Oct 102017
 
Path from Shell Beach to Wright's Beach photo by Traci McIlwain

Path from Shell Beach to Wright’s Beach
photo by Traci McIlwain

Sonoma Coast hiking options are diverse and plentiful, from sand dunes to peaks with trails offering vistas as far away as the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge.

Sonoma Coast State Park
There are three areas of the park that offer hiking opportunities. Most of the hikes along the headlands are not that strenuous as you are walking across fairly flat ground that is essentially an open prairie.

South Sonoma Coast
Bodega Head has a relatively short hiking trail that goes around the headlands. This trail has spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Bodega Harbor, and the town of Bodega Bay. There is another trail that connects with the trail system found in the Bodega Dunes section of the park. Here you can walk along the headlands and on the beach. (On clear nights, Bodega Head is an excellent place for star gazing!)

Sonoma Coast Trail is a pretty bluff-top route that connects to some wonderful secret beaches. During spring, wildflowers brighten the bluff: blue lupine, Indian paintbrush and sea sage.

Sonoma Coast Trail begins on the bluffs above Blind Beach, but the walker can also begin at Goat Rock, located a half mile north of the trailhead. The rock is connected to the mainland by a causeway. During the 1920s, Goat Rock was quarried, and used to build a jetty at the mouth of the Russian River.

A mile north of the trailhead, and 0.5 miles north of Goat Rock, you will find the mouth of the Russian River. The 110 mile-long river is one of the largest on the North Coast. At the river mouth, you can observe ospreys nesting in the treetops. The California brown pelican is one of several species of birds that breed and nest on Penny Island, located in the river mouth.

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 1, ten miles north of the town of Bodega Bay, turn west on Goat Rock Road. Signed Sonoma Coast Trail begins at a small parking lot on the left of the road. If you’d like to begin this walk at Goat Rock, continue to road’s end at a large parking area.

Sonoma Coast Trail heads south along the edge of the bluffs. Soon, you’ll step over a stile and head across a pasture. The trail climbs to a saddle on the shoulder of Peaked Hill (elevation 376 feet). You then descend to the bluff tops, and cross a bridge over a fern-lined ravine. It’s a pastoral scene with grassy bluffs and a weathered old barn in the distance.

After crossing another ravine, the path reaches the Shell Beach parking area. A short trail descends the bluffs to Shell Beach. Another trail extends northwest, crosses the highway, and reaches redwood-shaded Pomo Canyon. Picnic tables and walk-in (environmental) campsites are located near the creek.

Sonoma Coast Trail continues south, detouring inland around a private home, then doubling back seaward. The trail plunges into Furlong Gulch, then switchbacks back up to the bluffs. You can follow the trail or the beach to Wright’s Beach Campground.

Further north in Sonoma Coast State Park are two other trails. The Kortum Trail extends from Blind Beach to Wright’s Beach. Access (parking) is midway along the trail at Shell Beach at Wright’s Beach. The trail travels along headlands and down to a few beaches. You can also travel inland from Shell Beach by taking the Pomo Canyon Trail. It begins at Route 1, just across the pull-off entrance to Shell Beach and ends at Pomo Canyon Environmental Camp.

Another trail of note is at the northern edge of the park. Vista Point is a short loop trail that goes to breathtaking Vista Point. There is a parking lot and picnic tables at the trailhead.

Sonoma Coast Beaches:

Miles of sandy beaches, rugged headlands with spectacular vistas, and a rocky coast with secret coves and arches carved by the sea and wind make this area popular for Sonoma hiking. Sonoma Coast State Beach is not one beach, but many. You could easily overlook them, because most aren’t visible from Highway 1. The beaches are tucked away in rocky coves, and hidden by tall bluffs.

Colorfully named locales are some of the highlights of Sonoma Coast State Beach, thirteen miles of coastline stretching from the Russian River to Bodega Bay. The summer morning fog will usually burn off by noon. Be aware of the danger of “sneaker waves,” frequent along this coast, that can sweep hikers off rocks.

For a list and descriptions of all Sonoma Coast Beaches go to 101things.com/winecountry/check-out-the-coastal-parks-and-ocean-beaches/.