Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
554.00 ft (168.86 m)
Trail type
3.00 mi (4.83 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Chimney Rock might seem to be just an inconspicuous remnant of the weathering cliffs. Its neighbor, a small sea arch, might provoke more curiosity. What makes the hike out to Chimney Rock worth it during any time of the year are the spring wildflowers, summer views of the Farallon Islands, fall storms out in the seas that bring huge waves crashing against the cliffs, winter whale migrations, and year-round opportunity for bird observation. You can also see majority of the Point Reyes coastline that runs south, including the just off-white cliffs along Drakes Bay.

Elephant Seal Overlook offers look into the lives of elephant seals year-round. It offers a view of the elephant seal pupping area of Drakes Beach. You might hear the seals’ mating calls from late December to March, and witness the pups, who are born from December through January, growing up. The Elephant Seal Overlook is accessible for wheelchair users, although assistance might be needed on the steeper parts of the asphalt road or the degraded parts of the trail. 

Park at the Chimney Rock Trailhead at the end of Chimney Rock Road. There’s a bathroom there, and information signs. In winter, roughly from late December to early April, you can also get there by a shuttle bus which runs on the weekends and holidays, weather permitting. The parking lot can accommodate only 20 vehicles, so plan accordingly; your best chance at getting a spot is in the morning. There’s one van accessible parking spot. RV’s and trailers that exceed 24 feet of combined length are prohibited on Chimney Rock Road.

Head out on the Chimney Rock Trail. Roughly 0.4 mile in, stay on Chimney Rock Trail by continuing straight. There’s Lookout Tower Road, which goes off to the right, but it’s been closed because of concerns about the stability of the cliffs. If there are signs posted that prohibit venturing out on this trail, heed their warnings because should the cliffs collapse under you, there wouldn’t be much anyone could do to help.

Hike for another half a mile and you will arrive at the Chimney Rock look-out. There’s a bench — take a seat and a moment to admire the birds, the waves, the cliffs, and, in winter, the migrating whales. If the weather is good, you can also see the Farallon Islands.

Please heed the signs that warn against stepping off the path and venturing out towards the cliffs. They are often unstable and can collapse at any point, evidence of which can be seen at many point along the hike.

At several points along the trail, you’ll be able to see the historic Chimney Rock Boat Station. It’s worth a stop on your way back to learn about the lives of rescue crews that once worked along the rugged coast.

When you’ve enjoyed the birds, the cliffs, the whales, and the ocean breeze, retrace your steps back to the trailhead. To reach the Elephant Seal Overlook, head down the paved road and then turn left onto a rammed-earth trail just before the road curves to the right. Follow the trail for 0.2 mile and you will reach the overlook.

To get to the lifeboat station where, especially in fall, seal pups like to hang out, retrace your steps along the trail from the overlook. When you reach the paved road, turn right, and when you arrive at where it forks, take a sharp left turn. Follow the paved road downhill past park residences(please be respectful to the residents and don't cross onto the properties) for 0.3 mile.

The seal pups like to hang out on the small rocky beach on the far side of the lifeboat station, which is still sometimes used by emergency services and park employees.

Please keep in mind that the nearest gas station is 20 miles away, in Point Reyes Station, and make sure that you have enough gas in your vehicle to take you the 40-mile round trip between these two locations.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Beautiful vistas. Short and easy hike. ADA accessible.


Very exposed. Weather can change fast. Parking can get tough.

Trailhead Elevation

131.00 ft (39.93 m)

Highest point

204.00 ft (62.18 m)


Family friendly
Vault toilet
Big vistas
Historically significant

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore


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