Kayaking overnight from Inverness to Marshall Beach, Point Reyes

A long paddle, an old hippie commune, and thousands of jellyfish

Nick Roberts
Aug 25 · 5 min read


  • Bay Area Workers’ rating: 8/10. Kayak-backpacking was a totally unique way of experiencing Tomales Bay/Point Reyes. The raw, natural beauty of the place — the rust-colored moss cliffs — and the amount of wildlife was stunning. We didn’t give this one a perfect ten as the kayak rental was a little pricey, and the bug and raccoon situation was distracting. More about that below.
  • Type of trip: Weekender (depart Saturday morning, return Sunday midday).
  • Drive time to trailhead from San Francisco: ~1.5 hours if you leave around 8am from San Francisco like we did (directions to the kayak launch at Blue Waters Kayaking).
  • Difficulty and total mileage: ~10 miles out-and-back paddle (moderate). Here is the pin showing Marshall Beach.
  • Crowds: Light. Quite a few kayakers about, but few others camping overnight.
  • Temperatures: We went in early June. At this time of year, Tomales Bay tends to be around 50 degrees during the day. It’s very frequently overcast and wet. Kayaking itself is also a splashy sport, so bring a robust rain jacket and waterproof/quick-dry pants. Go here for a current forecast.
  • Permits: Required for all overnight backpacking trips. You can reserve a campsite up to 6 months in advance on recreation.gov, or try your luck getting a permit the day-of. From our read at the ranger station, it seemed like the kayaking overnight permits were much less competitive than land trails.
  • Fire restrictions: Camp stoves and beach fires are allowed; check with the visitor’s center for current fire restrictions and to obtain a permit. Also, it’s a good idea to pack in some fire starter, since you’ll likely be starting a fire on wet sand.
  • Bears/threatening wildlife: No large threatening wildlife. There were plenty of gnats, however, and very persistent raccoons. Raccoons here are almost guaranteed. It’s a must that you bring a bear canister, remove all of your food from your packs, and then stow your packs out of sight in the tent. We noticed that, even if you remove anything consumable from your bag, but it is still visible, the raccoons will rifle through it. We looked up from the campfire multiple times to see one elbow-deep in one of our backpacks.
  • Water situation: There isn’t much fresh water here, so it’s best to buy a few gallon containers beforehand and throw them in the kayak, since weight isn’t as much of an issue.


Gear: Check out my temperate climate backpacking checklist for a recommended set of stuff to bring for this trip. Additionally, make certain that you have a bear canister or your food will become raccoon-food.

Trip Details

About three weeks before the trip

We booked overnight camping permits on recreation.gov to reserve our spot at Marshall Beach. We also paid for kayaks in advance through Blue Waters Kayaking.

Saturday — Sunday

We departed with a couple friends from San Francisco around 8am. Traffic was a non-issue. When we arrived in Inverness around 10:30am, we popped into Inverness Park Market to load up on snacks, water, and a second breakfast.

Dead and dying Sea Nettles.
The commune buildings at Laird’s Landing.

Bay Area Workers’ Guide to Backpacking

Vetted backpacking excursions for the working person

Nick Roberts

Written by

Product at States Title, previously @ eBay. https://nickrroberts.com

Bay Area Workers’ Guide to Backpacking

Vetted backpacking excursions for the working person

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