Activities

Visiting Pigeon Point Light Station, California’s Tallest Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Light Station is one of Calfornia’s most dramatic lighthouses, and a fantastic stopping point on a trip down the coast from San Francisco.

Pigeon Point is located in Pescadero, California, just off Highway 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH for you Los Angelenos). You can visit the light station, and even stay over at a hostel on the property.

Ice plants and the Pacific Ocean are visible over cliffs on a sunny day at Pigeon Point, Pescadero, California, November 19, 2022.

Pigeon Point Light Station is the tallest lighthouses on the West Coast! It puts even many large lighthouses in New England to shame.

Here’s a guide to visiting Pigeon Point light station. As a local, I’ve been there half a dozen times, and it’s a great place to go for a day trip if you’re staying in SF.

About Pigeon Point Lighthouse

The Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located on the California coast and has been guiding sailors since 1872 with its impressive 115-foot height and first-order Fresnel lens made up of 1,008 prisms.

The lens, which is 16 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter, and weighs 2,000 pounds, is now on display in the fog signal building after being shipped from New York around the Horn. While the original lens is no longer in use, the lighthouse still operates as an active aid to navigation using an automated LED beacon.

The Pigeon Point Lighthouse is important because it has been guiding mariners along the central California coast since 1872, helping to prevent shipwrecks and navigational errors. Its tall height and powerful Fresnel lens made it a prominent landmark for sailors along the coast.

Can You Visit Pigeon Point?

You can indeed visit Pigeon Point light station. The lighthouse itself is currently under renovation, so you can’t climb to the top. But the dramatic cliffside location is still well worth a visit, and perhaps a lighthouse selfie.

A Volkswagon bus is decorated with a hippie motif at Pigeon Point Light Station hostel in Pescadero, California, November 19, 2022.

Things to Do at Pigeon Point

The Fog Signal building is a nice, small museum sharing the history of the lighthouse. Park rangers there are knowledgable, and were able to tell my young kids about the lighthouse in language they understood.

They even got to see a fog signal light in action, and to hear recordings of the old fog horns from the light house’s early days.

Again, the focal point of the Fog Signal building is the gigantic lens that used to be atop Pigeon Point Light Station.

There’s also a small gift shop on the property, as well as a hostel where you can stay overnight. The remnants of a shipreck are on display, too, which is a great addition for kids and history buffs as well.

What Town is Pigeon Point Lighthouse In?

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located in Pescadero, a small coastal town in San Mateo County, California, USA.

After visiting the lighthouse, you can drive about 10 minutes into town and check out Harley Farms Goat Dairy or dine at Duartes, a 100+ year old tavern. Just a bit up the coast in Half Moon Bay, you can enjoy more dining options and pay a visit to Lemos Farm, which is especially great around the holidays.

Natural Beauty of Pigeon Point

Pigeon Point is located on the scenic central California coast and is surrounded by natural beauty. The coastline features dramatic cliffs, rugged rock formations, and stunning vistas of the Pacific Ocean. You can see these from an observation deck at the lighthouse.

Rocks in the Pacific Ocean at Pigeon Point, Pescadero, California, November 19, 2022.

Visitors to Pigeon Point can enjoy hiking along the cliffs, exploring the tide pools or simply relaxing on the beach at nearby state beaches. The area is also home to a variety of marine life, including sea lions, seals, and whales, which can often be spotted from the shore or from the observation deck.

Conclusion

Pigeon Point Light station is a stunning destination, and an iconic coastal California site that you’ll want to visit at least once. It makes a great day trip from San Francisco if you have a car, or a nice place to visit if you’re driving down Highway 1 to LA.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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