Lighthouses of Northern California

San Francisco, CA
January 25-27, 1999


January 25, 1999

On this page, I will retrace my steps while lighthouse hunting in the San Francisco area. We arrived there on a Saturday, and did all the usual tourist stuff. We visited all the different souvenir shops, went to Alcatraz Island, etc. on Sunday is when we really got into the lighthouse stuff.

When we started out, we went to the rental car place, and got our car, a Dodge Neon. Once in the car, we were on our way North to Point Reyes, and it was late in the day; about 4:00pm. However, we thought we lost the camera, so we back tracked to the hotel and the rental car place, but neither place had it. Fearing the worst, (ie, thinking we lost the camera) I turned in the rental car, since I was sure I didn't leave it in the hotel room. Well, a long story short, we get back to the hotel room, and there it is on the bed. So we went back to the rental car place, and got the car.

Now, back on our way to Point Reyes, we decided to take the scenic route. This would be following California Route 1. There is some scenery for is so dramatic. Well, by the time we got to Point Reyes, it was dark. I see why they say that Point Reyes is very isolated. Once inside the park, you still have to follow the road about 20-25 miles out to the tip.  So, we eventually made it to the very end, and the parking lot for the lighthouse. We then hiked the half-mile to the lighthouse, in the dark, only to see the revolving light. It sits quite a ways down on a ledge, hovering above the ocean. We tried taking a few photos, that didn't come out since I haven't quite figured out how to work the shutter speed stuff on the camera. We left.

The night when we got back to the hotel, I planned my trip, using my books and the maps to minimize my back tracking and mileage. I mapped the most direct routes, etc to cover the 6 lighthouses in the northern half of the Bay Area.

Monday morning, I got up about 7:30am and had breakfast. I was on the road by about 9:30. This time, I decided against the scenic route and jumped on Highway 101 North. This took me across the Golden Gate Bridge. My first stop was just across the bridge at the scenic overlook area. Park your car and walk towards the retaining wall. Look down to the base of the bridge and you will see the Lime Point Lighthouse. Normally, I think you can go down to the base of the bridge, but the area was closed due to some sort of construction.

To get to the next lighthouse, take 101 to Sir Francis Drake Road. Once on Sir Francis Drake Road, head west through the towns of Fairfax and Ross. This is a good 30 or so miles. You will eventually come to CA Route 1. Make a right, then a left. You will see signs telling you to turn left for the Point Reyes Lightstation. This is where you will go past the Ranger's will be on your left. You will come to a stop sign next and be faced with a decision to make either a left or a right. (NOTE: THERE IS NO SIGN TELLING YOU WHICH WAY TO GO.) Make a left, and you are back on your way to the lighthouse. You will be driving for a little bit, it is about 20-25 miles to the tip of Reyes. You can easily see how this would be a problem for mariners...a piece of land sticking 25 miles out into the Pacific.

Once you get to the tip, after you pass all the Historic Ranches (letters of the alphabet), there will be a parking area. Park your vehicle and take whatever you will want while visiting the lighthouse since it is a hike. I would say maybe a half-mile to a mile from the parking area. Follow the path towards the water (west) and it will lead you by a few apartments and over to the top of the lighthouse area. If you go on a nice day (ie. not windy) you will be allowed to walk down to the lighthouse. It is closed to the public, but it was neat to hear the fog signal working. The bad part is going back up all those steps and inclines. There is a sign at the top that says it is equivalent to 31 STORIES...

After leaving there, obviously follow the same way back to CA Route 1 and then Sir Francis Drake back to Highway 101 South. Follow the signs to Interstate I-580 and the San Rafael Bridge to Richmond. The next light we are on our way to is the East Brother Lighthouse. Once over the bridge, stay in the left hand lane. You will be getting off at the first exit. Then follow the signs for the East Brother Lighthouse. What happens is they have you get off and then get back on I-580 heading west and get off at the last exit before the bridge (Western Drive) Follow Western Drive through and old military will lead you back towards some old oil tanks, etc. I pulled over in a little dirt lot and parked. I crossed the street and got the pictures that I wanted. I also chatted with two very nice ladies that were painting the lighthouse.  Follow the same road, Western Drive, back out and get on the I-580 west. If you got on heading the right way, you will immediately be at the toll booths for the bridge. If my memory serves me, the toll was $2.00.

Once across the San Rafael Bridge, get off on Sir Francis Drake Road and follow that to 101 South. We will take this to Tiburn Blvd, (CA Route 131.) Follow this south for some ways until you come to Beach Road.  Take Beach Road to Blanding Lane. From Blanding Lane (really skinny road) you will be able to see a Point Blunt Light on the side of Angel Island. It is on the north west side of the island. I used a 500mm zoom lens, but a 1000mm would have allowed a better picture. There is access to the island, but only during the summer months.

Follow Beach Road back out to CA 131, back to Highway 101 South. Take 101 south to the last exit before going back over the Golden Gate Bridge. This should be Alexander Dr. Follow this road up into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This area provides some great views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. You are actually higher than the bridge itself. Follow this all the way to the top. Once at the top, there is a one way road that will lead you to the lighthouse. Look closely, it could easily be mistaken for a dead end. Follow the one way road, Conzelaman Road, all the way to the end. Once at the end, you will be at the parking area for the Point Bonita Lighthouse. Park your vehicle, and once again, take everything with you, it is a long walk to the lighthouse. This one I would say is easily a mile or more.  It is an interesting walk though, you walk across a mini suspension bridge and through a tunnel. Once out of the tunnel, you will see another suspension bridge and the lighthouse. The day I was there, it was quite windy, so be careful.

One a side note, if you look south you can see a striped cylinder out in the water...this is the remains of the old Miles Rock Lighthouse. I used a 500mm zoom lens to get my pictures.

Once done visiting, head back up through the tunnel, etc to the parking area. You will not be able to follow Conzelman Road back out. Follow Bunker Road back out and it will meet back up with Conzelman Road via a right onto McCullough Road. Once at the end of McCullough, make a left onto Conzelman and follow that back to the entrance of the Golden Gate Rec. Area. This will allow you to jump back onto Highway 101 South. You will cross the Golden Gate Bridge (toll $3.00)

Get off at Lincoln Blvd. and follow that to Long Ave. I never did find Long Ave until after I found a dirt parking lot at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. I hiked down the path until I found the remains of a brick wall and climbed up onto that. From there I was able to get a good view of the Fort Point Lighthouse that sits atop Fort Story. From here, it was back down the path to the lot. I got in the car and headed back up Lincoln Blvd. to another overlook. From here I was able to get a very distant shot of the Point Diablo light.

    From here, it was back to Thrifty Rental Car to drop the car off. One thing to note, it is very expensive to park a car in San Francisco. The car rental was $27.00 / day, and it was $29.00 to park it. Since we were close to the rental place, it was easier and cheaper to just take it back.

January 27, 1999

I went back down to Thrify Car Rental and got the Dodge Neon again. This time I headed South out of San Francisco on Highway 101. Follow 101 south until it cuts off, then you will want to follow I-280 South. Stay on 280 south for about 65-70 miles. You will see a cut off / exit for CA Route 17 (Santa Cruz.) Follow this, it will take you through the Santa Cruz Mountains and lead you right into the town of Santa Cruz.

Ok, once in Santa Cruz, my directions might not be to accurate. I will try to remember exactly what I did, but these aren't set in stone. The easiest way is to get to CA Route 1 and head North. Don't go to far, you will see a brown sign (I think) saying something about a bike trail. Follow those signs, it will take you through an office park and lead your right to West Cliff Drive at an Ocean overlook.

Take West Cliff Drive south and it will lead you right to the Santa Cruz Lighthouse. I had a hard time finding a parking spot there since it was a nice day out...maybe about 50-60 degrees. That temperature doesn't stop the surfers though. I snapped a few pictures and made my way back to CA Route 1 north. I followed this for awhile and eventually the Pigeon Point Lighthouse popped up on the horizon.

I pulled over into the muddy overlooks just south of the lighthouse to snap some distant shots. After that, I made my way up to the road (Pigeon Point Road) and made a left. I pulled up in front of the hostel area and snapped a few pictures. Then followed the road along and parked again. I climbed down a few of the rocks to get to the beach area to take a few more pictures from a different angle. Then I jumped back out onto CA Route 1 north again.

I was on Route 1 again for some time until I came to the town of Pacifica, California. This is where the Point Montura Lighthouse is. Don't be driving too fast or you will zip right by it. It is a fairly small lighthouse and is blocked by some of the houses that sit on the hostel grounds. When I was there, the grounds were closed to the public. I pulled over on the opposite side of the street and walked across to the roadside. I used a 210mm zoom lens and snapped a few shots off.

Once again, I was back off again heading north on Route 1. I then followed the signs for the I-280 north. My last lighthouse was Yerba Buena Lighthouse. Follow the signs for the Bay Bridge to Oakland. This is one part that I didn't document that well, but how hard can it be to find the Bay Bridge. :) Once I was on the Bay Bridge, I stayed in the right-hand lane to get off at Yerba Buena Island. I found the Coast Guard Station, but there was no viewing point at all. The lighthouse sits at the south end of the island.

I got back on the I-80 and headed over to Oakland. I got off at the first exit, Maritime Drive. This whole area encompasses the Port Of Oakland. I just kept following the roads to the different terminals and ended up parking the car and walking out onto the pier. But you couldn't see anything from there. So I got back into the car and drove to the Army base. I stopped and asked the Military Police if they knew of any area where the lighthouse could be seen, specifically from on their base. The guard said that they didn't back up to the water, and to go check over by the Cal-Tran area. He said to go out back onto Maritime Drive, and make a left onto Burma Drive. This will end up back into a terminal on the Port Of Oakland, so you make the first right by Cal-Tran and then a left onto that street (No Name.) Follow it all the way to the end, and you will end up right under the Bay Bridge. I got a really distant picture by using a 500mm zoom lens, but a 1000mm lens would have done much better. You will agree when you see the picture.

After that picture, I was ready to call it a day. I burned a lot of time finding these lighthouses, so I really hope that the direction I have presented here help any would be lighthouse hunter wanting to retrace my steps.

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