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Bodega Head Hikes

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Why Hike Bodega Head:

A hike on Bodega Head offers some of the most beautiful vistas in the county. On a clear day you can see a panoramic view of Bodega Bay, the Sonoma and Marin coasts, Point Reyes peninsula, Tomales Point and beyond.

Many people consider Bodega Head the best place in the county for bird watching and whale watching. Volunteer docents are at the parking lot on weekends, January to May, to assist the public in viewing the annual gray whale migration. Plus, the wildflower displays are magnificent.

Getting There:

Heading north on coastal Highway 1, drive through the the town of Bodega Bay. At the intersection of Eastshore Rd, you will see a sign for Bodega Head, Marinas, and Westside Park. Turn left and drive down a steep hill. At the bottom, turn right onto Bay Flat Road. Drive around the harbor past Westside Park. You’ll see a sign for Campbell Cove and the road takes a sharp right. Go uphill and bear right at the fork until you reach the free parking lot by the cliff.

Along the Way, Stop by the UC Bodega Marine Lab:

If it’s Friday afternoon between 2 and 4, stop by the UC Bodega Marine Lab as you're driving down Bay Flat Road.(You'll see the sign and gate.) There’s a great tide pool display, plus a number of aquaria including one with predators and another one with jellyfish. There’s also 24-foot-long Jetty display with hundreds of local fish, some invertebrates and a small kelp forest. If you have kids, it's especially worth it to plan your hike for a Friday. Entry is free but donations are encouraged.

Further Along the Way, Stop by the Hole in the Head:

At the Campbell Cove parking, walk toward the fenced area and the boardwalk to take a look at the "pond." Back in the mid-1960s, PG&E had planned to build a nuclear power plant on Bodega Head. They even went as far as to dig a big hole in the ground, which was to house the nuclear reactor. But, PG&E had overlooked one minor detail: Bodega Head sits practically on top of the San Andreas Fault. After numerous studies and reports and much controvery, PG&E finally ended up scrapping the project.

All that was left of their plans was a big hole in the ground that locals dubbed "The Hole in the Head." The hole eventually filled up with rainwater and is now this "pond" which serves as a freshwater sanctuary for birds and wildlife. To their credit, PG&E averted a complete public relations nightmare by selling this entire 225-acre site to the state park district for $1.

Be Careful:

Since 1989, at least 12 people have died after falling down cliffs along the Sonoma Coast, three were at Bodega Head. One woman fell to her death after a misstep while flying a kite. Suffice to say, these hikes are not safe for young children who can be easily distracted. And the trails are not well suited for strollers. Otherwise, both of the two main trails have been rated as easy, and older kids should be fine.

Make Sure to Notice Those Rocks:

While you're hiking here, make sure to notice all the granite: the white rock speckled with black and grey. This is your clue that Bodega Head is actually a runaway granite outcropping from lands 300 miles south of here. Geologists believe it was once a part of the Tehachapi Mountains, at the southern end of the Sierra-Nevadas.

This piece probably broke off as the Pacific Tectonic Plate, on which Bodega Head and Point Reyes sit, continued its northbound journey, leaving the rest of the mountain range behind. During the great earthquake of 1906, the rocky promontory moved northward another 15 feet. While Bodega Head sits on the Pacific Plate, the town of Bodega Bay sits on the North American Plate. The area where the two tectonic plates meet is the infamous San Andreas Fault.

Hiking the First Trail:

The first trail follows the edge of the cliff going counterclockwise around the headland. Go to the south side of the parking lot and start at an unmarked path beginning to the left of the toilets. When you get to the fork, bear right, and go toward the ocean. You’ll see the Fishermen’s Memorial which commemorates the many fishermen who failed to return home to Bodega Head. It’s a grouping of cement blocks and a helm, arranged to look like the bow of a ship.

Veer to your left and follow the path at the edge of the bluff. At the southern tip you’ll get an excellent view of Tomales Point, Mt. Wittenberg and the Marin Coastline. (The Bodega Bay straddles the Sonoma-Marin County line.) Also, you’ll probably see and hear the sea lions which congregate at a small, nearby island to the south. To the east is Bodega Harbor and, on the other side of the harbor, you’ll see the town of Bodega Bay. This is where Alfred Hitchcock filmed much of The Birds.

Hiking the Second Trail:

Go to the north side of the parking lot to the marked Bodega Head Trail. After passing a picnic table, you’ll see a side trail that goes down to a secluded beach. Once again, be careful. California’s North Coast is spectacular, but deadly. Don’t walk near the surf line or climb on the rocks that jut out into the ocean. You can easily be swept away by a sleeper wave.

As you go back up and continue on the path, the hike will bring you to a fork at about 3.5 miles. A trail to the left dead-ends at Horseshoe Cove Overlook, where you can see UC’s Bodega Marine Lab. The trail to the right will take you to Salmon Creek Beach, a little over a mile away. Take this trail downhill until you see a sign marking the boundary of the Marine Reserve. The trail cuts to the left, and you’ll see a sign with the symbol of a hiker. Cut across the paved road of the Marine Lab and continue on through the dunes, following the wooden markers. The trail meets up with the Salmon Creek/Bodega Dunes loop which you can follow north to the Bodega Dunes Campground.

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