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Phillip Burton Wilderness

General Location Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning Images
Bare rock formations and arches in the foreground bordered by high cliffs in the distance, leading away down the hazy coastline.
Library image #816: Sculptured Beach, on the Pacific Ocean, low tide. These rock formations harbor several tunnels and arches. This is a popular place for tide-pooling.


The United States Congress designated the Phillip Burton Wilderness (map) in 1976 and it now has a total of 27,315 acres. All of this wilderness is located in California and is managed by the National Park Service.


The Point Reyes Peninsula used to lie a couple hundred miles farther south before the San Andreas Fault decided to shift it to its current location. Unruffled by this forced eviction, the Point Reyes National Seashore presents a serene and sternly beautiful expanse of rock-lined beaches and a forest of fir and pine broken by meadowlands in the south. The Phillip Burton Wilderness makes up roughly one-third of this national parkland. Tall cliffs tower over forested ridges, and chaparral-covered swaths line both sides of a road that splits the Wilderness. More than 450 species of birds and 72 species of mammals have been identified, including seals and other marine animals that often gather along the bays and esteros. From December through April, the far reaches of the peninsula provide a prime spot for catching a glimpse of gray whales as they migrate between their feeding grounds in the Arctic and their breeding grounds in Mexican lagoons.

There are more than 140 miles of trails crisscrossing the area. In numerous small valleys, you'll find the brush dense and highlighted by stinging nettle and poison oak--good reason to stay on the trails. Cliff edges are often crumbly and should be avoided, and their bases are dangerous because of falling rocks. Riptides often make a dip in the ocean dangerous, but if you care to brave the chilly waters, non-Wilderness swimming beaches exist nearby. Overnight camping is allowed only at four hike-in campgrounds: Coast, Sky, Glen, and Wildcat. Weather is often cool and damp with dense fog common in summer. Although it's usually not that difficult to find a spot for solitary contemplation, human use is heavy.

Planning to Visit the Phillip Burton Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Phillip Burton Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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