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Here comes the annual spate of trips to Point Reyes and elsewhere along the coast, following the plan of finding good hikes that are don’t leave me dripping with sweat. I’ll be back in my usual haunts and the challenging peaks of Mount Diablo and Calistoga in the winter, but now it’s time to transition to cooler spots.

I was with a relative hiking newcomer this weekend who hadn’t experienced much of Point Reyes. Where to start? The most popular trail at the park may be the 8+-mile path out and back to Arch Rock. It is wide enough that it can accommodate crowds, the elevation is gentle at all times, and the destination point is unbelievably scenic. The first half-dozen photos in the slideshow above are from this weekend’s outing. The rest are from previous trips. See the blog posts from those hikes here.

For those who aren’t familiar with Point Reyes, its history is extensive, from the coastal Miwoks who lived off the land and raised their communities there, to Sir Francis Drake who appeared there in June 0f 1597 and proclaimed it to be “Nova Albion”, or “New England,” which is actually my home territory 3,000 miles away. Now, it is a full-fledged mix of trails, water ways, camp grounds, horse farms, and dozens of other recreational opportunities.

It sits atop the San Andreas Fault, as the half-mile Earthquake Trail demonstrates, so in about 10,000 years, it probably will be joined as a peninsula by a much larger section of the West Coast of North America.

Back to Arch Rock: It’s a busy path with joggers, bicyclists, and even school kids at times, so choose your time of day and season well. In July, you won’t have much company and it’ll actually be extremely pleasant. Once at the rock, the panoramic views are as good as imagined, even though I didn’t spot any seals on this trip. You can take a small unmarked trail down to the base of Arch Rock and hang out for a picnic on the beach or inlet stream below with near-total privacy and shelter from the coastal wind.