See the lighthouse

January through March is prime time for whale watching on the North Coast, and there?s no better spot to scout for spouts than the Point Reyes Lighthouse in Marin County.

Located on the westernmost tip of Point Reyes, the lighthouse is part of the 71,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore. Even if you don?t see a whale, the 45-minute drive through the national seashore is worth the trip.You?ll pass unspoiled beaches, family farms and forested hills, all making you feel like you?ve touched down in Ireland.

In January, California gray whales head south, spending the winter in Baja California, where females deliver their calves. In March, an internal clock tells them to head back to Alaska.

If the weather is clear and you?re patient, you?ll be rewarded with a whale sighting. It?s estimated 20,000 gray whales will pass twice along the North Coast over the next four months. January is the peak month for viewing the southern migration.

Weekdays are best for avoiding crowds. Also expect some of the clearest days of the year. Call the Lighthouse Visitor Center at 415-669-1534 or visit the Web site, www.nps.gov/pore, to check on the weather. If the winds are too strong, park rangers close the 308-step staircase to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse is open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday.

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