Earthquake Trail - Interpretive Loop, Point Reyes: Bear Valley Trailhead, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California

Earthquake Trail - Interpretive Loop - 0.55 miles

Point Reyes: Bear Valley Trailhead

Grassy meadows along the Earthquake Trail attract deer and other wildlife

Grassy meadows along the Earthquake Trail attract deer and other wildlife

Round-Trip Length: 0.55 miles
Start-End Elevation: 106' - 106' (119' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +13' net elevation gain (+26' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
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Earthquake Trail - Interpretive Loop - 0.55 Miles Round-Trip

The Earthquake Trail is a short, fully paved interpretive loop that provides insight to the unique geological forces that shape Point Reyes and Northern California.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Plate Tectonics

While the core of our earth is solid, the outer core is actually molten - or liquid. Resting above the outer core and lower mantle are fourteen major tectonic plates, which ultimately comprise the solid surface of the earth.

These major tectonic plates include the Pacific and North American plates, which ride the molten outer core of the earth, colliding with each other to form continents, mountain ranges and deep-sea chasms.

Each plate collision and subsequent grinding can produce fantastic geologic consequences such as earthquakes, tsunamis or the release of underground oil and gas. The incurring fracture, which occurs upon two plates colliding, is called a fault line.

San Andreas Fault

The San Andreas Fault enters the United States through Tomales Bay and runs south through California. The fault zone is 1 mile wide, 780 miles long and over 20 miles deep. It runs along the northern edge of Point Reyes National Seashore and cuts through the floor of Tomales Bay.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), large earthquakes have occurred at 150-year intervals on the southern San Andreas fault over the last 1400-1500 years.

As the last large earthquake on the southern San Andreas occurred in 1857, that section of the fault is considered a likely location for an earthquake within the next few decades.

The San Francisco Bay area has a slightly lower potential for a great earthquake, as less than 100 years have passed since the great 1906 earthquake; however, moderate-sized, potentially damaging earthquakes could occur in this area at any time.

The San Andreas fault system is now known to be directly responsible for all major earthquakes in the Bay Area and is actually a series of multiple faults, which extend 780 miles south through California. Included in this complex system are the San Andreas, Hayward and Calaveras faults - all of which enable tectonic movement between the Pacific and North American plates.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N38 02.444 W122 47.933 — Earthquake Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • The San Francisco earthquake on April 18, 1906, - which is directly attributed to the San Andreas Fault - took over 700 lives and caused millions of dollars worth of damage in California. This 8.3 magnitude quake was felt as far away as Oregon and central Nevada.
  • 'Magnitude' is a measure of the size of an earthquake whereas 'intensity' is a measure of the strength of shaking experienced in an earthquake.
  • Literally thousands of earthquakes occur along the San Andreas fault line every year - but few are large enough to be felt at the surface.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Camping is by permit only, in designated areas only. Permits must be obtained from the Bear Valley Visitor Center before starting your trip. If you have made a reservation and are arriving after 5 p.m., a permit will be left for you in a small wooden box on the back side of the information board outside the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

  • Campsites may be reserved up to three months in advance. To obtain a reservation, call 415.663.8054 between 9 am and 2 pm, Monday - Friday. Reservations by phone are not accepted at any other time. You may make reservations in person 7 days a week at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. You may also fax your reservation using the Park fax form and fax number: 415.464.5149.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs and horses are not permitted on the Earthquake Trail.

  • Fishing is not permitted on the Earthquake Trail.

  • This is a day-use area only .

Directions to Trailhead

The Earthquake Trailhead is located on the southeast side of the Bear Valley Visitor Center.

From Highway 1, take Bear Valley Road west about 1/2 mile. Look for a big red barn on the left and a sign for Seashore information on the right. Turn left past the red barn and follow signs to the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Continue through the main parking lot to the far end and Bear Valley Trailhead parking area.

Contact Information

Point Reyes National Seashore
1 Bear Valley Rd.
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Visitor Information: 415.464.5100 x2 or 415.663.8522 x2

Headquarters: 415.464.5100 x 1

Volunteer Information: 415.464.5145

Education Programs: 415.464.5139

Special Use Permits: 415.464.5111

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


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