In­sider’s Guide: Sonoma Coast, CA

A wild shoreline and pris­tine beaches make Sonoma County’s coast a primo get­away any time of year. Ex­plore its two state parks and more than two dozen named beaches in sum­mer, when morn­ing fog of­ten gives way to daz­zling af­ter­noons—and you’ll want to come


Get the lo­cal scoop on the best hikes for ocean views, red­wood groves, and tide pools.

The in­sider Out­door pho­tog­ra­pher Rachid Dah­noun makes weekly trips to Sonoma’s coast to fi ll his port­fo­lio with images of sea­side cliffs and tow­er­ing red­woods. He’s cov­ered ev­ery inch of the 30-mile coast­line from Salt Point to Bodega Bay. Red­woods and seashells Dah­noun likes to link groves of skyt­ick­ling red­woods with teem­ing tide pools by hik­ing the Pomo Canyon Trail to Shell Beach. The 7-mile round-trip starts from the red­wood grove at the Pomo Canyon Camp­ground (above Wil­low Creek) be­fore travers­ing coastal hills en route to one of this area’s best spots for dis­cov­er­ing urchins, her­mit crabs, and anemones at low tide.

Cliffs and break­ers En­joy cool ocean breezes and panoramic views of the surf churn­ing be­low black cliffs on the Kor­tum Trail. The 8-mile out-and­back be­gins at Wright’s Beach and heads north, rambling across meadow-topped head­lands to Blind Beach. Scan for shiny patches on the sides of the stone mono­liths atop the bluffs; Dah­noun thinks they were wooly mam­moth back-scratch­ers.

Ocean­side car camp­ground All 27 sites in Wright’s Beach Camp­ground ($ 35/night) of­fer fast ac­cess to the Kor­tum

Trail, the hik­ing path to Dun­can’s Land­ing (an over­look above the most vi­o­lent waves), and Coy­ote Hole (a Pa­le­olithic rock struc­ture that housed na­tive Pomo and Coast Mi­wok peo­ple thou­sands of years ago). Aim for sites 5 through 9, which sit right on the black-sand beach, for un­matched ocean views from your tent door.

Seal en­counter A colony of 50 to 100 har­bor seals oc­cu­pies a penin­sula be­tween the Pa­cific Ocean and the Rus­sian River in Goat Rock State Beach. Visit them at the end of a .5-mile hike north along the trail­less beach. In Au­gust, they of­ten splash in the es­tu­ary, where they’re safe from sharks.

Trip plan­ner

SEA­SON Year-round PER­MIT Day-use fees vary park to park CON­TACT gov

Get this view from from the 2-mile trail that links Fisk Mill and Stump Beach Coves in Salt Point State Park.

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