Sonoma Coast State Park is one of the most popular parks in Northern California for good reason. There is plenty to do, including hiking, horseback riding, fishing, crabbing, beachcombing, surfing, picnicking, camping, and abalone diving. However, this is not a good place to go swimming or wading. The park is made up of a series of beaches separated by rocky bluffs and headlands. There are long sandy beaches, secluded coves, tide pools, sea stacks, and natural arches. There is an underwater park for divers that extends the length of the park. All these beaches have dangerous currents and waves. Even the surf area is unsafe, and sneaker waves have claimed unwary visitors.
There are a number of beaches that you can either walk or drive to. These include (from south to north) South Salmon Beach, North Salmon Beach, Schoolhouse Beach, Portuguese Beach, Duncanís Landing, Shell Beach, Blind Beach, and Goat Rock Beach. The park starts just north of Jenner and extends 17 miles south to Bodega Head, totaling some 5,000 acres.
The park is not pet friendly. Many of the beaches provide habitat for endangered species and do not allow dogs. They are also not allowed on any of the trails. In places where dogs are allowed (primarily the parking lots) they must be kept on a 6 foot or less leash. •sonoma-coast-state-park.com
Goat Rock Beach
Near the mouth of the Russian River; best beach for scenery and wildlife. Picnic tables and restrooms. Home to a colony of harbor seals, please stay 50 yards away, especially during pupping season (March – August.) NO DOGS.
A long sandy beach, good spot for smelt fishing, beachcombing and sunset strolls. Park at Goat Rock and access Blind Beach from northern end of lot. 200í climb down to the beach, boogie boards are common, and sunsets over Goat Rock are spectacular.
Best beach for beachcombing and tide pools. Also enjoys a reputation as a prime fishing spot. The trail to the beach is steep and difficult. Hikers can pick up the Kortum Trail at the parking lot. Toilets.
Park at Shell Beach and make an easy half-mile hike south to the gulch.
27 campsites within Wright’s Beach Campground, 10 of which backup onto the beach. Each campsite in Wright’s Beach Campground has picnic tables, fire rings, and paved parking spurs. Running water and flush toilets are also located within the campground, showers are available at the nearby Bodega Dunes Campground. Day use fee collected at gate.
Duncan’s Cove / Duncan’s Landing
Famous for two things: as an early-day landing for loading small coastal ships with lumber and food products and for being the most dangerous point along the Sonoma Coast due to unpredictable surf. Stay off the rocks, the waves have come up to the parking lot and swept people away. Beautiful views from the parking lot, do not attempt to go down to Wrightís Beach from here. The rocks are unsafe, the surf high and unpredictable, the aptly named Death Rock creates sleeper waves.
Use caution taking unimproved path to this wild beach. No toilets.
Parking lot sits on a bluff 50 feet above the ocean, unimproved path to beach. Best to stay in lot, enjoy the views of Arched Rock.
Sandy beach half mile long and deep enough that it remains accessible at high tide. Large parking lot/restrooms on a bluff at the south side of beach. Two steep trails lead down to beach. Great beach for rock/surf fishing. Protected from wind, so sleeper waves are less common here.
Large parking lot, isolated beach lies north of the lot. Coarse gravel beach. Great for rock/surf fishing. Protected from wind, sleeper waves less common here. Path down is steep.
Two trails from large parking area lead 40 ft down to beaches. Good, but steep trail on south leads to small sandy beach. Trail on north side leads to larger sandy beach with rocky surf. Great place for tide pools. Restrooms.
Sheltered, sand beach on the south side of the gulch. Small paved parking area on bluff north of gulch. Narrow gravel trail from the south end of lot leads down to beach. Dogs allowed on leashes.
Arched Rock Beach
A windswept beach, with craggy shoreline and iconic rock formation. Great for sunset walks. The beach scenes of Speilberg’s classic ‘The Goonies” were filmed here and Goat Rock. Nearly gone at high tide. For best view of the enormous sea stack Arched Rock, go 1.25 miles down Goat Rock Rd. to the Arched Rock View parking area for an excellent view of this geologic wonder.
Small paved lot just south of milepost 13.46. At low tide can be reached by hiking north from Salmon +Creek. Look for a scenic waterfall north of this beach after rains.
Little sandy beach named after Miwok Indians that originally inhabited the southern Sonoma Coast. Small parking area. A steep paved trail leads 60 feet down to the beach.
Salmon Creek, South Salmon Creek Beach
A lagoon forms here as sand closes the mouth of Salmon Creek, providing nearly two miles of sandy beach and grassy dunes for surf fishing, beachcombing, and picnicking. NO DOGS/NO FIRES due to snowy plovers nesting. Also offers 5 miles of horse trails. Best beach for sunbathing.
There are 98 campsites with hot showers, flush toilets, and a trailer sanitation dump station. Max trailer length is 31í, no hook-ups. Campfire and Junior Ranger programs are held in the summer months. The day use area includes a disabled accessible boardwalk out to a classic sandy beach. No DOGS/NO FIRES, snowy plover nesting area.
Bodega Head/ Campbell Cove
In the town of Bodega, at the end of Westside Road. Bodega Head juts into the sea offering dramatic vista points where seabirds soar over the craggy rocks and whales migrate twice yearly. Campbell Cove is on the bay side of Bodega Head, another great place to bird watch and, with the calm waters and sandy beaches, a great place for children to play. Picnic tables/restrooms. Near the parking lot you’ll see the 15-story deep hole, known locally as The Hole in the Head, site of a nuclear reactor Pacific Gas & Electric started building in the 70’s. Local protests, (and the fact that the site was on the San Andreas fault) halted the plan, the hole becoming a pond for birds.
Doran Beach Regional Park
Doran Beach Regional Park is on the south side of Bodega Bay and is a must-see, especially for those who want to see a large variety of birds. A beautiful sandy beach, it has clam flats and a salt marsh on the bay side and an ocean side where the waves are usually small, making for a safe beach. Generally windy, the picnic tables have windbreaks. There are trails through the park and dogs are permitted on leash. Because of the wind, this beach is a favorite kite flying spot.