Whales at Sunset (Beach)

Whales at Sunset (Beach)

April 29, 2023
Hike to Sunset Beach and discover a wealth of fossil whale material preserved there. Why are the fossils here and what can they tell us?

Geologists think in accordance with the principle that the present is key to the past. They look at the landscape today as both product and process, using what they observe to form an understanding of how the world works on time scales beyond the confines of human existence.

The fossil record underpins that understanding, preserving glimpses of organisms that inhabited the planet in times past, as well as painting pictures of the environments and conditions those organisms experienced when they were alive.

Sunset Beach is home to a particular abundance of fossils – scattered remains of whales that cruised the coast of North America millions of years ago. But why are the fossils concentrated there, especially, and what might that concentration suggest about the past of the Point Reyes peninsula itself? The whales at Sunset have a story to tell, if only we stop to listen.

Please be aware, this will be a rigorous 10 mile (total) hike.

Don Jolley is a long-time resident of west Marin, and served for three decades as a teacher of Maths and Sciences at the Bolinas School. He has extensive experience in outdoor education, having led over fifty expeditions to the eastern sierra and western interior to study geology and earth’s history as preserved in the fossil record.

Photo Credit: Bill Helsel, used with permission


-We will be meeting at the Estero Trail 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

Sun protection

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 fieldinstitute@ptreyes.org.

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 fieldinstitute@ptreyes.org.

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.