Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bull tule elk along Tomales Point Trail

Hiking the full lenght of the Tomales Point Trail (listed as 4.7 miles one-way) in Point Reyes National Seashore is something that had been on our list since moving to the Bay Area. This is a beautiful trail that stretches through coastal scrub and grasslands all the way to the the tip of Tomales Point with Tomales Bay on the east side of the peninsula, and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Perhaps the biggest attraction though, is that the trail runs through the Tule Elk Reserve, which hosts a reintroduced herd of tule elk, which now numbers ~440 elk. We attempted it once when we had family in town, but it was raining and fairly miserable, so after we saw a few tule elk far off the trail we decided to turn around only a few miles into it. However, two weekends ago the conditions looked great with a forecast of overcast skies and no rain, so we decided to attempt it again.

The bull emerges

As per my usual, we arrived right around sunrise and were the first car in the parking lot, meaning we were the first feet (of the human sort) on the trail. We had to go probably around 2 miles before we saw our first elk, and unfortunately it was at the top of a ridge that just happened to have fog rolling across it. However, we kept going a bit further and made it right into the heart of a herd of ~20 animals. While the females were quite beautiful, it was really the male who kept drawing our eyes -- and the shot of him above is from when he first came over the hillside and into view.

He doesn't look quite as tough though, with his tongue sticking out!


  1. Hey Pat,
    It's amazing to see how much skinnier they are then their rocky mountain and winter counter parts. Still packing those impressive antlers though! Must be awesome to photograph them in a warmer climate, haha. Great captures. I always love getting the ones with their tounges out. Sure looks like they are always looking for their nose though :-p You can really see the difference in the shapelyness of their antlers too. All the best.

  2. Thanks, Jarred! these guys are considerably smaller than those of the rocky mountains -- the tule elk subspecies, which is native only to central California, is the smallest of the recognized elk subspecies.

  3. I love the light in these shots... ( The normal diffused early seashore light, but still very warm and bright)

    I really feel like I'm at the ocean with these shots. There is alot of mood.

    well done.