There are as many ways to hike Point Reyes as there are opinions about which is the best. No need to turn this into a competition. Simply put, the 150 miles of hiking trails across the federally protected national seashore offer something for everyone.

Many visitors, especially first-timers and large groups, start out at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. From there, it's easy to jump on several trails and wind your way toward the coast. Also, there's plenty of space there for parking, barbecues, picnics and more.

But here's an idea. Head straight to the coast and start your hike on sand. From Bear Valley Road, take Limantour Road until it dead-ends at a large parking lot. You'll pass the entrance for the Point Reyes Hostel and the park's education center. Keep going, park in the beach lot and head the few hundred yards to the water.

Limantour Beach is tucked into Drake's Bay, adjacent to a gorgeous and unspoiled spit of sand. The geographical term "spit" refers to an area where the movement of water has created a deposit of sand. Because of its fragile nature, the trail through the spit to view the inland estero is sometimes closed. Even then you can get close enough to view plenty of wildlife enjoying cover from the ocean breeze.

Once on the sand, many hikers shed their footwear — the sand is that soft and the water is that refreshing — and head south for about a mile. This beach is one of the few stretches where pets (leashed only) are allowed. That may or may not be a good thing, depending on your perspective. In any case, you're not on the beach long.

On the left, there's a trail leading up into shoreline toward Coast Camp. Head inland and you'll see a small village of campsites and tents, and people from around the world. It's a good place to meet strangers and share some travel stories.

From there, take the Coast Trail southward for about two-plus miles and then turn left onto the Sky Trail for another couple of miles. The goal is the tough climb that will take you near the top of 1,407-foot Mount Wittenberg.

Then it's all downhill, back toward the hostel and the beach parking lot. Just in time for the post-hike cookout of some Drake's Bay oysters.

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— Greg Retsinas