Coastal Trail Guide

Mendocino Land Trust

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Southern Coastal Trails

Hike Our Trails

Mendocino Land Trust has pioneered the way in California for nongovernmental organizations to open and operate public access trail easements. The abundance of coastal access trails helps contribute to the local economy, providing healthy opportunities to get out and enjoy our beautiful coast to residents and visitors alike.

The California Coastal Trail is managed and maintained by a wide variety of Federal, State, County, City, and non-governmental organizations (non-profits) throughout California and on the Mendocino Coast.

  • Manchester State Park offers 1,500 acres of coastal beauty, with camping, miles of sandy beaches, and winding trails through sand dunes, as well as fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities. There are beautiful seasonal wildflowers here.  This park extends from Alder Creek at its north end to the Garcia River at the south.  In winter, steelhead trout and coho salmon pass through Alder and Brush Creeks, as well as the Garcia River.

    Manchester State Park’s beaches are accessed via trailheads at Alder Creek, Kinney, and Stoneboro Roads.  Look for wildlife tracks in the sandy dunes on your way to the beach. On a clear day, you may have expansive views to the north and south from Manchester Beach, where there are scattered piles of gnarled, sun-bleached driftwood. This place offers a sense of solitude and wildness.  The endangered snowy plover, Point Arena mountain beaver, and threatened red-legged frog live here and are protected by law. To help protect these animals, dogs must stay on leash and are only allowed in campgrounds.

    From the south end of Manchester Beach, you can see Point Arena Rock to the southwest. Before the Point Arena Lighthouse was complete, this offshore rock sank six ships.  You can see artifacts from these shipwrecks at the Point Arena Lighthouse visitor center. 

    The northernmost San Andreas Fault line lies just offshore of Manchester State Park. This 800-mile long fault marks the intersection of the Pacific and North American plates. The dynamic landscape here has been shaped by movement along this active fault, as well as stream runoff and rising sea levels. 

    Camping is popular here during the summer, and reservations can be made on ReserveAmerica.com.  If you plan to go fishing, you will need a license.  For more information on fishing, please visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife webpage.

    Manchester State Beach trail map

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  • No cell phone receptionThis location has no cellular reception. Please plan accordingly. We recommend that you download the PDF trail data sheet below to your device prior to your trip to this location.

    This is the first mainland-based unit of the California Coastal National Monument (CCNM). Before this, the CCNM consisted of only the offshore rocks and islands off the California Coast. 

    This Unit offers gorgeous views to the north and south, great hiking paths, opportunities to see migrating whales, and an abundance of birds and other wildlife on and off shore. The Point Arena Lighthouse and Garcia River are northern neighbors.

    These lands were either donated to, or purchased by, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  The land donations and purchases were made possible by many generous grants and contributions by agencies, non-government organizations and individuals. A “Friends of Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument” group is currently forming- for more information, please visit pointarenastornetta.org.

    Point Arena Stornetta Unit trail map

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    Trail Latitude (X): 38.9368

    Trail Longitude (Y): -123.7204

    Mapping: View vicinity on Google Maps (see Trail Map above or Trail Data Sheet PDF under the Information tab for a more precise map)

    Highway One Mile Marker (north end): 17

    Highway One Mile Marker (south end): 15.94

    Trail Length: 5 miles

  • No cell phone receptionThis location has no cellular reception. Please plan accordingly. We recommend that you download the PDF trail data sheet below to your device prior to your trip to this location.

    This stunning preserve south of Point Arena offers 2.2 miles of public trails, with a parking lot just west of Highway One near the southeastern end of the property. There are spectacular ocean views from very high white cliffs on this property.  These cliffs are very steep, making it essential to stay on the trail.  There is also a short (0.5 mile) flat loop trail that wraps through bishop pines and an open meadow.

     

    This 73-acre preserve is home to endangered Point Arena Mountain Beaver and several rare plants, as well as a creek that is recovering from cattle grazing and Bishop pine forest.  Check out this video about Pelican Bluffs before you visit:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN7vDu0JWss

     

    Pelican Bluffs is owned and managed by the Mendocino Land Trust (MLT).  MLT hosts volunteer stewardship workdays to maintain the trail, pick up trash, and remove invasive plants. If you would like to help out, please contact MLT at 707-962-0470. 

    Pelican Bluffs Trail trail map

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    Trail Latitude (X): 38.895

    Trail Longitude (Y): -123.684

    Mapping: View vicinity on Google Maps (see Trail Map above or Trail Data Sheet PDF under the Information tab for a more precise map)

    Highway One Mile Marker (north end): 14.3

    Highway One Mile Marker (south end): 13.5

    Trail Length: 2.2 miles

  • The scenic Moat Creek Trail begins at a gravel parking lot on Highway One, west of mile marker 12.89. From the gravel parking lot, you can either take a short trail to the beach or climb the steps to the top of the bluff for a stunning ocean and coastal prairie view. To reach Bowling Ball Beach, continue to follow the Moat Creek Trail south along the bluff edge. After about a mile, the trail drops down to a beach at Ross Creek. At low tide, you can continue to walk south on the beach to reach the famous “bowling balls” of Schooner Gulch State Park. The trail between Moat and Ross Creeks is owned by the State Coastal Conservancy and managed by the Moat Creek Management Agency.

     

    You can also access Bowling Ball Beach and Schooner Gulch State Park from the south. Southbound parking is only available near mile marker 11.41 on the west side of Highway One. If you pass this mile marker, please do not try to make a “U” turn. The roads are narrow and winding with limited visibility, and a U-turn in this area is dangerous as well as illegal.  There is a safe location to turn around 1/3 of a mile down the road.

     

    Once you have parked, the Schooner Gulch trailhead is west of the highway. At the trailhead, there are two options - the south fork leads to Schooner Gulch Beach, while the north fork leads to Bowling Ball Beach. The trail to Bowling Ball Beach passes through a meadow out to the bluff edge, then down a set of eroding stairs to the beach. Please be careful and watch your footing as you descend, as this trail is in serious disrepair.

     

    The best time to visit Bowling Ball Beach is at low tide when the "bowling balls" are visible. These natural “bowling balls” are popular with curious nature lovers and photographers. During low tides, the waves recede to reveal a natural curiosity - hundreds of large rounded stones in tidy rows, sitting upon solid bedrock. Uniform in size, shape, and spacing, these boulders are geological formations called “concretions.”  Concretions are small pockets of extra-tough stone that formed inside sedimentary rock millions of years ago. Ocean waves crashed and carved away at the softer sedimentary rock on the outside, leaving the concretions behind.  If you look carefully at the bluffs above the beach, you can see some of the “bowling ball” concretions peeking out from the sedimentary rock cliffs.

    Moat Creek Trail to Bowling Ball Beach trail map

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    Trail Latitude (X): 38.882

    Trail Longitude (Y): -123.673

    Mapping: View vicinity on Google Maps (see Trail Map above or Trail Data Sheet PDF under the Information tab for a more precise map)

    Highway One Mile Marker (north end): 13

    Highway One Mile Marker (south end): 12.88

    Trail Length: 1.5 miles

  • No cell phone receptionThis location has no cellular reception. Please plan accordingly. We recommend that you download the PDF trail data sheet below to your device prior to your trip to this location.

    The Hearn Gulch Trail, located in the southern Mendocino Coast’s "banana belt," offers lovely spring wildflowers and spectacular views to the north and south. A short hike offers access to a small pocket beach at Hearn Gulch, which is a fairly easy walk with a short but steep set of rough stairs leading down to the beach. This blufftop overlook was saved from development in 1999 by the Friends of Schooner Gulch, and is now stewarded for conservation and public access by the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC). More information on RCLC can be found at rclc.org.

    Hearn Gulch Trail trail map

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    The Hearn Gulch Trail, located in the southern Mendocino Coast’s "banana belt," offers lovely spring wildflowers and spectacular views to the north and south. A short hike offers access to a small pocket beach at Hearn Gulch, which is a fairly easy walk with a short but steep set of rough stairs leading down to the beach. 

    Trail Latitude (X): 38.8508

    Trail Longitude (Y): -123.6474

    Mapping: View vicinity on Google Maps (see Trail Map above or Trail Data Sheet PDF under the Information tab for a more precise map)

    Highway One Mile Marker (north end): 10.52

    Highway One Mile Marker (south end): 10

    Trail Length: 0.5 miles

  • No cell phone receptionThis location has no cellular reception. Please plan accordingly. We recommend that you download the PDF trail data sheet below to your device prior to your trip to this location.

    Cooks Beach is one of the few public sandy beaches on the southern Mendocino Coast. There aren’t a lot of places to park at the trailhead, but two pretty trails offer either blufftop views of the Pacific Ocean or a walk through a bishop pine forest down to a large, sandy pocket beach. Leashed dogs are welcome here, and this is a great family beach. The bluff trail leads out to the Bonham Overlook. This trail is managed by the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC) and more information can be found on this organization's website, rclc.org.

    Bonham Trail to Cooks Beach trail map

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    Trail Latitude (X): 38.79

    Trail Longitude (Y): -123.56

    Mapping: View vicinity on Google Maps (see Trail Map above or Trail Data Sheet PDF under the Information tab for a more precise map)

    Highway One Mile Marker (north end): 3.22

    Highway One Mile Marker (south end): 3.14

    Trail Length: 0.25 miles

  • The Gualala Bluff Trail is a beautiful trail created and maintained by volunteers and the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy (RCLC). It offers a wonderful view of the Gualala River Estuary, Gualala Point Park, and the Pacific Ocean. The trail is nicely landscaped, with native plants bordering the trail edge and benches where visitors can sit and admire the view. The trail is just a few minutes’ walk from downtown Gualala and can be accessed at the Surf Motel driveway or between the Breakers Inn and Sandbar Restaurant. The trail travels behind three inns and other commercial buildings above the Gualala River. Parts of it are relatively flat and other parts slightly more challenging.

     

    This is an excellent place to view wildlife, including passing whales and river otters that haul out on the beach or can be seen in the Gualala River. There are many seabirds as well, such as pelicans, gulls, and cormorants.  Watching the Gualala River break through the sandbar at its mouth after the first winter rains is a spectacular sight. Winter wave watching is popular, as is spring wildflower viewing.  For more information, please visit the RCLC webpage at rclc.org.

    Gualala Bluff Trail trail map

    Click or tap to view the full-size map.

    There are two ways to access the trail from the town of Gualala, listed here from north to south: (1) from the Surf Motel driveway at the monument sign, (2) at the Breakers Inn/Sandbar Restaurant. 

    Trail Latitude (X): 38.768

    Trail Longitude (Y): -123.53

    Mapping: View vicinity on Google Maps (see Trail Map above or Trail Data Sheet PDF under the Information tab for a more precise map)

    Highway One Mile Marker (north end): 0.7

    Highway One Mile Marker (south end): 0.6

    Trail Length: 0.4 miles