Sonoma Coast State Park

Duncans Mills
More Info


Sonoma Coast State Park stretches along some 16 miles of northern California shoreline. While the majority of the park's visitors come for the numerous beaches along its length there are miles of trails

The Trails

The Korum Trail follows the Pacific Coast from Wright's Beach north to Blind Beach. At numerous spots along the trail there are side paths that lead closer to the cliff edge overlooking coves and beaches below. Because it follows the coast the terrain is usually flat. A couple of creek crossings require short descents into a gulch here and there.

The only significant elevation gain here is the ascent up Peaking Hill between Shell Beach and Blind Beach. Though only about 350 feet above sea level, the saddle pass the trail takes just off of the peak includes a short, but very steep section with some tricky footing.

A short spur trail off of the saddle leads to the summit of Peaking Hill. From this prominent point one has great views to Goat Rock near the mouth of the Russian River to the north and to the south all the way to the arm of Bodega Bay.

At the southern foot of Peaking Hill lies a rough jumble of rock called Sunset Boulders. The sharp edged boulders called to mind Craigh na Dun from the Highlander books and TV series.

Coppertone on one of the many overlooks above the ragged Pacific Ocean shore below. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Coppertone walks along the Kortum Trail a bit inshore from the coast. Boardwalks provide secure footing over boggy or rough terrain. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Kortum Trail heading towards Sunset Boulders with Peaking Hill in the background. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
A closeup view of the Sunset Boulders. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
The prominent peninsula in the distance is Goat Rock. The Kortum Trails ends at Blind Beach short of that spot. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Coppertone stands on the Peaked Hill summit with the inland hills in the distance. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Coppertone descends from Peaked Hill south towards Shell Beach. The Sunset Boulders sit at the base of the hill. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
The trail descends into Furlong Gulch to pass over the creek and provide access to the beach. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Looking back towards the Shell Beach trailhead and the Pacific Ocean. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
As the trail ascends it passes by several rock outcroppings, some of which provide framing for a view of the Pacific Ocean, such as this one. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
A view of Jenner and the Russian River as it empties into the Pacific Ocean. A layer of fog obscures some of the hilltops. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Coppertone looking back on the trail with a layer of fog high overhead. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
The trails provide numerous views inland where multiple ridges can be seen for miles and miles. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Pomo Canyon Trail has more tree cover and close in vegetation than the Red Hill Trail. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
According to the official park map, there's a trail here. We couldn't be sure. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Shorebirds quickly follow receding tides looking for food in the sand. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
At our turnaround point, looking north along South Salmon Creek Beach. Note the horseback riders headed in our direction. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Log Entries
South Salmon Creek Beach
By Austin Explorer on 9/5/2016
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 5.15 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 14 minutes

Coppertone and I intended to hike the slightly inland Bodega Dunes trails down to Bodega Head.  But the going was so tough on the soft sand and we had no way of knowing for sure if we were on a trail at all.  Once we got to the Bodega Dunes Day Use parking area we just jumped off onto the beach and walked along it instead.

On the beach we hiked as close to the surf as possible to take advantage of the more firm, moist sand.  Though still a tiresome hike, it was far easier than the sandy inland area.

We made the most of it.  We watched flocks of shorebirds follow the waves in and out of shore as they quickly hunted for food just under the sand.  We righted a couple of crabs that we found on their backs on the beach.  We quickly scurried farther inland when stronger waves pushed further ashore.

We had fun on the beach, but I'll give this outing a lower rating due to the hiking part itself is far from ideal.  Hiking on sand is no fun.  After a bit over 5 miles it felt like we had hiked more like 10!

David C. Joseph Memorial Trail
By Austin Explorer on 7/31/2016
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 6.26 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 29 minutes

Coppertone and I headed back to Sonoma Coast State Park to avoid some of the expected heat more inland and to just finish mapping out some of the trails in the area.  We really did not expect too much of the loop here, but were we wrong.

The Red Hill trail portion of the loop in particular boasts dramatic views of the the Pacific Ocean, the Russian River delta and the inland mountains.  Mostly the terrain is hilly with grasses and medium sized shrubs.  In a couple of small segments the trail darts into a grove of trees, including a few Redwoods.

The Pomo Canyon Trail rounds out the second half of the loop and represents a dramtic change.  There's much more tree cover but also fewer vista views, though we still managed some nice views into the Russian River valley.

When starting mid morning we went almost 2 hours while only seeing 2 other hikers.  We thought we'd found a hidden gem.  By the time we started to head back towards our parking area the number of people on the trail started to climb dramatically which makes the solitude only average.

Kortum Trail
By Austin Explorer on 6/26/2016
Rating: Difficulty: Solitude:
Distance: 8.67 Miles Duration: 4 hours, 33 minutes

Coppertone and I headed to the coast to avoid some of the heat further inland.  We weren't sure about the distances we'd be able to hike, but it turns out there is more mileage to be had here than we expected.  In the end, the coastal Kortum Trail was long enough to keep us busy for the day.

We started out at the Shell Beach trailhead, headed north to Blind Beach just short of Goat Rock and then doubled back to Wright's Beach before heading back to our starting point.

We spotted three deer bouncing through the high grass and shrubs a couple hundred feet off the trail.  Unfortunately we did not spot any seals along the coast or whales offshore.

We saw a couple of kids with a parent who had picked bunches of wildflowers on the trail.  Please enjoy the flowers on the plants that display them.  It's the only way to ensure that there'll be more flowers for everyone now and in the future!

Recommended Item
Recommended Item Moon California Hiking: The Complete Guide to 1,000 of the Best Hikes in the Golden State (Moon Outdoors)
Tom Stienstra, Ann Marie Brown
List Price: $24.99 Our price: $58.45 Buy Now
Seasoned outdoors authors Tom Stienstra and Ann Marie Brown know the best hiking trails in the Golden State, from breathtaking coastal walks north of Los Angeles to challenging backcountry treks in the Sierra Nevadas. Including 21 new hikes and unique "best-of" lists—including Best Hikes to Waterfalls and Best Hikes to See Wildlife—Moon California Hiking leads beginner and expert hikers alike to the best trails the state has to offer. Complete with detailed regional maps, hiking tips, difficulty and quality ratings for each hike, Moon California Hiking provides hikers with all the necessary tools to head outdoors.