The Parks of the Coastal Region.


Along more than thirty miles of rugged and scenic coastline of the Sonoma coast are numerous parks where the visitor can camp, hike, observe a variety of sea and bird life, and enjoy nature.  The coast features stretches of wide, sandy beaches and sections of rocky cliffs. 

Visitors are warned of sudden "sneaker waves" when very large waves can sweep up on the beach and carry off the unwary. 

The coast bursts into color with a great variety of springtime flowers starting in late February.

Sonoma Coast flowers

Parks are listed South to North.

Area Map for Sonoma Coast State Beach

Doran Regional Park, located on the South side of Bodega Bay off Highway 1, offers access to beaches, picnic areas, campgrounds and a boat launch facility. Doran beach is probably the safest swimming beach on the Sonoma coast.

Sonoma Coast State Beach. Broad, shining beaches and secluded coves, rugged headlands and natural arches, and a craggy coastline with tidal pools and reefs characterize one of California's most scenic attractions - Sonoma Coast State Beach. The beach, actually a series of beaches separated by rocky bluffs, extends 17 miles from Bodega Head to Myer's Gulch, just south of Fort Ross in Sonoma County. It is accessible to beachcombers, fishermen, sunbathers, and picnickers from more than a dozen points along coast Highway 1. Generally north coast weather is a chilling combination of wind and fog. Fortunately, during summer, the morning fog usually burns off by mid-day, making for pleasant afternoons. However, even during summer, be prepared for wet, cold, and windy north coast weather. This coast is not for swimming, and lifeguard service is not provided. Sleeper waves, backwash, sudden drop-offs, rip currents and the cold water, make even surf play or climbing on nearby rock outcroppings dangerous.

Camping is available at Wright's Beach.

Can I bring my dog to the park?

Bodega Head, located within Sonoma Coast State Beach, is an outcropping which juts into the Pacific. California Gray Whales can be observed close to the coast as they migrate South from early December through mid-February, and North from March until early May. During the peak of the migratory season, Bodega Head is staffed every Saturday and Sunday by volunteers of the "Stewards of Slavianka", who provide interpretive information and help visitors spot the migrating whales.

Goat Rock, within Sonoma Coast State Park is located off Highway 1 at the mouth of the Russian River. Dozens of mature harbor seals and seal pups can be observed on the sandy shores of the Russian River where it meets the ocean. Although the seals may appear tame, they frighten easily and, like all wild animals, can inflict serious bites. During the March through June pupping season, people or dogs approaching too closely are serious threats to the pregnant females and newborn pups. Pups are unable to swim, and when left alone on land they are defenseless against predators.

This site includes four campgrounds and a picnic area.

Volunteers of the "Stewards of Slavianka" staff the area on weekends to provide interpretive information and to keep the many visitors from getting too close to the shy seals.

Sonoma Coast Goat Rock

Goat Rock at Sonoma Coast State Beach and Mouth of Russian River

Area map for Fort Ross, Stillwater Cove and Sea Ranch State Park 

Fort Ross Historic State Park is located on the coast, approximately 17 miles North of Jenner, off Highway 1. From 1812 to 1839, Fort Ross was the first major white settlement in the California coastal region north of San Francisco. The fortification, gun towers and the buildings, including a Russian Orthodox chapel have been restored and rebuilt. An excellent small museum and a gift shop tell the story of the Russian settlers and the native Americans who lived in this area.

Stillwater Cove Regional Park is located just North of Fort Ross.  The park offers camping, ocean access and a trail through the Redwoods.

Public access to the coast is available from five parking lots which are located off Highway 1, providing beach access, tide pooling, fishing, diving and a sandy beach.

Salt Point State Park is located on the rugged northern California coastline about ninety miles north of San Francisco on State Highway 1, nineteen miles north of Jenner. The shoreline within the 6,000-acre park features rocky promontories such as Salt Point which jut out into the Pacific Ocean. There are also a number of coves such as Gerstle Cove and Fisk Mill Cove in the lee of points. The park includes one of the first underwater parks in California. Fishing is permitted throughout the area with the exception of Gerstle Cove Marine Reserve, within which marine life is completely protected. The up-land portion of the park features both grassland and forest areas. The most popular activities at Salt Point State Park include camping, picnicking, photography, fishing, skin and SCUBA diving, as well as hiking and riding. Salt Point has a small visitors center which is open from April to November on week-ends and holidays. There are 109 walk-in camp spots.

Tide Pool Walks are offered on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and the Junior Ranger Program  will be 1 pm to 2:30. A Junior Ranger program is also offered on Sundays at 10am to 11:30.

These times can vary but all park activities  are posted each week at the kiosks, restrooms, visitor center and camp host sites. There are activity sheets for the Junior Ranger programs at Woodside and Gerstle kiosks. For more information contact Karen Broderick at]

Camping is available at 109 drive-in and 20 walk-in sites. These include flush toilets, but no showers.

For diving conditions, call 707-847-3222.

Sonoma coast Gerstle cove

Gerstle Cove at Salt Point State Park

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve. This 317-acre state reserve is located directly adjacent to Salt Point and features a beautiful second-growth redwood forest mixed with Douglas firs, grand firs, tanoaks, and many rhododendrons. Each May the green of the forest is punctuated by patches of pink as these rhododendrons burst into bloom. The wealth of rhododendrons is a direct result of normal plant succession patterns following a severe fire that once occurred here. Today, the regenerated forest is gradually overwhelming the rhododendrons. There are five miles of hiking trails through the quiet forest and a number of picturesque bridges over fern-filled canyons made by the seasonal streams that abound in this region each winter.

Gualala Point Regional Park is located at the North end of the Sea Ranch and South of the town of Gualala.  The park offers a campground, a visitor center, a nice sandy beach, hiking trails and access to the Gualala River and the Redwoods.

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