The Coastal Trail to Alamere Falls

Coastal Trail

Last Sunday Chris and I went on a belated Valentine’s Day date hike to Alamere Falls. Jessica, Sabah, Brian, and Matt were the first to hike the trail a few weekends ago. Their Instragram pictures were stunning! A weekend after they went Alex and Laura tested it out and raved about their journey. Alex made a good point that the end of the trail, the scramble down to the beach, might be closed off sooner rather than later due to deteriorating conditions. Hike now or hike never – who can resist a provocation like that?

It was a beautiful, warm day. The drive out to Bolinas took double the amount of time it usually does and we spent a good half an hour just sitting on the highway. The Palomarin Trail has become quiet popular recently and the trailhead was swarming with people. We had to park about half a mile up the road from the parking lot.

Palomarin Trail. By Chris.

The first part of the Palomarin Trail, before you break off, takes you through the woods. However, if you’re hiking to Alamere Falls you quickly leave the woods and most of the hike is spend snaking around the hillside cliffs.

Most of the trail. Beautiful, no?

The trail follows the coast with spectacular views of the ocean and Marin coastline. After awhile the trail leaves the coast and winds though a forest, past Bass lake and Pelican lake.

Chris at Bass Lake.

Pelican Lake

The half a mile between Pelican Lake and the Alamere Falls trailhead has been cut deeply by running water. After successfully avoiding falling into any cracks, we finally found the sign marking the entrances to the Alamere Falls Trail. The trail is unmaintained, narrow, and surrounded by overgrown plants. You frequently have to stop and push yourself against the bushes to let others pass. We joined the tail-end of a group of hooligans and quickly made our way (they didn’t stop to let people go – lol).

There is a short break in the shrubbery with a beautiful view. As you get closer to the falls you can start to hear the pounding surf. We turned the last corner and stared down at the first scramble. Amazed, unsure, and hungry we decided to go up, instead of down, to eat lunch.

The view from our lunch spot.

Peanut butter jelly time! By Chris.

Looking down at the second tier from the third. By Chris.

After lunch we returned from the fourth tier to the third. I packed everything tightly into my backpack and slid/hiked down the first “scramble”. It seems like water has carved away at the side of the cliff and we’re hiking up and down it’s smooth pathways. There was a lot of people so you ended up waiting in the middle of this giant slide. I was mildly scared, but not scared enough to stop taking photos.

Chris hiking down the first scramble.

The second tier was beautiful. There was a small waterfall in an inlet to the right of the scramble. You could easily walk over the waterfalls stream between the left and right sides. Lots of people hung out here reading books, chatting, or just sun bathing. You could get as close to or stay as far away from the cliff as you wanted.

Walking over the waterfall. By Chris.

Looking back at the first scramble and lunch spot.

Alamere Falls from the side. By Chris.

I had been prepared for the first scramble. Jessica and Alex had warned me that there was a part that was kind of sketchy, so when we got to the second tier I breathed a sigh of relief. We walked around for a bit, took pictures, and then followed some people heading down towards the beach. Chris remembered the trail going down there as relatively easy – that the worst was over.

Oh how wrong he was. As we followed a few people along the small, windy trail we went down a slightly steep cut in the crumbly rock. I thought to myself, “that was kind of big drop” and moved on. There were people cued up against the side of a rock. I went to go stand in line and looked down in horror. It was a fucking ledge. The drop was about 4 feet or more to a very narrow path. A woman asked for Chris’s hand as she frantically tried to find something to hold onto and her boyfriend pushed her up. My hands started sweating and my throat dried up when Chris asked if I was ready to go.

He went down before me. A 4ft ledge isn’t so huge to a 6′ something. I slowly tried to lower myself down the ledge, back against the rock. I was almost all the way down when my body just froze. In my head all I could hear was my mother going “YOU COULD DIE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” Chris, sensing danger, asked what I wanted to do. Go up or down. I sure as hell wasn’t able to pull myself up, so I guess I’m going down. Being the gentleman that he is, Chris balanced himself, picked me up from under my arms and put me down next to him on the small ledge. My legs felt like jelly as I scoot/hiked the rest of the way down.

The second, terrifying scramble.

What do you know – it was totally worth it. The falls were stunning from the beach.

Alamere Falls from the beach.

I could lie and say it was totally relaxing. That we sat on the beach and held hands, taking in the beautiful sun and surf… but truthfully I was transfixed on that fucking scramble. We’d go look at the waterfalls for a moment and then I’d immediately walk back over to the wall of death. Back to the falls, back to the wall of death. I learned from the experience rock climbers who knew what rocks were good to hold onto and I enjoyed watching other people fail as I did. People lost their sunglasses, water bottles, and dignity, but every single person made it down and back. When it was my time to go back up, I got as close as I could to the wall and made up a delightful little song to get me through. It went something like this, “look at the rocks – rocks, rocks, rocks – rocks.” I stood on the small ledge at the 4ft drop for awhile. Similar to the small woman before me, I probed my hands around looking for something, anything to hold onto. Unfortunately I didn’t have a strong individual to grab onto as Chris pushed me up. I had 3 girls screaming, “I don’t think we should do this – we don’t have a man!” When we finally reached the second tier I was ecstatic. Nothing makes you feel more alive than the possibility of death.

Me climbing back up the first scramble. By Chris.

The return walk was easy and just as beautiful as the walk out. Beautiful views don’t get old that quickly. We passed a group of older hikers just as one of them exclaimed:

“You can see Sutro Tower from here!”

And sure enough – you could. Our home beacon, so far away from home.

The end. By Chris.

If you’d like to see all of our photos, follow the links: Chris set & Linzi’s set. I highly recommend hiking the Palomarin to the Coastal to the Alamere Falls trail. Wear hiking shoes, bring water, sunglasses, lunch, and a buddy. I don’t recommend going down the second scramble if you have a fear of heights. However – if fear is taking hold, remember what Alex said… this might be your last chance.