Pinnacle Gulch Coastal Access
Sonoma County Park,
Sonoma County
In brief:
1 mile out and back hike downhill through coastal scrub to beach.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 1 mile out and back hike is easy, with about 200 feet in elevation change.

Exposure:
Almost completely exposed.

Trail traffic:
Light.

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trail and beach.

Hiking time:
Under 1 hour.

Season:
Nice year round.

Getting there:
From the junction of Bodega Highway and CA 1 (south of Bodega Bay) in Sonoma County, drive north on CA 1 about 3.5 miles, then turn west (left) onto South Harbor Way. At the crest of the hill, turn left on Heron Drive. Drive about 0.9 mile through a residential neighborhood, turn left onto Mockingbird, and continue a short distance to a small parking lot on the left.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/27

GPS coordinates* for trailhead
:
Latitude 3818'47.24"N
Longitude
123 0'50.61"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging
:
Gas, stores, restaurants, pay phones, and motels north in Bodega Bay. No camping.

Trailhead details
:
$7 fee (self register). Small paved parking lot, with drinking water and toilets. No maps at the trailhead, but you don't really need one.

Rules
:
Dogs are permitted, on leash only. No bikes or horses.

The Official Story:
Sonoma County's Pinnacle Gulch page
Sonoma County's Regional Park office 707-565-2041

Map choices and more information:
• 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco, second edition, by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website) has a simple map and description of this hike (order this book from Amazon.com).
• Map from Sonoma County Parks
The Hiker's hip Pocket Guide to Sonoma County, by Bob Lorentzen (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and description of this hike.

Pinnacle Gulch in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to this hike.



Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page



Sonoma County has plenty of protected coastline open to the public, in particular the stretch of CA 1 from Bodega Bay to Jenner, where myriad pullouts right off the road offer immediate access to the rugged, dramatic coastline. Parking lotPinnacle Gulch is a coastal approach with a twist, requiring a 1/2 mile downhill hike to the beach. Since the trail is mostly known only to locals, the beach is often a quiet place, particularly in autumn and winter.
      The trailhead to Pinnacle Gulch is tucked away in the midst of a posh housing development, replete with majestic ocean views and a golf course. Small coastal access signs guide drivers through the neighborhood, to an easy-to-miss parking lot across the street from the trailhead.
      Cross the street and start on the signed trail to Pinnacle Gulch, initially passing under some cypress and wax myrtle on a trail parallel to the road, then emerging in coastal scrub at the top of Pinnacle Gulch. Wooden fences guide hikers downhill, switchbacking across a sloping hillside dotted with bushes of lupine and coyote brush. Pinnacle GulchThe narrow trail then straightens and runs along a small creek on the left, lined with shrubby willows. Look for salmonberries blooming in March and fruiting later in the season -- these deciduous shrubs put forth bright pink blossoms and delicious reddish-golden berries. In autumn, this is a good place to practice birding by ear. Many shy birds flit through the dense thickets of willow, and no matter how quiet I was, the only bird I got a good look at was a spotted towhee, although a group of scrub jays made a racket out in the open on the treeless hillsides. The trail proceeds at a moderate grade downhill, squeezed by the gulch's walls. Homes are visible uphill on the blufftops on both sides of the gulch. Tiny damp channels that feed into the main creek are bridged to keep hikers' feet dry. Trail through Pinnacle GulchWildflower displays are very good and long lasting, particularly on the right side of the trail. In spring you might see orange California poppies and sticky monkeyflower, red paintbrush, white cow parsnip and milkmaids, blue iris and bluedicks, and brown/purple mission bells. Later, in summer, look for pink buckwheat. Keep your distance from huge shrubs of poison oak, which crowd the trail in places. After 0.5 mile, the trail drops to the beach. Here, there are wonderful views, south to Tomales Point at the tip of Point Reyes, and north to Bodega Head. Beach, loking north to Bodega HeadPinnacle Rock looms in the water off the coast, and many seabirds perch on the rocky outcrop. You may also see harbor seals or sea lions. On my last visit, in October, I watched a group of surf scoters patrol the ocean right off the beach. These large ducks are conspicuous, with orange bills that stand out against the water. Make sure you keep an eye on the tides if you set off for a stroll on the beach. When ready, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 1 mile
Last hiked: Monday, October 4, 2004