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Four new trails open sheltered beaches in Sonoma County.

After more than a decade of controversy, four short new trails on privately owned land allow access to a spectacular 10-mile stretch of northern California coastline. These public trails, crossing Sea Ranch lands, connect Highway 1 with state-owned tidelands.

Sea Ranch is about 120 miles north of San Francisco on State Highway 1. This exclusive seaside hideaway, perched on grassy headlands above sheltered beaches and quiet coves, resisted public access until 1980, when legislation was passed allowing the public within the subdivision. You'll find abundant bird and sea life to watch, beaches to comb, and perhaps a glimpse of migrating whales. Drive to a separate small parking lot near each trailhead; put the $1 day-use fee in the box at the lot. Parking is limited (no highway parking, no RVs): you should have better luck now than in busier seasons.

The southernmost trailhead, Black Point, has space for eight cars. The 1/3-mile-long trail leads past several houses to a grassy bluff overlooking the ocean. A sturdy redwood staircase gets you to the sand. North 1-1/2 miles, Pebble Beach has four parking spaces; a 1/3-mile-long path also leads to a staircase and small beach. Two miles beyond, Shell Beach has six parking spaces and a 1/2-mile-long path to a bit of sheltered shoreline.

Six miles farther is Gualala Point Regional Park (fee $2). Here, near the north end of Sea Ranch, you can follow a new blufftop trail 1 mile to the existing Salal Trail, which follows a creek 1/2 mile to a small cove. An existing paved trail leads to picnic tables and the beach. The park visitor center has maps, a brochure, and information on local flora and fauna, fishing, diving, and winter beaching.
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Title Annotation:Sea Ranch, California
Date:Mar 1, 1986
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