Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mt. Wittenberg Loop - Pt. Reyes National Seashore

I've been spending a good bit of time behind the camera lately, but not as much time on the trail as I would like. I knew I was in need of a good hike so I called up my buddy Tim and convinced my son Ron (and his friend Ray) that a trip to Pt. Reyes was in order. I've done a few hikes in Pt. Reyes and the latest ones have been closer to the coast. I wanted to explore the inland areas and possibly catch some wildflowers and decided on a trip up to Mt. Wittenberg, the highest point in Point Reyes National Seashore (1407 ft.). I've been wanting to hike up to Mt. Wittenberg for quite some time and thought this would be a great opportunity to get up there.

I love loop hikes and Pt. Reyes is usually very accommodating! There are two trails that connect the Bear Valley Trailhead to Mt. Wittenberg: the steeper Sky Trail (2.2 miles by topo) and Horse Trail (3 miles by topo, but more like 4 miles). The question was do we take the shorter steeper route up or the longer gradual ascend with the steeper descent. We went for steep up!

The Sky Trail was in great condition and showed little signs of the constant rains we have had. One of the first things I noticed among the ferns was the thousands of Forget-me-nots (pictured right) that lined the trail. Most of the trail is under a canopy of Pines and California Bay Laurels and the sunlight that filtered through really lit up these little blue flowers along with larger Yarrow. It was magical (yeah, I know, tough guy hikers aren't supposed to think of things as magical, too bad!).

My plan for the day was to hike and not focus on photography. In fact, I didn't even bring my tripod! However, I couldn't help but stop and load pixels, especially when we came across a nice patch of Douglas Irises. (pictured left) Tim and I would stop frequently for photographic opportunities, while the boys continued on up. At one point we caught up with the boys who were coming down looking for us. Oops! When we made it to the trail junction at the base of Mt. Wittenberg, the boys were waiting for us again. We got our first look at the ocean from here and the meadow was scattered with poppies and miniature lupines.

The trip up to the top was uneventful. The summit is heavily wooded and does not really provide much in the way of views, however, you need to get up there just to check it out. Back down from the summit, we continued on the Z Ranch trail under a very dense canopy of small pines towards the Horse Trail.

The trip down Horse Trail was pleasant. More ferns, irises, forget-me-nots and yarrow. The trail was a bit more beat up and muddy. They don't call it the Horse trail for nothin'! We were soon hiking next to a meadow and close to Bear Valley Visitor's center and back at the trailhead.

Point Reyes continually surprises me and this 6.3 mile hike was no exception. This is a hike that can be done anytime of the year (although Horse Trail may be more difficult after heavy rain). I would rate this a moderate hike. The elevation gain wasn't too bad, but did give me a good workout!

I would love to hear from you and always appreciate your comments. For more details including a map and waypoints, checkout my trip report at Backpacker Magazine's website.

Use the map below to get directions to the trailhead:

View Pt. Reyes - Bear Valley Trailhead in a larger map