Nestled into a particularly beautiful stretch of Sonoma’s 55-mile coast, Bodega Bay is a favorite destination for Bay Area residents as well as travelers. This long-time home to a fishing boat fleet is a small, friendly, and picturesque town with a few shops and art galleries and excellent seafood restaurants.
It’s also home to four hiking trails you’ll love — two at Bodega Head, a third that winds along a bird-viewing path in the marsh at nearby Doran Beach Regional Park, and a fourth that ends up on a small but delightful beach. Each offers spectacular ocean vistas and only-on-the-coast pleasures that include the salty kiss of sea breezes, the sight of colorful wildflowers from spring into summer, the likelihood of spotting one or more migrating gray whales, and the haunting cries of sea birds.
All four trails are short (loops range from .75 to 1.7 miles in length) and easy to walk — many hikers combine the trails. But be prepared to spend longer than usual while traversing these small distances, because you'll likely be stopping here and there to gaze at the scenery and absorb the astonishing beauty that surrounds you.
Bodega Head Trails
A huge granite promontory, Bodega Head — part of Sonoma Coast State Park — shelters the north and west sides of Bodega Harbor from Pacific Ocean storms. Bodega Head has two trails, which you can hike individually or easily combine into a longer hike.
The East Trail, a 1.7-mile loop, travels across Bodega Head's southern coastal bluffs to offer stunning views of the open ocean, sea stacks, Bodega Bay, the sandy, two-mile-long Doran Split (which protects the bay on the south), and a great deal more.
The West Trail, a 1.2-mile loop, faces west, traverses coastal bluffs, and leads to an overlook view of Horseshoe Cove and the Bodega Marine Laboratory and Marine Reserve (accessible from Westshore Road, it’s open to the public for free guided tours on most Fridays). Here, having gradually climbed 200 feet, you'll be at the highest point of the promontory (265 feet), rewarded for your efforts with 360-degree views.
Be sure to pause on the cliffs near the West Trail parking lot, where you'll find one of the best whale-watching spots in California. Chances of spotting cetaceans are best from October through February, when Grey whales are southbound from Alaska to Mexico, and February through April, on their return voyage. On weekends from January through Mother’s Day, volunteers from the Whale Watch Public Education Program are at Bodega Head to answer questions and share their knowledge of whales and migration. If you have binoculars, be sure to bring them on the day you visit.
Directions: To reach both Bodega Head trailheads from Highway 1 in Bodega Bay, take the East Shore Road exit and continue one-quarter mile to Bay Flat Road, where you'll turn right (Bay Flat soon becomes Westshore Road). In 3.3 miles, veer left for the east trailhead parking area or right for the west trailhead parking area. Parking is free. Dogs are not allowed on these trails.
Bird Walk Access Path
Bodega Bay’s Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail, part of Sonoma County Regional Parks, offers remarkable bird-watching opportunities for a good reason. The 1.19-mile path, located slightly north of Doran Regional Park, not only circles around two freshwater ponds along Bodega Harbor that are quite popular with birds, but also overlooks marshland that provides year-round habitat for thousands of waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds. The trail, a rectangular loop, is gentle, easy, and accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. Dogs on a leash are permitted on the trail.
Directions: The trailhead parking lot is located at 355 Highway 1 on the south end of Bodega Bay. Turn right at the “Bird Walk Coastal Access” sign (exactly 0.7 miles south of the Bodega Bay Visitor Center). Park at the trailhead parking lot, and then ascend a brief rise to the gravel trail. A parking fee is required.
Pinnacle Gulch Trail
The Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access Trail is a half-mile unpaved path through a gulch that leads to a small, picturesque beach on Bodega Bay. One-quarter mile in length, the beach is dotted with interesting rocks and tide pools, and you’ll enjoy the view of Pinnacle Rock just offshore. The beautiful view includes Bodega Head, Tomales Bay, Point Reyes, and the two-mile-long, crescent-shaped sand spit of Doran Beach.
Directions: On the southern end of Bodega Bay, immediately after Highway 1 heads east (away from the coast), turn south onto South Harbor Way. Drive one block and turn left onto Heron Drive; turn left onto Mockingbird Road and drive a short distance to the posted trailhead for Pinnacle Gulch trailhead at 20600 Mockingbird Drive (it’s across from a small parking area in the Bodega Harbor golf course community). A parking fee is required.
After Your Hike
There’s much more to do and see in Bodega Bay after your hike. This charming coastal town isn’t just a picturesque fishing port; it’s also a sensational place to indulge in seafood — crab, salmon, rockfish and more — taken right off a local boat.
Grab a seat at one of the picnic tables in front of Spud Point Crab Company, where you can bite into a fresh crab sandwich and gaze at fishing boats docked nearby. Perhaps you’d prefer a casual dinner at The Tides Wharf Restaurant & Bar, where scenes from “The Birds” were filmed. Or you might choose to go all out with a meal at Terrapin Creek Café, where fresh ingredients and innovative cuisine have won national acclaim.
Want to stay longer? Head for luxurious Bodega Bay Lodge, where each room provides amazing ocean views. The elegant guest lodges at Inn at the Tides are nestled in beautiful and secluded surroundings; the Bodega Harbor Inn, conveniently located in old town Bodega Bay, overlooks Bodega Harbor; or check our listings of coastal hotels and B&Bs.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez