By Bay City News Service
"Winter is a wonderful time not only to watch the annual Pacific gray whale migration from Alaska to Mexico, but also to celebrate the recovering populations of northern elephant seals as they return to breed at Point Reyes," Superintendent Cicely Muldoon said.
The shuttle bus service, now in its 16th year, eases traffic congestion at prime viewing areas that include the Point Reyes National Seashore's historic lighthouse and Chimney Rock headlands, the park's spokeswoman Loretta Farley said.
The bus service runs only on weekends and federal Monday holidays in good weather. Ticket sales are between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the Ken Patrick Visitor Center at Drake's Beach.
Adult tickets are $5, children under 16 and under are free and federal senior and access pass discounts apply.
Sir Francis Drake Highway is closed between 9:30 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. at the South Beach junction when the busses are operating.
More information is available at the Bear Valley Visitor Center at (415) 464-5137 and at www.nps.gov/pore.
Seeing whales and elephant seals at Point Reyes National Seashore:
The peak season to spot Pacific Gray Whales migrating south to Baja California is mid-January, and clear days without strong winds are best, according to the National Park Service. The whales return north in March.
December through March is the peak period to see elephant seals–a colony numbering nearly 100 animals–breeding and giving birth to pups.
Visitors to Point Reyes National Seashore can try to spot whales and elephant seals through park-provided binoculars and scopes on weekends and holidays. Volunteers will be available to answer questions about elephant seals from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and about whales from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Park rangers lead a half-hour program at 1:30 p.m. weekends and holidays through April to learn more about whales, their migration and adaptations. The program begins at the Lighthouse Visitors Center, and visitors coming on a day when shuttles are operating are advised to arrive an hour early to leave enough time for the shuttle ride.
The park does not charge an entrance fee. The shuttle is $5 for those 16 years and older.
- From the Peninsula, go north on Highway 280 or 101 toward San Francisco
- From San Francisco, go north on U.S. Highway 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Follow U.S. 101 about 9 miles (14 km) north of the Golden Gate Bridge to the Sir Francis Drake-San Anselmo exit, exit 450B.
- Make sure you are in the lane for San Anselmo (the second lane from the right) and exit onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard heading west.
- Follow Sir Francis Drake west approximately 21 miles (33 km)—passing through San Anselmo, Fairfax and Samuel P. Taylor State Park—until it intersects with Highway 1 at Olema.
- Turn right on Highway 1 and proceed north about 100 yards (100 m).
- Take the first left turn at Bear Valley Road and head west about 1/2 mile (0.8 km). Look for a big red barn on the left and a sign for "Visitor Center; Headquarters; Information" on the right.
- Turn left after passing by the red barn and proceed up the left-fork of the driveway to the Bear Valley Visitor Center, the park's primary contact station.
Copyright © 2014 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.
Cody Kitaura contributed to this report.