California Beaches


Seals and Sea Lion Watching on Sonoma Coast Hikes

Sonoma County's north coast around The Sea Ranch provides one of the most beautiful, natural experiences for watching sea life and nature as you take in a healthy hike along the the beach trails. With limited residential and commercial development, this portion of the Northern California coast includes rocky cliffs dotted with wildflowers, deer that roam free, migrating whales you can easily see offshore, and seals and sea lions resting on rocks at the beach.

Whale watching season along the Sonoma coast peaks in December and January but it is possible to see whales most any time. Viewing is best from Gualala Point and Stillwater Regional Parks, or Black Point Beach Access (in Sea Ranch).

The Sea Ranch includes a nice hotel complete with a restaurant, beach and trails on site. It is a great home base for exploring this seemingly remote portion of the coast. Campers will be glad to known there are two campgrounds in this area operated by Sonoma County Parks-- Gualala Point and Stillwater Cove.

Operated by Sonoma County Parks are the parking and trails surrounding The Sea Ranch. The Sea Ranch Coastal Access trails include: Black Point, Bluff Top Trail, Pebble Beach, Stengal Beach, Shell Beach and Walk on Beach.

Parking lots are open at 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. seasonally and are closed at sunset with a fee of around $6 for a car.

Six Sea Ranch access trails provide trailhead parking areas, restrooms and a short hike to outstanding coastal access points. Each of the six access trails provides access to the beaches by footpaths, staircases or trails. Maintenance is limited at sites, so you are asked to carry out anything you bring with you.

The trails are clearly marked from Highway 1. The six access trails and Gualala Regional Park begin approx. 45 miles north of the Russian River. If you are staying at The Sea Ranch Lodge, on the southern portion of the trail, the hike begins at Black Point. Heading north, your next beach access point is approx. 1.5 miles distance at Pebble Beach. Stengel Beach, Shell Beach and Walk On Beach follow--each no more than a mile and a half to the next beach access pont. At Walk On Beach you can see the Del Mar Ecological Reserve and wander along the Bluff Top Trail.