Highway 1, about 8 miles north of Fort Ross
Park open sunrise to sunset
Day-use fee: $8
Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.
Stump Beach is one of the few sandy beaches to be found along the Sonoma County coast north of Jenner. A few tables are available for picnicking near the parking lot. There are primitive toilets there, but no running water. A quarter-mile long trail leads down to the beach. Set deep in a pocket and flanked by bluffs, the beach is fairly well protected. Its name comes from the driftwood often found washed ashore here.
Other beaches along the park's coast tend to be small and a mixture of sand and rock. They are great places to explore or to enjoy the view from the bluffs. Gerstle Cove is an excellent tide pooling location as well as a popular launching spot for diving. During the whale migration season it draws spectators to the nearby bluffs.
Salt Point State Park includes 9 miles of rugged coastline, with countless little inlets and coves, bays, jagged points, a few sandy beaches, caves, and sea stacks. Most visitors are drawn by the beauty of the region, taking advantage of the trails that meander along the bluffs overlooking the ocean and the scenic viewpoints.
Tafoni, honeycomb-eroded sandstone, can be found along the Salt Point coast. Seasonal wetting with salt water and subsequent drying causes parts of the rock to erode faster than others, creating the characteristic pits and nobs.
Gerstle Cove was once a busy little port where schooners were loaded with lumber and blocks of sandstone to be delivered to San Francisco. At first cables were used to ferry the cargo from shore to waiting ships. Later, chutes were erected. Along the shore of Gerstle Cove visitors can see where sandstone was quarried. Eye bolts used to anchor the ships are still visible.
A sawmill once stood at Fisk Cove. Today the area is appreciated for its varied shoreline with tiny beaches, towering rocks, and wind-swept Bishop pines. Visitors will find a paved parking lot, picnic tables, BBQs, restrooms, and drinking water. Thanks to the protection from the wind by the trees, the area is a favorite with picnickers. Rock climbers like to challenge their skills on nearby cliffs.
At Fisk Mill Cove a wooden platform at Sentinel Rock is a popular spot for whale watching and for its views of the ocean and coast. A stair-stepped path leads off the Fisk Mill Cove trail up to the promontory.
At the north end of Salt Point State Park, Horseshoe Cove is used as an entry point for divers willing to haul their gear down the trail to the rocky beach. This scenic area is reached from a small turnout along the highway. Surfers head out to a reef break known as Secrets when the waves a right.
South of Salt Point State Park, Ocean Cove is a popular spot for launching small boats. The privately owned land at Ocean Cove includes the Ocean Cove Store and Campground.
Ocean Cove Store & Campground
Marine life along the entire coast of Salt Point State Park is protected by the Gerstle Cove State Marine Reserve, Stewarts Point State Marine Reserve, and Salt Point Marine Conservation Area. Within the boundaries of these reserves, marine and intertidal life are protected by strict regulations. The areas are popular for recreational diving, underwater photography, and kayaking.
Within the Salt Point State Marine Conservation Area, the taking "of all living marine resources is prohibited except the recreational take of abalone and finfish." In Gerstle Cove State Marine Reserve and Stewarts Point State Marine Reserve, "the taking of all living marine resources is prohibited."1
1See Salt Point SMCA, Gerstle Cove SMR, Stewarts Point SMR & SMCA
Stillwater Cove Regional Park is located 3½ miles south of Salt Point State Park. Operated by Sonoma County, the park offers picnic facilities and wonderful view of the Pacific. Within the 210-acre park are campgrounds, trails, and the historic Fort Ross Schoolhouse.
At the cove, a boat launch facility allows visitors to off-load small boats and kayaks. The launch is open year-round. For information about the campground at Stillwater Cove Regional Park, see CAMPING.
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Entry fees: $7 per vehicle for day use
(707) 847-3245 Stillwater Cove Regional Park
California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety