Sonoma Section 1

Gualala Point Regional Park Visitor Center to Sea Ranch Lodge

Sonoma Section 1

Gualala Point Regional Park Visitor Center to Sea Ranch Lodge

This first walk in Sonoma County traverses a part of the coast that gave birth to the modern coastal protection movement. See the feature The Battle For the Sea Ranch Coast. Though Sea Ranch has many houses, you'll enjoy its gorgeous shore line. Consider staying overnight in Sea Ranch accommodations, which gives you the right to walk private trails at Sea Ranch, including the southern six miles of the Blufftop Trail to Sea Ranch Lodge.

This walk starts at the visitor center with dramatic views overlooking the GuaIala River and Mendocino shore to the north. Take the paved trail northwest then southwest for about 450 feet, then go left on the dirt path where the paved trail swings to the right. You follow a row of cypress trees and the fence marking the Sea Ranch boundary. At ¼ mile turn left through the fence and trees onto the Blufftop Trail which meanders along the convoluted, rugged bluffs. At ¼ miles you drop down to a small creek and meet Salal Trail which loops back to the visitor center.

Blufftop Trail climbs out of the ravine and crosses flat headlands with the stylish Sea Ranch houses arranged in clusters. Pass a cypress windrow, then cross a small creek at 1⅝ miles. At 2 miles you pass through another windrow, this one marking the boundary of the Del Mar Landing Ecological Reserve set aside to protect marine invertebrates. Take the right fork and pass the site of the lumber schooner landing. Little remains but a wooden beam and a rusty spike sticking out of the ground.

The trail continues along the bluff, passing through two more cypress windbreaks and crossing two creeks. Meet the junction with the Walk-on Beach Trail at 3¼ miles. You can take the side trail down to the beach for a break. Head northeast from the junction to find the parking area and highway at 3½ miles. The next 6 miles to Sea Ranch Lodge follow the shoulder of Highway 1. You can break up or lengthen the walk by taking any of the four public trails down to scenic pocket beaches along the rugged, rocky tideline. Pass the first side trail, Shell Beach, at 4⅝ miles. It offers a 1¼-mile round trip. Stengel Beach Trail at 6 miles makes a ⅜-mile side trip. Pass the Pebble Beach Trail at 7⅝ miles, a round trip of ⅝ mile. At 9 miles, just before reaching the lodge, you'll find the Black Point Beach Trail, a ⅝-mile round trip. The hike ends at 9¼ miles at Sea Ranch Lodge where you'll also find a store, restaurant and post office.

SUGGESTED ROUND TRIPS & LOOPS: From the visitor center take the Blufftop Trail and loop back on the Salal Trail for a 2½-mile hike. From the visitor center to Walk-on Beach is 6½ miles round trip. For a great short walk, take the 1¼-mile loop from the visitor center to the beach at the river mouth and back along the bluff.

Distance: 9.25 miles ( 14.9 kilometers).

Open to: Hikers. Bicyclists on highway.

Surface: Trail, highway shoulder.

Access point: Gualala Point Regional Park Visitor Center.

How to get there: Turn west off Highway 1, .25 mile south of the Gualala River bridge and drive .5 mile to the visitor center.

Other access: Via Salal TraiI and at Walk-on Beach, Shell Beach, Stengel Beach, Pebble Beach, and Black Point Beach trailheads.

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain/loss: 230 feet+/ 190 feet-.

Cautions: Sea Ranch is closed to the public except for the northern Bluftop Trail, Salal Trail and the five access trails and the beaches they reach, plus any of the tideline you can walk below the mean high tide line. Wandering off the trails is trespassing. Blufftop Trail south of Walk-on Beach is closed to the public, but open to anyone staying in Sea Ranch lodgings.

Further information: Gualala Point Regional Park (707)785-2377.

Facilities: Park's visitor center has water, restrooms, picnic tables. The five beach trailheads have chemical toilets. Sea Ranch Lodge has a restaurant and small store.

Campgrounds: Gualala Point Regional Park Campground is east of the highway.

Lodging: Sea Ranch has a lodge and many houses for rent (800)732-7262. If you stay in Sea Ranch lodging, you have the right to walk the non-public trails of Sea Ranch.

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