Geology of the Point Reyes Headlands

Geology of the Point Reyes Headlands

April 21, 2023
Hike the scenic Point Reyes headlands to the lighthouse and Chimney Rock. Learn about the park’s unique geology and coastal processes.

Explore the Point Reyes headlands on two scenic geology hikes during the same day to the lighthouse and Chimney Rock. Learn about the unique history of the older granitic rocks and younger sedimentary rocks.

The granitic rocks cooled in a magma chamber about 82 million years ago in southern California and have been displaced to the Bay Area on the Pacific Plate by movement on the San Andreas Fault. The Point Reyes Conglomerate at the lighthouse was deposited in a submarine canyon about 50 million years ago and is like the rocks at Point Lobos State Reserve. The Point Reyes Conglomerate has also been displaced by about 110 miles by movement on the San Gregorio Fault System from south of Monterey.

In addition, learn about ice age climate cycles and sea-level changes as well as coastal processes.

Total hike distance will be about 4 miles with 500 feet of elevation gain on 2 trails to Point Reyes lighthouse and Chimney Rock.

John Karachewski has conducted geology and environmental projects from Colorado to Alaska to Midway Island and throughout California. John has led over 50 geology hikes for PRNSA. Doris Sloan and John collaborated on a popular book “Geology of the San Francisco Bay Region.” John enjoys biking, hiking, and photographing landscapes.

Photo Credit: Robert Campbell


-We will be meeting at the Point Reyes Lighthouse Parking Lot

– Please arrive 10-15 minutes early to check in

– Refunds available for all classes 7 days in advance of the start date, after 7 days and before 2 days, participants can credit their class for a future date. All requests before 48 hours in advance will be declined. For COVID cancellation policy, see below.

– Please follow the parking instructions for the facility used that day

– Please provide an email you check regularly for updates and reminders about your class

– Registration is required online prior to the event in order to maintain class sizes

– Sales end 48 hours before the start date.

– Waitlists are available when the class sells out

What to Bring

Trekking Poles if desired (not required)

Day Pack


Warm Variable Weather Clothing

Hiking Shoes

Water Bottle

Notebook and Pen/Field Journal

Eventbrite Confirmation Email

Binoculars (Optional)

Camera (Optional)

About the PRNSA Field Institute

The PRNSA Field Institute offers hands-on environmental education classes throughout the year that foster enjoyment of Point Reyes National Seashore. Our classes are led by expert instructors, who take you out of your everyday life and into the natural world. We host a variety of classes about the arts and sciences and have something for everyone. You can reach the Field Institute at (415) 663-1200 x304 or by email at

Interested in becoming a member of PRNSA? Click Here!

Interested in becoming a PRNSA Field Institute volunteer facilitator, or are you an outdoor educator or artist who would like to teach a PRNSA Field Institute class? Send an Email!

For any questions, please email us at

COVID-19 Field Institute Guidelines

In accordance with Marin County guidelines for public health and safety, we ask all participants to respect the following COVID-19 procedures:

• Perform a health self-check before coming to class using the CDC Symptoms of Coronavirus as a guide

• Do not attend class if you are experiencing COVID symptoms, suspect you have been exposed to the virus, or are suffering from any other flu-like or respiratory illness

• Participants exhibiting signs of respiratory illness may be asked to leave class

• Masks are optional but are strongly recommended when indoors or if gathered closely outside

• Please bring your own food and water

NOTE: Refund policy exceptions will be made for participants cancelling last minute due to COVID-19 infection or symptoms. Please contact us in this case.

Thank you for your cooperation in following these guidelines to help keep everyone safe.