Since we haven’t done a hike since last summer AND we finally had a free weekend with nothing on the calendar, I told J we were hiking! HAHA! Well, I really said I needed a hike in my life. He obliged and we asked our friends Melanie & Alex to join us, as they had for last summers hike!
We almost canceled the hike with Outside Lands and the freeway repair, we thought the freeway would be a mess. Just to get to the hike is a little over two hours. Add traffic and we’d be stuck in the car all day, instead of enjoying nature! After a few texts back and forth, we decided to go for it. We just had to leave at 7AM to make sure we didn’t hit any traffic heading there or coming home.
I’d done minimal research on the hike. I used AllTrails and a simple Google search. I also crowd sourced FB, since that is where I first saw this hike or on IG. Random friends have done it and of course I was enamored with the photos and scenery.
What I learned about the hike before we hiked:
- There is a shortcut – look for an arrow made of rocks
- Total length is about 14 miles, but 8 if you use the shortcut
- Start at the Palomarin Trailhead and head toward the Wildcat Camp
- Come early, before 9AM for parking gets full fast!
- Lots of Poison Oak in the shortcut
- Alamere Falls is a rare “tidefall,” a waterfall that flows directly into the Ocean.
Here are some other websites I found useful, prior to the hike:
- National Park Service – Alamere Falls
- Wikipedia – Alamere Falls
- Yelp – Alamere Falls
- AllTrails – Palomarin Trailhead to Alamere Falls Trail
Since we put it off the night before the hike we found ourselves at Safeway at 10:30PM to grab some food for the hike. Knowing it was at minimum 8 miles, we needed some type of food. We grabbed salami, cheese, and a baguette for the hike. Then we headed home to get some rest before Alex and Melanie came over at 7AM.
I didn’t pack too much, just our food from Safeway, apple sauce, candy (for the sugar and carbs), and fruit snacks (more sugar and carbs). Each of us were going to carry small backpacks, his with the food and random stuff, mine with the bladder of water.
Uncharacteristically, I dressed for cooler weather. Normally, I assume I’ll be sweating after five minutes on the trail. But since I knew it was in the bay and near the ocean, I opted for capris, a tank, then a top over that. Of course I had my comfy Balega socks and my trusted Saucony Kinvara hiking shoes! Those shoes have seen some pretty cool places and races! We were ready to roll when Alex and Melanie rang the door bell.
We piled in my car, picked up our Starbucks mobile order and hit the road. Then had to stop to grab gas and fill my tire up with air, glad it never had an issue after that. After that we only had to make one pit stop at a Starbucks to use the bano.
The drive was a little over two hours, but with no real traffic. The issue is after you get through the 37, you drive through Novato, where it’s mostly residential. Then into twisty roads accompanied with bikers. Eventually, you hit a dirt path for awhile and it seems like you may be lost. Then BAM, you arrive and are greeted by a National Park Service employee who assists with parking at the trailhead.
This hike is considered moderate for a reason. I wouldn’t say it was hard, but I was sweating and using my arms to pump me up the uphill parts. I enjoyed the effort that was exerted during the hike. We worked in some spots, but thankfully most of the trail is covered. There are some parts that are not shaded and you could feel the warm sun baking your skin! But again, you are ocean side, so its never really too hot (like in Sacramento)!
There are two signs along the way. It’s important to make sure you are following the Wildcat Camp trail. Thankfully, as we got closer to the shortcut two fellas let us know it was coming up and to look for an arrow made of rocks. I wasn’t sure what it was going to look like and I was certain we’d miss it. But you can’t, it’s huge on the trail.
We were all worried about the Poison Oak, since many people mention it. The entrance to the shortcut looks a little scary, because you have to duck down to get into the brush. I pulled my sleeves all the way down, just in case. My legs were exposed and there wasn’t anything I could do about that, so I didn’t worry about it. It wasn’t bad at all, which is not what the beginning would have you believe.
I have a friend who mentioned she didn’t want to use the shortcut and I applaud her. I totally appreciate why she didn’t and how it ruins the land that wasn’t intended for hiking, as the NPS website also states. But we didn’t want to hike for 14/15 miles total, so we went for it. I did feel a little bad, but the alternative didn’t sound great!
I didn’t realize what getting down to the tidefall included. I didn’t realize there were multiple descents and levels of falls. There are three falls in all, two are located after the first descent. Then you do another descent down to the larger tidefall, which leads into the ocean. I thought there was a wood ladder we could use. For some reason I remember reading or seeing a picture, but that was NOT right at all. I’m not fearful of heights, but I am fearful of my knee not working properly and scaling rocks with said knee. But I took my time and it worked out great. I was more worried about ripping my Lulu’s! J laughed at me when he asked if I was okay and that was my response.
Once at the ocean, we of course went straight to the tidefall. But for a few seconds I stood enjoying the ocean — the sound, the smell, the feeling. I love it. All of it. There is something extremely cathartic about the ocean, it literally calms every single cell in my body. You may think I’m cheesy, but it truly does. Besides Target, the ocean is my happy place 😉
We took tons of pictures, but so did a bunch of people. We waited our turn, politely, unlike some. After annoying the group with too many pics, we decided to park ourselves near the tidefall and enjoy our snacks. I was pretty hungry at this point. After we stuffed ourselves with snacks, I started to wander around a little bit more. I walked toward an area where there were rocks to see what was around them and it was another, smaller alcove. I just hung out on the rocks and took in the salty air and breeze. Eventually the group came and met up with me and then we decided to make our way back up the rocks and hike back to the car.
I always love a challenge and climbing those rocks was definitely a challenge, but not too much of one where I was truly scared. We took different routes on our way up, which seemed to be a little easier, yet harder, if that makes sense. We then made our way back up through the shortcut. This time around, it seems like we saw many more people making their way down the trail versus when we did.
We were all pretty exhausted by the time we finished. I know my body was tired, but it seemed like a consensus that everyone’s feet were beat up. Not necessarily due to the terrain, but maybe the shoes or other factors. We dusted off the dirt, switched into flip flops, and prepped ourselves for the journey home.
J needed to switch from diver to passenger, so we stopped in the little town square place to do so. Lucky for us, they also had a little deli that sold coffee and ice cream. I opted for a scoop of chocolate, which ended up being two scoops for the price of one, holler!
8.19 miles of hiking per my Garmin. 3:33:01 spent on the trails, I did pause the watch for our time at the tidefall. Well, I stopped it after the first descent, which levels off with two little falls to reach the larger fall to the ocean. I then started my watch when we were at the top of all the descents and starting to hike the shortcut. So, there were more steps taken than what was officially tracked via my Garmin. Just to describe the ‘moderate’ hike in elevation gain, we did 1,395 feet. Not too bad, but enough to get a good sweat going from time to time.
I loved this hike. It’s hard to justify driving as far as you hike, but it always ends up being worth it. Yes, please, to hiking next to the Pacific Ocean. The colors and views are unreal. I’ve shared tons of pictures, but they don’t do the real life feeling justice. I really love a hike that is somewhat challenging, but also offers IG worthy scenic views. I would suggest this hike to anyone, all physical types and body shapes. We saw so many different people out there accomplishing it, which makes me believe that no one should be limited to trying this hike. Be ready to sweat, but the views will make it work it!
Anything I didn’t know I needed, I found on this lovely hike!