So…this is one of those learn-from-my-mistakes kind of experiences. As such, this post will not completely follow the typical format of my posts.
A friend and I attempted this hike and ended up hiking approximately 17 miles without ever actually getting to the falls! There are different ways to get to the falls, and we started at the Palomarin Trailhead, heading to the falls via the Coast Trail. The National Parks Service actually details that the hike to Alamere Falls is a 13-mile hike because the NPS is strongly against anyone taking the shortcut that’s written about in many online articles.
My friend and I read many sources that provided different degrees of information about the shortcut, which if all went perfectly would be an 8-mile roundtrip. We decided to go for it. We had checked the tide tables, had plenty of water and snacks, and are experienced hikers. We thought we were prepared. The “shortcut” started exactly where one of the articles gave great detail about, but after a while it disappears. Apparently all the storms this winter blocked it off with walls of brush. After going as far as we could down the shortcut, we turned around and headed back to the main trail. Unfortunately, along our way on the shortcut, we each experienced our first exposure to stinging nettle. (The leaves and stems of the plant are covered with brittle, hollow, hair-like structures that act like hypodermic needles when your skin brushes against them. Chemicals flow through the hollow tubes and cause a nasty stinging sensation and a rash. My husband compassionately treated mine once I got home.)
We continued down the Coast Trail to Wildcat Campground, and it provided some gorgeous views. Once at the campground, you can hike approximately 2 miles on the beach to get to the falls. I was SO determined to get there, but after about a quarter of a mile on the beach, we decided to turn back. Clouds were gathering quickly, I had an old injury flair up, and it was much later in the day than we had planned to be hiking. We didn’t have cell phone service, and knew our families would start to worry. Tired and discouraged, we didn’t take the Coast Trail back, but based on a trail sign, we opted for what we thought was a more direct route but was not. (I’m still not sure what we did – looking at a map now, it doesn’t make any sense to me.)
On our way back, we discovered there’s a new shortcut, which is marked with rocks making an arrow. (On our way to the original shortcut, we didn’t want to blindly trust something none of the sources we read mentioned). We talked to a few people coming out of the new shortcut who said it led straight to the falls. Please note that we did not personally see if that unofficial trail led to the falls.
Also on our way back, it started raining and the last couple of miles took forever. I am so incredibly thankful my dear friend is such a positive soul that we were able to just get through it!
I would only recommend taking your family on this trail if an adult has previously hiked this trail, any minors are very experienced hikers, and I would not recommend small children be on this trail at all, unless you stay on the main trails and they’re in a carrier.
Keep in Mind:
- Getting to the Palomarin Trailhead you’ll encounter a stretch of road that is literally all potholes, so take it slow!
- Mobile phone reception is pretty much nonexistent.
- There is a ton of poison oak and stinging nettle, so it’s a good idea to stick to the official trails.
- You must understand the tide tables and how those correspond to the time you plan to be at the falls.
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult.