Sonoma Section 6
Russian Gulch to Blind Beach Trailhead, Sonoma Coast State Beach
This short, dramatic section takes you from a pocket beach, along a high marine terrace full of wildflowers onto a broad beach where you cross the Russian River mouth, finishing up at a dramatic overlook of Goat Rock and Blind Beach.
From the parking lot at Russian Gulch, CCT heads for the highway and climbs south on its west shoulder. Near the top of the hill, just past where the highway barrier ends around ⅜ mile, climb the 10-foot embankment and look for an Old railroad bed that heads west along the base of the little knoll. When the huge redwood trees were being stripped from the hills, this old railroad ran up Russian Gulch and delivered logs to a mill and landing site overlooking Russian Gulch Beach. Follow the bed west, watching for ties buried in the dirt, to the point high above the ocean for great views. The road returns to the highway at ¾ mile, where it's necessary to walk a very narrow shoulder for a few hundred feet. After you pass the "MUNIZ Ranch" sign east of the highway, watch for the informal trail around ⅞ mile made by past explorers. It leaves the highway, dropping down the ravine to a culvert, then climbs south to the marine terrace. Follow the bluff edge to 1⅛ miles and look for a path coming straight down from the highway. It leads to a rugged path that drops down to the beach. If you aren't afraid of a fairly steep trail, and if the tide is low, you can walk a beautiful rocky shore for ½ mile, climbing another steep trail just before the "no-pass" at the other end. The trail is accessible but tricky so use caution. The other choice is to return to the highway to avoid three steep and deep ravines that cut through the terrace.
Walk the shoulder to 1½ miles where the vegetation ends and leave the highway for another volunteer path. Follow it a few hundred feet to the trail that climbs from the tideline. Cross this trail and continue to the bluff's edge. Watch for the path at 1¾ miles that drops to the beach at the mouth of the Russian River. In summer when a sandbar closes off the river mouth, descend this trail to hit the beach before 2 miles. If the river is not crossable, take the Alternate Route. Walk down the beach, often littered with driftwood, to the mouth of the river at 2½ miles. The large colony of harbor seals living on the sand bar should not be approached or disturbed. Keep a distance of at least 150 feet between you and the seals. If the sand bar is in place, walk south onto popular Goat Rock Beach and continue toward Goat Rock, the huge flat-topped rock to the south.
At 3⅓ miles the beach ends at the parking lot. Climb the riprap, cross the lot, and walk down to Blind Beach, which may be closed during high surf. If so, retreat north to the road and follow it south to the Blind Beach parking area. If the beach is open, follow it south and take the maintained trail up the bluff around 3½ miles. It climbs the 170-foot bluff and arrives at the lot at 3⅝ miles.
ALTERNATE ROUTE: If you can't cross the Russian River, find the steep trail from the beach just north of the mouth climbing the bluff to the highway. Walk the shoulder south through the quaint town of Jenner, cross the river bridge, and climb west then north to the Blind Beach parking lot, about 3½ miles total.
SUGGESTED ROUND TRIPS & LOOPS: You can reach ¼-mile long Russian Gulch Beach, rimmed by cliffs, via the ⅜-mile trail from the corner of the parking lot through the willows. In winter the creek runs high at times and may be hard to cross, but it's dry in summer. From the Goat Rock Beach parking lot walk about ¼ mile north to the river mouth to check out the harbor seals, or walk south over Goat Rock onto Blind Beach and continue to the south end, 1½ miles round trip.
Distance: 3 ⅝ miles (5.8 kilometers)
Open to: Hikers
Surface: Trail, beach, highway shoulder
Access point: Russian Gulch
How to get there: Turn west off Highway 1, 3 miles north of Jenner into the Russian Gulch parking lot.
Other access: Several points along Highway 1.
Elevation gain/loss: 360 feet +/200 feet-
Cautions: Several very steep trails on Alternate Route.very narrow shoulder for short walk on Highway 1
Further information: None.
Facilities: Chemical toilet at Russian Gulch. Chemical toilet and water at Goat Rock Beach parking lot.
Campgrounds: Willow Creek and Pomo Campgrounds south of Russian River.
Lodging: Jenner lnn Bed and Breakfast (707) 865-2377
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