Trip · 3-day backpacking trip
For · Friends and new backpackers
Distance · At least 2 miles of paddling
Vibe · Relaxing and chill
Permit · Yes, reserve a boat-in campsite in Tomales Bay
Drive · 1.5 hours from SF
Ideal dates · May to October
Pets · Welcome on kayaks, certain launch areas, and beaches
Tomales Bay is a 15-mile long inlet off of the Pacific Ocean and is the largest unspoiled coastal embayment, aka bay, in California. The west side of the bay belongs to Point Reyes National Seashore, and that's where you can camp overnight in places only accessible by boat. Bop around various beaches, explore small sandy coves and paddle through bioluminescent waters underneath a starry sky. Kayak-backpacking in Tomales Bay is a special experience worth doing at least once, if not more.
Official Point Reyes National Seashore Website
Directions to Chicken Ranch Beach Launch Site
Main image credit: N/A
Marshall and Tomales Beach have:
Once you reserve a camping permit, finding a boat-in campsite in Tomales Bay is largely first-come, first serve. You can camp just about anywhere along the bay, unless you book a Marshall or Tomales Beach Group campsite designated to those specific beaches. Marshall and Tomales Beach are the only campsites with toilets and trash collection. Everywhere else you'll need to bring a wag bag to carry out your 💩 and trash. Leave No Trace, baby!
Bring at least a gallon per person of potable water per day because there aren't any drinking water sources available. Dog-friendly beach campsites are Indian, Kilkenny, Long Cove, Fruit Tree, Marshall, No Name, Tomales, and Elk Fence South Beach. Protip: Saturdays are the busiest time to be paddling around the Bay so score a mid-week camping reservation to duck the crowds.
Nightly Fee: $20
Tomales Bay was named after Rancho Bolsa de Tomales, a Mexican land grant given by Governor Pío Pico to Juan Nepomuceno Padilla in 1846.
Bioluminescence is a glowing, shimmery light produced by a chemical reaction within a living organism, which in this case is marine life.
The Coast Miwok used to live in Tomales Bay. Their villages included Echa-kolum, Sakloki, Shotommo-wi, and Utumia
Don't leave the car without a first aid kit. Stuff happens out in the wild and you always want to be prepared.
They're expensive, but you can lean on these bad boys for river crossings and navigating all kinds of terrain.
Light as a feather and versatile enough to use for running, camping, and other nighttime activities.
It's a heavier, bulkier pillow for ultralight backpackers, but you're guaranteed a good night's sleep.
Add up to 14 degrees of warmth and keep your sleeping bag nice and clean with this mummy liner.
Handmade in Seattle, Washington, this sleeping bag is pricey, but you can count on it lasting for years.
A spacious sleeping bag that will help you stay warm for spring, summer, and fall camping.
Winner of the REI Editor's Choice Award, this bag is warm and light, coming in a little over three pounds.
This pack weighs two pounds, has 7 pockets, and has a built-in seat pad, but it can only carry up to 30 pounds.
If you're an experienced backpacker, this is the lightest full-size, full-featured, frameless pack made.
You won't be saving money, but you'll save space and weight with these camp sandals.
These comfortable, breathable, quick drying undies are designed for surviving long treks.
Made with 60% merino wool, these pricey socks are guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Lightweight, grippy, and breathable shoes made for navigating all kinds of trails and terrain.
These down pants will keep you and your legs warm in the chilliest of nights.
Never dig around your pack to find some hand sanitizer. Instead, hang this one on the outside of your pack.
Whether it's coffee or cocoa, bring a silicone mug like this one into the wild. Your tummy will thank you.
Don't let the backcountry stop you from enjoying a hot, quality drip coffee in the morning.
This lightweight pot is for backpackers who want to enjoy warm and cold soaked meals.
These bamboo utensils are designed for the backcountry, and conveniently comes with a travel pouch.
A popular, pricier backpacking stove that's an ounce heavier, but is reliable in the wildest envrionments.
Add a little magic to your experience by hanging these twinkling lights around your tent every night.
Leave your backpacking pack at camp, and use this sleek, compressible pack for day hikes.
Feel fresh, clean, and renewed after each hike with these thick, durable, aloe-infused wet wipes.
The more you backpack the lighter your shelter becomes, and the lighter it is, the more expensive it can be.
You'll always need to bring your hiking poles to use this tent, but it only weighs a little over two pounds.