Explore California's Sonoma Coast - Backpacker

Explore California's Sonoma Coast

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 back again and again.
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sonoma coast

The insider

Outdoor photographer Rachid Dahnoun makes weekly trips to Sonoma’s coast to fill 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 sky-tickling 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-and-back 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 parks.ca.gov

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