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Salt Point State Park

Salt Point Trail

From Salt Point, Stump Beach Cove is 2.5 miles round trip; to Fish Mill
Cove is 6 miles round trip; to Horseshoe Cove is 10 miles round trip

Sheer, sandstone cliffs, and sandy coves highlight Salt Point State Park’s seven miles of coastline. Tidepools, sea stacks, and sea caves add to the coastal drama.

Marine life is abundant in tidepools. One of the first underwater reserves to be set aside in California—Gerstle Cove—is popular with divers.

Several midden sites found within park boundaries suggest that Pomo and Coast Yuki spent many summers camped on this coast. They gathered abalone and salt to preserve seafood.

Directions to trailhead: Salt Point State Park is located about 90 miles north of San Francisco (or 18 miles north of Jenner, seven miles north of Fort Ross) on Highway 1. From Highway 1, turn west into the state park’s campground and follow signs to Marine Terrace Parking Area.

The hike:
Hike north atop the dramatic bluffs of Salt Point. In 0.25 mile, you’ll cross Warren Creek. At the creek mouth is a little cove, one of about a dozen you’ll encounter along the state park’s coastline.

The coves are quiet now, but in the last century there was much activity. Aleut hunters, brought to nearby Fort Ross by the Russian American Fur Company, hunted otters and seals. Lumber schooners maneuvered into the coves to load redwoods logged from nearby slopes.

The path reaches the bluffs above Stump Beach Cove, which is not, as you might suspect, named for the remains of redwoods logged nearby; the name honors Sheriff Stump, one-time law-and-order man for Salt Point township.

An old farm road leads down to the cove, where there’s a picnic area. Sit a while and watch the terns, cormorants, gulls, osprey and brown pelicans.

If you return to the trailhead from Stump Beach Cove, you’ll have hiked a total of 2.5 miles. To continue this hike, follow the trail up the north slope above Stump Creek. Rejoining the bluffs, you dip in and out of Phillips Gulch, Chinese Gulch, and other little gullies.

The path is not particularly distinct, and you must devise your own route in places along the edge of the grassy headlands. Photographers will marvel at the spectacle of surf meeting rock. Waterfalls spill into picturesque coves at the mouths of Chinese and Phillips Gulches.

After a time, the trail becomes easier to follow, and alternates between open meadowland and wind-sculpted stands of Bishop pine and Douglas fir.

A good destination is the picnic area south of Fisk Mill Cove, which is about three miles from the trailhead. Or you can even continue another two miles north to Horseshoe Cove at the northern end of the state park.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.