The Sea Ranch is a private community in Sonoma County that has provided access to some of its beaches by developing public trails accessible from Highway 1 over some 7 miles of bluffs. Beginning near Gualala Point Regional Park, the longest trail is the Bluff Top Trail which follows along the tops of the cliffs through cypress groves, sandstone formations and meadows where you'll see birds and other wildlife. Bluff Top leads to the Walk on Beach Trail, whose .25-mile path travels through the grove to a staircase down to a small beach. Further down Highway 1 you'll find Shell Beach Trail, about .65 mile, which takes you through pines and a meadow to a wide, sandy beach with lots of sea rocks to climb and tidal pools to explore. The very short Stengel Beach Trail is next, which features seasonal waterfalls arising in the bluffs down to the beach, followed by Pebble Beach and Black Point Trails. The Black Point Beach, like all of the beaches, are accessed by wooden staircases built into the bluffs, but this one is particularly steep. Black Point is where surfers gather to catch the sometimes impressive waves formed by the crescent-shaped cove.
Each trail has its own parking area off Highway 1, some larger than others, but all are restricted to cars only - no RVs or trailers. The property surrounding the marked trails is privately-owned, and rangers will ticket anyone who wanders off the trail. These are carry in-carry out trails with no waste receptacles.
Gualala Point Regional Park at the northernmost end of the trail system is a great place to stop for its whale-watching, birding and picnicking features. Parking for Gualala is $7.00 per vehicle. Its campground is nestled among tall redwoods along the Gualala River.
This dog-friendly group of trails along the furbulous Pacific coastline provides access to otherwise unavailable beaches. Even if you only hike the Bluff Top Trail or walk to the ends of the other trails and don't go down to the beaches, you'll be treated to furtastic views of sea rock formations and pawsome sunsets.
These trails traverse cliff tops to the ocean and conditions may be significantly different between the parking lot and the shoreline: temperatures may drop and wind speeds rise, so come prepared with layered clothing. If you plan to descend the steep wooden staircases to the beach, wear sturdy shoes to prevent slipping.