The day-use park features four gently sloping, surf-free beaches, protected from winds by Inverness Ridge, the backbone of the Point Reyes Peninsula.
The park includes forests, beaches, field, hills, meadows and marshes – each with its own plant life, including varieties of trees, shrubs and wildflowers.
The park has hiking trails and is a popular place for picnicking, swimming, clamming wind surfing, and boating.
From Heart’s Desire Beach to Jepson Memorial Grove is 3 miles round trip
with 300-foot elevation gain; to Shell Beach is 8 miles round trip
Two lovely trails, named for a professor and a planner, explore Tomales Bay State Park. Jepson Trail honors Botanist Willis Jepson, founder of the School of Forestry at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of the authoritative Manual of the Flowering Plants of California. Conservationist Bruce Johnstone, Marin County planner, and his wife, Elsie, worked hard to preserve Tomales Bay and place part of it in a state park. Johnstone Trail leads bayside from Heart’s Desire Beach to Shell Beach.
Bay area walkers have a little secret: When fog smothers Pt. Reyes and San Francisco Bay, try heading for Tomales Bay State Park. The park has a microclimate, and often has sunny days and pleasant temperatures when other neighboring coastal locales are damp and cold.
Directions to trailhead: From the town of Inverness, follow Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to Pierce Point Road. Turn right and drive a half mile to the entrance to Tomales Bay State Park. Follow signs to the large parking lot at Heartï¿½s Desire Beach.
The hike: Near the trailhead are some interpretive displays that tell of clams and Bishop pine. Signed Johnstone Trail departs from the south end of Heart’s Desire Beach and immediately climbs into a moss-draped forest of oak, bay, madrone, and wax myrtle.
A half mile of travel brings you to Pebble Beach. At a trail junction, a short side trail goes straight down to Pebble Beach, but Johnstone Trail swings southwest and begins switchbacking up forested slopes. Some wetter areas of the coastal slope are dotted with ferns. The trail crosses a paved road and soon junctions.
To continue to Shell Beach, you’ll bear left with the Johnstone Trail. The trail detours around some private property, and contours over the coastal slope at an elevation of about 500 feet. Some strategically placed benches allow walkers to savor the bay views afforded by the Johnstone Trail. The path leads through Bishop pine and a lush understory of salal and huckleberry bushes. After a few miles, the trail descends through madrone and oak forest to Shell Beach.
Walkers content with looping back to Heart’s Desire Beach via Jepson Trail will continue straight at the above-mentioned junction. Bishop pine, along with its similar-looking piney cousins, the Monterey and knobcone, are known as pines, because they require the heat of ï¬re to crack open their cones and release their seeds. Bishop pines are slow to propagate and are relatively rare in coastal California. (Another nice stand of Bishop pine is located in Monta’a de Oro State Park in San Luis Obispo County.) The surest way to distinguish a Bishop pine from its look-alike, the Monterey pine, is by counting the needles: Monterey pines have three needles to a bunch, Bishop pines have two needles to a cluster.
Weather can change quickly. Visitors should be prepared by dressing in layers.
ADA Accessibility Notes
Heart’s Desire Beach has one accessibly designed table. The grill is on a grassy surface. Restroom: Toilets are generally accessible. Routes of travel from parking to picnic table and restroom are generally accessible.
For More Information, Contact:
Tomales Bay State Park
1208 Pierce Point Rd., Inverness, CA 94937