Bear Valley Visitor Center to Mt. Wittenburg Peak, Point Reyes
5.5 MILES / 1,622 FT ELEVATION
On one weekend per year, typically in January, Point Reyes National Seashore hosts a Fungus Fair at its Bear Valley Visitor Center. The Saturday prior to the fair, volunteers are invited to gather at 10AM for a quick orientation and instructions on how to gather mushrooms. After foraging, volunteers can take their collection to the barn next to the visitor center where a guide walks you through what species you collected. Whether you are into mushroom foraging or just want to know a bit more about the California fungi, this short hike to Mt. Wittenberg summit is for you. Visit any time of year as well for an easy scenic loop with views of the coast.
Point Reyes National Seashore is located north of San Francisco on the coast of Marin County, California. The area was designated in 1962 to protect it from development. Point Reyes is made up of a distinct peninsula created due to its location on the San Andreas fault. On this peninsula you can find a large number of hiking trails, rivers, beaches, waterfalls and 4 hike-in backcountry campgrounds.
The Point Reyes Fungus Fair typically takes place in January but may be moved if weather is severe. The date is usually posted in November or December of the prior year. You can find information on the dates of this fair as well as other details here. The Point Reyes Fungus Fair began in 2005 and ever since then has found and documented over 550 species of mushroom including four new species.
The Saturday prior to the Sunday fair, volunteers are asked to gather at Bear Valley Visitor Center at 10AM where members from the Bay Area Mycological Society walk volunteers through the process and provide some foraging tools such as wax paper and plastic compartment boxes.
You are able to forage wherever you'd like and are instructed to meet back at 1PM to go over what you have found. Some members of the society take people on guided forage walks, but we opted to make the ~5.5 mile loop from the visitor center to Mt. Wittenberg summit. Heading out of the visitor center, you make a right down to the end of the parking lot where Bear Valley Trail begins. About 0.2 miles in from the trailhead you will hit a split to the right for Mt. Wittenberg Trail. Take this trail up for 1.7 miles, foraging as you go. You will hit a grassy meow with trail splits and a sign. Follow the sign for Mt. Wittenberg summit which is another ~0.3 miles.
After reaching the summit and taking a short break, head back down to the trail split and take the cutover trail to Sky Trail towards Meadow Trail. As you come around the hill, you will get some great views of the coast and ocean. This is another break area with more scenic views than the Mt. Wittenberg summit itself.
Take Sky Trail until you encounter Meadow Trail to the left which will take you back down to Bear Valley Creek and Bear Valley Trail. If there have been recent rains, you are likely to encounter a large number of mushrooms on this trail as well. Once you hit Bear Valley Trail, take it back to the left to finish the loop.
After you complete your hike, bring the mushrooms back to the barn near the visitor center to have assistance identifying your mushrooms. If you find any great specimens, they will be saved to go on display at the Fungus Fair the next day. The guides can help you identify which mushrooms are poisonous, edible, or neither. After going on this hike, you'll have a new found appreciation for the fungi that you encounter on any hike.
Maps & GPX
With the GPX route downloaded on your phone, you can follow your location against the trail, even in airplane mode or when you have no service. To learn more about GPX files and how to use them, see the GPX 101 page.
You can download the GPX file using the following link --> GPX FILE DOWNLOAD
Preparation & Pro Tips
- Find out the date of the fungus fair - This date is usually in January of each year. You can do this by checking on the Point Reyes National Seashore website here.
- Do some pre-reading - If you are not familiar with mushrooms, there are some excellent guides out there to get you up to speed, such as Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast.
- Bring foraging equipment - The event guides provide some equipment, but even better to bring your own. Mushrooms are delicate and will get damaged if they slide around in a bag. The best method for carrying various batches of mushrooms is a wicker basket. You can also bring a hand lens and small wax paper bags. You do not need to worry about wearing gloves as long as you wash your hands after the hike. The poisonous mushrooms are not dangerous unless eaten.
- Plan and pack your gear - See our Gear Checklist section for a comprehensive gear checklist and some tips and favorite items of ours.
- Accommodations - If you want to stay overnight so you can experience the Fungus Fair the next day, one option is to camp overnight in one of the four Point Reyes backcountry campgrounds, which is what we did. For a write-up of backpacking to Coast Camp in Point Reyes, see our Coast Camp post here.
The trailhead begins at Bear Valley Visitor Center. Click on the directions icon to pull up custom directions in Google Maps.