Sky to Sea
This is a good dayhike that goes from the dense forest on top of Inverness Ridge to windswept beaches. Marin County approved the development of this part of what is now part of Point Reyes National Seashore in 1960, and developers prepared to build a resort-style residential development soon thereafter. Thankfully not much came of it other than about a dozen homes before the National Park Service bought the land in 1963. Most of the land is now preserved as part of the Phillip Burton Wilderness.
Take the Sky Trail as it climbs about 500' over this hike's first 3/4 mile to its junction with the Fire Lane Trail on the right followed by the Horse Trail on the left about 50 yards further. The Sky Trail meanders near 1,000' ASL for another 1.75 miles or so before going right on the Woodward Valley Trail. The vegetation from the trailhead to this point has been primarily Douglas fir mixed with California bay laurel, coast live oak, Madrone and Bishop pine with patches of coastal scrub. There are numerous small segments where one side of the trail is shady forest while the other is 6-feet-high scrub. Sky Camp (backpacking only) is 1.25 miles from the trailhead, and there's a vault toilet and a developed spring.
The Woodward Valley Trail descends about 900' over 2.25 miles with a few steep sections that would be very dicey if the trail is not dry. The trees become smaller before finally giving way to coastal scrub and grassland about 500' ASL. Stunted and oddly contorted Douglas firs grow alongside the trail as the first real views of the coast appear. Woodward Valley ends at the Coast Trail which runs parallel to the coast (duh) 50 to 100' ASL. Go right/north on the Coast Trail as it crosses a good-sized creek that may or may not be known as Santa Maria Creek. There is apparently disagreement as to whether this drainage or the next big one 3/4 mile further along is the correct Santa Maria Creek.
Forget about hitting the beach (Sculptured Beach to be exact) that makes momentary appearances through clefts in the cliff except at the Coast Campground or a mile further ahead where a short spur trail leads down to Santa Maria Beach.
Return back to the Coast Trail and head a mile as the trail heads up a wide canyon. The bottom of this drainage is a good sized swamp that ends as the Coast Trail does at Laguna Ranch. Go right at the road where the Coast Trail ends (there's a small roadside parking area here), and go past the youth hostel until the road ends at the Laguna Trailhead.
You've gone almost 9 miles to this point, and the proverbial dogs might be barking, but you have another 1.5 mile and about 650' of climbing up the Laguna Trail until it ends at the Bayview Trail. There are dense stands of Bishop pine here, and many of them survived the large 1995 Vision Fire. Go right at Bayview as it parallels Limantour Road for a half mile until it ends at the Sky trailhead.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.