Photographer’s Guide to Point Reyes

Mount Wittenberg

Mt. Wittenberg is one of my favorite spots in the park. I’m a sucker for views, and Wittenberg delivers. The open meadows at the saddle overlook Drake’s Bay to the west, and Pacifica is visible to the south.

There are a few trails to get here, but the most direct is from Bear Valley visitor center. Take the Bear Valley trail across the meadow, then turn right and start climbing. You’ll break out of the forest right before reaching the saddle. If you want less climbing, you can take Limantour Road to the Sky Trail trailhead. Take Sky Trail past Sky Camp and turn left to take the trail up to the saddle.

Don’t bother going up to the actual peak: it is a disappointing warren of small clearings and brush. Instead, turn south at the saddle and follow a short trail through some scattered trees. It should lead you to a wide open meadow overlooking Drake’s Bay.

A good sunset over the bay is spectacular, with the water reflecting the sky’s colors. On cloudy days the bay reflects the much colder blue hues of twilight. If you stay for the best light, you’ll be hiking out in the dark so bring a flashlight. Personally, I recommend staying at nearby Sky Camp. That way you can easily return tomorrow morning to catch sunrise. To get to the camp, return to the saddle and take the trail down to Sky Camp. You’ll reach an intersection and need to turn right.

If you find the morning fog has rolled in, you can still find ample subjects nearby. South of the saddle there is a network of small meadows between the trees. The mist accentuates the depth between the trees, and photos in the fog come out with a pleasing monotone blue. The fog often burns off before noon, providing more opportunities to catch the final wisps of vapor as they float through the trees.

Trees Standing in the Fog

Photo of trees in fog

This was taken in January while I was staying at Sky Camp with my brother and some friends. My brother and I woke up early with the goal of catching sunrise from the top of Mt. Wittenberg, but when we unzipped the door to the tent we were greeted by a wall of cold, damp fog. This was the kind of fog that makes you want to slide back into your warm sleeping bag, but good photographs are rarely taken from the comfort of one’s sleeping bag. So, knowing there was a slim chance the top of the mountain would be above the fog and we could watch the sun come up over a sea of white fog, we crawled out of the tent and hiked to the top. We didn’t get lucky. It was just as cold and damp on top as it was back at camp.

We wandered between the stands of trees, walking on the wet grass and listening to the intense silence. We were sharing the mountain top with a few groups of deer, including some white Fallow Deer that seemed to float in the mist. I was surprised at how much the fog accentuated the depth between the trees, and wanted to capture the feeling of depth.

Sunset over Drake’s Bay

Photo of sunset over the ocean

Some friends had planned a 3-night backpacking trip to Sky Camp. They were coming in from the North Bay while I was driving up from Sunnyvale, and we planned to meet at the campsite. I took off work early on Friday and drove up over the Golden Gate, and took Highway 1 over Mount Tam to get to the park.

Sky Camp is most easily reached from the Sky Trail trailhead on Limantour Road, but I had forgotten this so I ended up starting my hike from the Bear Valley Visitor Center. This meant I had to climb up and over Mt. Wittenberg but it turned out to be the right choice, because it meant I was coming over the saddle right as the sun was setting across Drake’s Bay. I dropped my pack, grabbed the tripod, and ran out to a clearing to catch this photo. A few minutes later the color had faded so I continued on to the campground in the dark.