Hike up to a peak then down to the beach
This hike goes from near sea level up to a 1300' peak then down to the beach so there's something for everyone. This hike also goes through an area that was barbecued during the Vision Fire in 1995. There are many long stretches through dense stands of Bishop pine that is thriving precisely because of that fire. These trees are about 14-15 years old and form almost-impenetrable thickets while currently (May 2013) standing 15-20 feet tall. Their seed cones stay on the tree for years, and only open when exposed to fire. You see the dense stands of trees, accumulated duff, and realize that this area is born to burn. Blue blossom (Ceanothus thrysiflorus) was especially spectacular today May 4, 2013.
From the Muddy Hollow Trailhead go about .2 mile on the Muddy Hollow Road (actually a dirt trail) then go right on the Bayview Trail for about 1/2 mile. This area is a nice open chaparral interspersed with a relatively short riparian forest. Now go left on the Drakes View Trail as the serious climbing gets underway. Drakes View gains about 800 feet over 2 miles as it climbs to the Inverness Ridge Trail through tall coastal chaparral scrub then gloomy Bishop pines.
Go left/northwest on the Inverness Ridge Trail as it gently descends to a nice saddle. You can finally enjoy some views as Tomales Bay is visible off to the right while the final ascent (about 450' over .7 mile) of 1,338' Point Reyes Hill looms ahead as the last serious climb of this hike. The summit has an unmanned government installation that looked related to communication and the weather. There are a few picnic benches up here down the road, and they might be occupied by people who had driven up the Mount Vision Road which ends about 1/4 mile to the north.
Go south from the summit on the west side of the government stuff to the Bucklin Trail. There are cool views to the east before the trail plunges into more dark stretches through Bishop pine. It's amazing to think that about 1/3 of these trees in this area were burned only 18 years ago when they form such an overarching presence over so much of this hike. Some spots of chaparral provide nice views to the west of the Glenbrook Creek drainage. I imagine very nice views of Estero de Limantour and the Limantour Spit on a clear day, but my visit featured foggy, overcast weather. 2.3 miles of Bucklin leads to the Muddy Hollow Road, and go left about another mile to the trailhead. There is a lot of poison oak on this trail. There is a lot of brushing against vegetation in general on this hike so strong bug juice and long pants are recommended.
It's about 7 miles to this point, but how can you not go to the beach? Go out of the south end of the parking lot on the Muddy Hollow Trail for 0.3 mile to a junction with the Estero Trail then 1.5 miles to Limantour Beach. The Muddy Hollow drainage to the left/west is lush and well-watered. Eventually there are small pools then sloughs as you approach the coast. My initial visit was cloudy, cool and windy, but this is probably a very nice spot most of the time. This is also the end of the Limantour Road so there are likely to be lots of people. Limantour Beach runs about 1.5 miles west to the end of Limantour Spit and turns into Santa Maria Beach to the east. Return the way you came.
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.