A Little Friend, originally uploaded by bexadler.

I saw this little critter at the top of Arch Rock in Point Reyes this weekend while he (and I) was grabbing a bite to eat.

Point Reyes has been my most favorite hiking and camping spot for years. Part of the appeal for me is that the summer temperature here is about 20 degrees cooler than in Sacramento. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being hot. The other thing, though, is that it’s an ideal place to take novice hikers and backpackers. There are a variety of routes so you can tailor your hike to meet the fitness level of just about anybody you may want to take out there. For instance, my friend Christa has old lady legs (AKA weak bones) so she can’t do much uphills and down because of the pounding, so this weekend we did the Bear Valley trail out to Arch Rock. It’s an 8-mile out and back (4 in and 4 back), with a super flat, even course. Christa said she had no problems doing the trail and was surprised to learn she’d trekked 8 miles. This trail is also good for cyclists, as there’s a bike rack a few miles in where you can store your bikes during the rockier portion of the trail.

My usual route for more advanced hikers is below:

Mt. Whittenberg Trail toward Coast Camp/Arch Rock; Bear Valley Trail on the way back for a complete loop: The trail in is steep with lots of switchbacks, but goes through a beautiful wooded area that opens up into a gorgeous meadow. Stopping in the meadow for lunch or a snack before heading to Arch Rock is a good idea, as this is a slightly longer trail. Arch Rock is my favorite spot for stopping and eating lunch. You get a great view overlooking the ocean and a wonderful breeze. Plus, if you have extra time, you can always make your way down to the beach and put your feet in the water. I usually take Bear Valley Trail on the way back because it’s a really easy trail for weary hikers. Total length of this loop is about 14 miles.

Also, for beginning backpackers, try camping at coast camp. It’s only a 1.8-mile hike into camp and you sleep only 200 meters from the ocean. There are many short day hikes branching off from the Coast Camp trail, making it a good spot for exploring. And for no extra cost you can get a permit to do bonfires on the beach! Fun, right? The best time to camp here is during low tide so you can take an early morning stroll to gawk at the sea stars and sea anemones in the tide pools. Tide charts can be found at the park’s website, or you can just call and ask a ranger.