ranch Parking lot. Just take the little road down.
- Make sure to visit McClures Beach. I might blog on this soon!