Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California
We visited Glass Beach in Fort Bragg after I saw some very convincing pictures of pebbles of curved glass on the beach. I had also read that the amount of glass on the beach was significantly less than what it was 30 years ago. Though I was half-hearted about the way it began, I thought Glass Beach was worth a stop on our trip to the northern California coast. Parking at Noyo Headlands at the corner of Old Haul Road and Elm Road, we made our way towards the beach. The glass was not obviously visible from the trail above, so we decided to explore towards McKerricher State Park following a footpath going north.
Coastline just north of Glass Beach, near Fort Bragg, California
The shoreline was rugged, dotted with rock islands and crashing waves. Colorful succulents and orange-colored green algae carpeted the cliffside of the rocky shorelines. Our footpath gave us access to the edge of the cliffs, hearing first hand the loud crashing waves below and allowing us to appreciate the colorful cliffside.
Crossing the trestle bridge, at the start of McKerricher State Park, CA
After about 2 miles of walking, a sign indicating McKerricher State Park greeted us at the start of a trestle. The trestle was part of a bridge which carried different vehicles (trucks, trains) carrying logs across the creek called Pudding Creek. The trestle, now converted to a pedestrian walkway took us over the mouth of the creek towards some hotels. Old Haul Road, now a pedestrian walk path, continued it's straight path north, but we elected to take the winding footpath on the bluffs instead to enjoy the scenic ocean views. The views from Old Haul Road was not spectacular - some houses and what looked like an old cement factory. The bluffside walk had way better views, though not as direct and sometimes ended, forcing us to walk along Old Haul Road.
The glass pebbles at Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, CA
We walked along for another mile or so, hoping to see some tide pools along the way. We spotted some, but not with very much sea life in it aside from the occasional clam. The boys enjoyed sliding down small ridges of sand and making sand forts for the remainder of the afternoon. We ate our lunches beach side and decided to start our walk back towards Glass Beach afterwards. Back at Glass Beach, we decided to take a closer look at the beach below. Groups of people crouching down taking a closer look at the sand kept us hopeful. As we made our way down, we saw one, then two, then more and more curved glass lying on the beach. We saw glass of many colors: red, blue, green, light blue, purple and ceramic of different colors. Glass Beach is nature's beautification effort of a previous dumpsite. Over the years, the ocean’s water has worked it's wonders on the things dumped here, creating beautifully curved pebbles of glass and ceramics. Looking closer at the rocks embedded into the beach, we saw large chunks of plates and other ceramics embedded into the rocks. It was a sad beginning, the way Glass Beach began, but nature has made it beautiful. I can only imagine what this coastline must have looked like with many tons of sharp glass and garbage dumped below the ocean's cliffs. Here's to hoping that we learn from our past errors.
|Features:||Glass pebbled beach, bluffside footpath with views of ocean|
|Directions:||Parking at corner of Elm and Old Haul Road in Fort Bragg|
Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument, Point Arena, CA
I call this hike the “Sinkhole Hike”. The first part of the trail goes by two complete sinkholes, one of them washed from underneath, creating a column underneath the lagoon formed by the wall of the sinkhole. The other is also a Sinkhole with a hole at the bottom. The rest of the coastline here looks like it may have been created by eroded sinkholes as well, with many deep pocketed beaches.
Ocean water coming into the bottom of a sinkhole washed out by erosion. Notice the column formed underneath the sinkhole-wall lagoon.
Just off the shoreline, green table-top islands, sea caves and sea arches dot the waters. There were three stream crossings along our almost 5 mile (round-trip) hike. Two were easy step-across type crossings, but the last one required a ”carry across” - my husband stepped onto a rock in the middle of the stream with his water-proof shoes and carried the kids across. We had to caution the kids from getting too close to the edge, as cliffs are unstable. The November winds were strong, but nothing a hooded jacket couldn't fix.
Sea arches just offshore at Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument, CA
There was a lighthouse nearby, but was closed on the day we went. I read after our hike that the San Andreas fault leaves land for the last time just north of Point Arena at Manchester State Beach. There were no amenities available at this trailhead, except for a portable toilet.
|Features:||Sinkholes, sea caves, sea arches|
|Our Hike:||5 mile round-trip, fairly flat, 3 stream crossings|
|Directions:||Take Hwy 1 to just north of the town of Point Arena, then take Lighthouse Road towards the ocean. At the last bend of the road, there is a trailhead that leads into Stornetta Public Lands. If you reach the Lighthouse, you've gone too far.|
Bowling Ball Beach, near Gualala, CA
This 1.5 mile round-trip hike was about a 10 minute drive from Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument (Sinkhole Park). The trailhead started right off a small parking area just north of Schooner Gulch Bridge. Aside from the sign “Park facing south only”, there are no other distinctive signs to mark the trailhead. Soon after the trail starts, there is a fork - Bowling Ball Beach is to the right or north. The trails ascends slightly for a view of the ocean's crashing waves below, then eventually descends some stairs to get to the beach. At the end of the stairs, there is a small log ladder. The log ladder descends almost vertically but only for a short distance (5 feet or less). Our boys had no trouble making it down - I think it added excitement to the otherwise easy trail for them. Immediately after the ladder, we came across a small stream, with a log lined across it which we used to cross the stream.
Giant 'Bowling Balls' at Bowling Ball Beach, Gualala, CA
Log ladder and stream crossing on the way to Bowling Ball Beach
Less than a mile into the hike, we arrived at our destination. We arrived about 45 minutes before low tide as I was anticipating a longer hike. Nonetheless, we were able to see the bowling balls sprawled across the beach as the water started to recede. Closeby, along the cliff that lined the shore were some interesting rocks. Some dotted with holes, possibly where the 2-foot wide bowling balls fell from. There were also layers of rocks and rock that rose the height of the 30-foot cliff wall that looked like a giant tree trunk. All in all, a fun short hike. Check tide tables beforehand and go at low tide or else the bowling balls may not show themselves!
Different rock formations at Bowling Ball Beach, CA
|Features:||Giant bowling ball rocks at low tide, different rock formations along the cliffs|
|Our Hike:||1.5 miles round-trip, easy but Not accessible, some stairs, a short log ladder, a small stream crossing over a log|
|Directions:||Take Hwy 1 to north of the town of Gualala, Bowling Ball Beach trailhead is just north of Schooner Gulch Bridge, marked by a sign stating "Park facing south only"|
|Accommodations:||We stayed at one of the many hotels in Fort Bragg.|