Sonoma Coast State Beach
Sonoma Coast Trail
From Blind Beach to Shell Beach is 4 miles round trip;
to Wright’s Beach is 6.5 miles round trip
The names alone are intriguing: Blind Beach and Schoolhouse Beach, Arched Rock and Goat Rock, Penny Island and Bodega Head.
These 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.
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.
Sonoma Coast Trail is a pretty blufftop route that connects some of these secret beaches. During spring, wildﬂowers brighten the bluff: blue lupine, Indian paintbrush and sea ﬁg.
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 trail-head. 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 mile north of Goat Rock is 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.
The hike: 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 ﬂat blufftops, 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.
© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author. To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.