When you repeatedly go back to one of your favorite spots in your favorite area…things just fall into place. I may have a lot of favorites but the Sonoma Coast is definitely at the top! The feeling you get when you look out at the rocky coastline with the fog rolling by, the sun rising and the salty air in every breath…it feels like home. The hubs and I are lucky enough to be able to slide out of bed and sneak out to the coast any time we want. This beautiful January morning was magical.
The hubs and I wanted to be up the first part of the hike at sunrise. We were close. The sun was rising and the sky lit up various shades of pinks and blues as we were driving along the Sonoma Coast so we pulled over to watch this magic happen. Watching the dawn of a new day is one of our new favorite things to do together. We jumped back in the truck and kept driving north to Shell Beach. One of the best parts of this hike is being able to hike from the ocean up and over into a forest and back. Best of both worlds!
Start out in the Shell beach parking lot and cross Highway 1 to reach the Pomo Canyon trailhead. Careful as cars whiz by here! The first part of the hike is straight up a fire road. Don’t forget to turn around and enjoy the expanding view behind you. We were fortunate enough to witness the fog rolling off the Russian River flowing over Kortum Trail and dropping down into the ocean as we hiked up. At the top we opted to do the Pomo Canyon loop hike in a clockwise direction. Pomo Canyon trail rises high above the fog and skirts the Russian River below. We could see all the mountain tops around us while the canyons were filled with dense fog…and no one else on the trails with us.
Standing at a park bench above the Russian River we could hear the cows on the next mountain north of us mooing at each other. I often make myself giggle with what I think the cows (or any other animals we encounter) are saying to each other. 🙂 This was our first break from the climb up. Then off we went through the lushness of the grasses and pockets of trees to the redwood groves. There’s something about these majestic trees that seem to absorb any stress you might be holding on to.
Following Pomo Canyon Trail down toward the campground the trail becomes more dense with fog, bushes, grasses and trees until you reach the campground. One day we will camp here. It would be amazing to sleep among the redwoods! At the bottom of the campground start heading toward the back following the creek. It was slightly creepy since we were the only ones around but so peaceful too. The trails were muddy from the recent rains so I walked carefully as we all know how much my booty is attracted to mud. The creek was just barely flowing and the mushrooms formed their own city in a blocked off area for rehabilitation. We head heard years ago that there was a seasonal waterfall here and had not been able to find it on previous hikes. With a little more knowledge and a little more desire we ventured further into the campground.
The creek leads you around redwoods and back to a large rock and tree canyon with water dropping down. WE FOUND THE POMO CANYON WATERFALL! Or at least where it would be if we had a huge rainfall. It was just a trickle while were there and am not sure how you would get back there if it were flowing really good as you need to rock hop across the creek. The hubs and I spent some time admiring the really tall rock slide that hid water falling before we headed back out of Pomo Campground.
Climbing back out of Pomo Canyon took us some time and feeling adventurous we took the Red Hill Trail up to the top of the park. We hiked through one last stand of trees and reached open grassland with 360 degree views of the Sonoma Coast, Pomo Canyon, Willow Creek, Jenner and the Russian River. It was so unebelievably gorgeous to see Sonoma County in all her glory! The views kept us company as we took the single track trail and wound our way back down to Pomo Canyon Trail. We started to see more people out on the trails. Bummer for them they missed the fog filled valleys and gorgeous sunrise but so great to see others enjoy something we love so much.
As usual we try and find a place to have lunch after our hikes. We were planning on stopping in Jenner at the little cafe but there was no parking so we stopped in to Duncans Mills and at at Cape Fear. The hubs taunted me with his amazing looking eggs benedict so I made him go shopping for a beach blanket in the fair trade store after lunch. 🙂
If you are looking for a moderate hike with coast views, forest and a seasonal waterfall (or blackberries during the summer), then Pomo Canyon should be top of your list!
Parking=free, pit toilet in the parking lot, 50% sun, 7.6, 1,000 ft elevation gain/loss, no dogs. Nearest food is Bodega to the south or Jenner and Duncans Mills to the north. No maps needed as it is either a balloon hike or out and back.
Don’t forget to check out the video of the hike on our Hike Then Wine YouTube channel!
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