Western Trips

Western Trips

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Coastal Hiking / California Coast Region


bodega head California
Bodega Head

Hiking Bodega Head

If you're looking for a scenic area for coastal hiking during your northern California vacation, Bodega Head on the California coast will offer you some of the most beautiful vistas found anywhere. If your hike happens to be on a clear coastal day you'll be able to have a view of the Sonoma and Marin coast all the way south to Point Reyes, Tomales Bay and even past that.

The California coast region has some of the country's most scenic hiking trails. Bodega Head is well known as one of the best places in Sonoma County California for both bird watching and whale watching. Volunteer docents can be found at the parking lot on weekends, January to May, to assist the public in viewing the annual gray whale migration. Fortunately for us, during out early February visit to Bodega Head we did indeed view gray whales on their journey between Baja California and Alaska.


bodega head hiking trail
Bodega Head Hiking Trail
The Trail

The trail at Bodega Head begins at the north end of the parking area. At this point is a small downhill trail to the beach below. To follow the Bodega Head Trail continue straight at this junction. The trail will begin an easy incline up the hills overlooking the coast. Along this trail you'll find short trails that go to the left which takes you even closer to the rocky coastline. As the Bodega Head Trail ascends you'll have breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean to the west where often you'll see fishing boast from the inner harbor.The trail continues to the top of the bluffs where it becomes fairly level.

Staying straight on the main trail will eventually take you to Horseshoe Cove Overlook. The trail ends at a little over a half mile from it's starting point.

The second part of the coastal hiking Bodega Head Trail begins at the south part of the parking area. Along this trail you'll view the fishermen's memorial which consists of cement blocks and a helm that resemble the bow of a ship. From this point the path will go to the left and hug the edge of the cliffs. The cliffs at this point are quite steep and the views out on the ocean are fascinating.

northern pacific coastline
Spectacular Pacific Coast scenery
From this point onward the trail is mostly level and then turns to the east. Some of the best views to the south at Tomales Bay can be seen from this area. The soutn section of the Bodega Head Trail will eventually take you back to the parking area. Whether you hike the north section, south section or both, make certain to bring along your camera. The views are incredible and on a good sunny day you'll be able to take some great photos.

The San Andreas Fault and the Rocks at Bodega Head

Hikers at Bodega Head will see rocks quite different to the coastal area just to the east. The rocks at Bodega Head were actually torn off the continent some twenty million years ago when the San Andreas Fault came into existence and were pushed several hundred miles northward. Bodega Head rocks are continental granite and the rocks just a few miles east on the mainland coast are oceanic in origin.Similar rock in found further north at Point Reyes and also on the Farallon Islands.

Bodega Bay  

When you hike Bodega Head you're walking along a area of historic significance along the California coast region.  The history of the scenic town of Bodega Bay and the harbor region goes all the way back to the time of the Russian occupation of the northern coast of Alta California. The Russian's primary settlement in the region was further north at Fort Ross, also directly on the coast. Russian traders used Bodega Bay as a port from about 1810 to 1840. enjoyed the presence of the Russians in as much as it helped protect them from the Spaniards to the south who were known to raid Indian villages for workers.


california pacific coast
Wave action off Bodega Head
The name of Bodega Bay originates from Bodega y Cuadra, the name of a Spanish explorer who sailed into the bay in 1775. All during the time of the Spanish occupation of Alta California and during the short period of Mexican rule there was concern about the intentions of the Russians. It's commonly accepted that the California Spanish missions in both San Rafael and Sonoma were established in part to help solidify their rule on their northern frontier. It's interesting to note that the Russians never made an attempt to colonize the north area. This was the main concern of both the Spaniards and Mexicans. Their activity was confined to trapping and trading.

Two additional Western Trips photo article links you'll enjoy are the Sonoma County Russian River Kiyaking  and  the Historic Big Sur California Bridges.

Reaching Bodega Head

The town of Bodega Bay is directly on Hwy 1 about a 67 mile drive north/northwest of San Francisco. From Hwy 1 turn west on Eastshore Road. At the bottom of the hill at the stop sign, turn right on Bay Flat Rd. This road will go around the bay for 3 miles. At the end of the road you'll have a hairpin turn to the right. Go uphill another another half mile to the large parking area  by the cliffs.

pacific coast hiking trails
Typical view from the Bodega Head Hiking Trail
Another way to reach Bodega Bay and the Bodega Head Hiking Trails from the San Francisco area is to travel north on U.S. Hwy 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge. Exit Hwy 101 at Hwy 12 in Santa Rosa. Go west on Hwy 12 through the delightful Sonoma County city of Sabastopol and continue on Hwy 12 through the town of Bodega (this is not Bodega Bay). After curving to through Bodega and going up a small hill turn right at the stop sign. This is Hwy 1 and will take you to the town of Bodega Bay about five miles away.

As the photos in this article show, I think you'll find  the Bodega Head Hiking Trail one of the more picturesque of any found on California's northern coast. It's one of the more popular coastal hiking trails that offer both great recreation and terrific ocean views.

(Photos from author's private collection)
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