Discover Sonoma County’s marine wildlife at Goat Rock Beach

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Goat Rock State Beach in Jenner offers endless opportunities for exploration and beach walks; it’s also one of the most popular and best beaches on the Sonoma Coast.

Just south of the Russian River’s outlet to the sea, the beach provides views of immense sea stacks, white-capped waves, and sand dunes. Gulls, sandpipers, and other seabirds peck at the wave line for tasty morsels, beachcombers search for washed-up treasure, and the occasional angler casts a line in hopes of a tasty smelt or rockfish dinner.

Hang gliders are a frequent sight here, too, since a legal launch point is located on a high marine terrace above the beach.

There’s also the magic and mystery of Goat Rock itself. An immense arched sea stack barely attached to the land by a narrow isthmus, the flat-topped rock is said to have derived its name from goat herds that grazed nearby more than a century ago.

Whales are frequently sighted from Goat Rock Beach. Best times for whale-spotting are from December through April, when they migrate from Alaska to Baja California and then return. But in reality whales can be spied spouting offshore at any time of the year.

For a memorable coastal hike, the Kortum Trail runs southward atop the bluffs from Goat Rock Beach, offering spectacular views of land and sea. It’s particularly beautiful in summer, when the trail is surrounded by bleached yellow grass dotted with pink pennyroyal, golden California poppy, stark red paintbrush, green blackberry brambles, and late violet lupine. Red-tailed hawks cruise overhead, orange-and-black crescent butterflies flutter, bright-blue dragonflies dart by, and tiny lizards dash quickly about.