California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - 95

50

Hidden Beaches
TRINIDAD
FERNDALE

Kick-start your trip in the charming hamlet of Trinidad, framed by
picture-perfect headlands. At Patrick's Point State Park, a steep but

MATTOLE
RIVER
BEACH

WESTPORT UNION-LANDING
STATE BEACH

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP

Your California beach fantasy: an isolated cove
far from sun worshippers, where tumbling waves
and a Pacific breeze erase your solo footprints
in the sand. It takes some effort-a meandering
back-road drive or a short hike-to reach these
shorelines, but your payoff is seaside tranquility.

short tromp leads to two-mile-long Agate Beach, a white crescent of
sand backed by wooded cliffs. At low tide, you may find sea-polished
agates and other semiprecious stones. Off Stagecoach Road, forested
trails lace across the Elk Head bluffs, dropping down to secluded
College Cove Beach. Sprawl on the sand and enjoy breathtaking views

COOKS BEACH

of tree-covered Pewetole Island and offshore sea stacks.
Detour from U.S. 101 to the Victorian burg of Ferndale for a bit of
sightseeing and a jolt of artisanal coffee at Mind's Eye Manufactory,
then fill your car with snacks before heading to Mattole River Beach
at the north end of California's ruggedly beautiful Lost Coast. It takes
nearly 1.5 hours to drive these 35 twisting miles, but that's part of the

KIRBY COVE

fun. Make the most of this driftwood-laden beach at the river mouth
before tackling the zig-zagging road to Garberville (plan on two
COWELL RANCH
BEACH

hours). When you arrive, you'll be ready for a pillow, so check in at the
Benbow Historic Inn, a 1920s-era hotel that hosted Hollywood celebrities like Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy.

SANTA CRUZ

In the morning, drive south to admire three-mile-long Westport
Union-Landing State Beach. Aside from a few campers, this strand
of sand backed by white-crested waves is largely deserted. Take
snapshots of its rugged shoreline and romantic outcrops, then push

hike leads to this spectacular cove where San Francisco's skyline

southward. Check your tide table so you time your arrival in Point

dazzles and the marvelous bridge gleams. Plan in advance to reserve

Arena to correspond with low or minus tide. That's the only time to

a campsite and spend the night.

see the astounding assemblage of perfectly round rocks at Bowling

where dozens of beaches can be accessed only by walking. Near

ering. (To see them, park at Schooner Gulch Beach, then walk north

downtown Half Moon Bay, hike a half-mile to the secluded cove at

on the blufftop trail.)

Cowell Ranch Beach, a wildly beautiful meeting of land and sea.

On the Sonoma County coast, you'll spy one beautiful beach after

PHOTOGRAPH: JILL RICHARDS

South of San Francisco lies the wild and rugged San Mateo coast,

Ball Beach. The oddly spherical "balls" were formed by eons of weath-

Wind-lashed headlands are crowned with grassy terraces, and sand-

another. Get off the highway north of Gualala and hike the Bonham

stone cliffs drop abruptly to the ocean. When you're ready to call it

Trail through Bishop pines to Cooks Beach, a pocket beach with

a day, drive south to Pescadero and enjoy a low-key stay in one of

crashing waves and playful seals swimming in the surf. At low tide,

Costanoa's tent bungalows.

you'll find a sea cave. Just across the road, sleep deeply in one of

Miles of Brussels sprouts fields line both sides of the highway as

St. Orres' Russian-style cottages, their architecture a tribute to the

you approach the vibrant city of Santa Cruz. Stop at Wilder Ranch

coast's fur-trading past.

State Park for a stroll along the coastal bluffs, passing crashing waves

The next morning, put the rural Sonoma Coast in your rear-view

and diving seabirds. At Fern Grotto Beach, a hidden, fern-draped cave

and point the car toward San Francisco. In the Marin Headlands, drive

is fed by an underground spring. Wrap up this beach-filled trip with

meandering Conzelman Road to the trailhead for Kirby Cove, one of

calamari and cocktails at the beachfront Crow's Nest restaurant-and

the best places to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge. A one-mile

what the heck, maybe one more walk on the sand.

95



California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures

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California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - 1
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