Extending for 10 miles along a beautiful strip of the Sonoma coast, the community known as The Sea Ranch offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, sky, rocky ocean outcrops, migrating whales, and amazing sunsets. Most of the trails and roads in this privately-owned community are closed to the public. However, Sonoma County Regional Parks manages six Sea Ranch public access areas along the Pacific Coast Highway (also known as Highway 1).
You can take a break from your journey and snap a few photos, and be on your way again in no time. Or you might choose to spend an hour or two on the beach, where you can go tide-pooling, enjoy a picnic, collect interesting pieces of driftwood, climb rocks, or just take a snooze.
From south to north, the Sea Ranch access trails are:
Black Point (35050 Highway 1, The Sea Ranch) Offering a sandy shore (see photo) that curves for a quarter mile along the base of the sea cliffs, this is the southernmost and the longest beach among the six Sea Ranch public access points. The quarter-mile access trail includes a steep staircase.
Pebble Beach (36498 Highway 1, The Sea Ranch) A .27-mile grassy path through pines and a meadow leads to stairs down to a small, black-sand cove.
Stengel Beach (37900 Highway 1, The Sea Ranch) A short .12-mile path lined with cypress trees leads to a wooden staircase and a small beach; waterfalls tumble down the cliffs in the rainy season. With room for a dozen cars, Stengal offers the largest parking area of the six Sea Ranch public access points.
Shell Beach (39200 Highway 1, The Sea Ranch) This .65-mile path (see photo) runs through pines and meadow to a wide, sandy beach with sea rocks and tide pools. Small boats can be carried to the ocean via a beach ramp.
Walk On Beach (40101 Highway 1, The Sea Ranch) This is actually the first quarter-mile of the southern end of the Bluff Top trail, passing through a large grove of Monterey cypress to the staircase leading down to a wide, sandy beach.
Bluff Top Trail (40101 Highway 1, The Sea Ranch) From Walk On Beach, the three-mile-long (one way) Bluff Top trail (see photo) provides views of offshore roacks and white snady beaches, the sound of crashing surf and barking sea lions, and the invigorating feel of prisk sea air. It leads north to Gualala Point Regional Park (42401 Highway 1, The Sea Ranch, 707-785-2377), where the Gualala River empties into the Pacific Ocean.
A few tips:
- All access points are clearly marked on Highway 1.
- All access points provide trailhead parking for automobiles only. RVs and vehicles with trailers are not permitted in the parking areas.
- Access points close at sunset.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet.
- Dress in layers, and wear trail-worthy shoes.
For more details and to be able to visualize the trail system, download the Sea Ranch Coastal Access Trails map from Sonoma County Regional Parks.
Most of all, remember to take a few minutes to get out of the car and breathe in the fresh sea air. The views, salty breeze, and amazing trails make this journey refreshing and rejuvenating.