Although the Point Reyes Lighthouse stopped operating as a functioning lighthouse back in 1975, the National Park Service has kept it open since then as a historic monument to a very interesting and colorful piece of California maritime history. It is a beautiful relic of a very different, hand-operated and slower-paced era of mechanics and work.
The Lighthouse is at the northern tip and westernmost point of Point Reyes, 300 feet below the top of the cliff where the visitors center sits. When it was built in 1867, a state of the art French Fresnel lens was installed, and it is still there today. Its beautiful prisms are kept polished by the Park Service staff today, just as the Lighthouse Keepers used to do.
The Lighthouse is not accessible by the frail, as there are 308 steps down to it from the Lighthouse Visitors Center, which itself is 1/2 mile from the parking lot. It’s often very windy – 60 MPH winds are common, but they close the stairs when they hit 40 MPH. Dress warmly because it’s often very cold, too. The stairs are open Thursday – Monday from 10 a.m. to 4:30, and are closed Tuesday-Wednesday.
Once you’ve made the hike down, you will be fascinated by the works of the lighthouse as well as amazed at the ability of the builders in 1867 to hand-build the lighthouse and equipment building in this treacherous location.
If you are really a lighthouse buff, plan to attend the twice-monthly illuminating of the light on the evenings of the first and third Saturdays. Reservations are made day-of only, by calling 415.669.1534 after 10:00 a.m.
Also, it’s at least a 45 minute drive from the main Point Reyes Visitors Center out to the Lighthouse, so plan your day accordingly.
Where: Point Reyes National Seashore (map)
Hours: Lighthouse Visitors Center and Stairs are open Thursday – Monday 10:00 – 4:30. Closed Christmas Day.