Sonoma Coast State Park
Guide

Introduction

With breathtaking crags, picturesque arches and coves, and miles of beach perfect for relaxation and play, Sonoma Coast State Park is a delightful choice for your next RV destination. This park boasts a spectacular shoreline filled with numerous sea stacks, bluffs, and unique beaches, as well as a number of gorgeous campgrounds near the beach for RVers to enjoy.

Sonoma Coast State Park runs along the Pacific Ocean coastline for 17 fabulous miles from Vista Point in the north to Bodega Point in the south. The town of Jenner, California, is situated four miles south of Vista Point and is the closest town to the park. You'll enjoy traveling along the Pacific Coast Highway as part of your camping adventure.

History buffs will find this area very interesting. The land within Sonoma Coast State Park was originally home to the Pomo and Miwok Native American tribes, who lived in seasonal redwood bark homes near Bodega Bay. The tribes were later hindered by Russian and Aleutian fur traders, Spanish missionaries, and thousands of gold miners who flocked to the region after 1849.

Those looking for an active stay during their camping vacation will find numerous activities at Sonoma Coast State Park, ranging from hiking and horseback riding to surfing and whale watching. The awe-inspiring scenery is perfect for photographers with its coastal features such as coves, arches, and bluffs.

For those who'd rather have some traditional fun in the sun, there are 12 beach areas for picnicking in the park, which include a gorgeous two-mile stretch of sand at South Salmon Creek Beach. Here, you'll enjoy water sports like windsurfing, sea kayaking, and surfing. You can even try your hand at surf fishing. However, swimming is not advisable because of strong rip currents.

The weather in Sonoma Coast State Park is consistent and cool, typically in the mid-50s in the winter and mid-60s in the summer. During the summer months, fog is prevalent in the morning before giving way to the sun, and the winter months bring more than five inches of rain per month. Yet, no matter what time of year you take an RV trip to this scenic state park, you'll be lured in by the sound of the crashing waves and sights of the Pacific Ocean all around you.

RV Rentals in Sonoma Coast State Park

Transportation

Driving

Sonoma Coast State Park is accessible from the Pacific Coast Highway, which runs north to south through the park. The highway can be quite challenging to drive with numerous hairpin turns just before the northern section near Vista Point. There are areas in the central portion, which can be problematic for larger RVs around Furlong Gulch and Bridgehaven. However, while driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, travelers can enjoy the beautiful scenery from numerous turnouts and overlooks, which offer panoramic views.

Other paved roads within the park include Willow Creek Road, which follows the terrain of Willow Creek. The road has several hazardous areas for people driving larger RVs or pulling trailers and is best traveled in a car or SUV. Goat Rock Road allows for access to Goat Rock Beach and Blind Beach, as well as a couple of bluffs that have turnouts for viewing the coastline features. Duncan’s Landing is accessed easily from the Pacific Coast Highway with plenty of parking, and the bluff is ideal for whale watching during the winter months.

Driving inside the campgrounds is not tricky with one-way roads that offer plenty of room for larger RVs and trailers. Drivers should be cautious while driving around the campground loops where children, bicyclists, and pedestrians are present. Please obey the posted 15 mile-per-hour speed limit in these areas.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Sonoma Coast State Park

Campsites in Sonoma Coast State Park

Reservations camping

Wright's Beach Campground

Wright’s Beach campground offers 27 campsites within one loop that are next to the beach. Enjoy the ambiance of a fire in the fire ring and serve dinner on the provided picnic table. Bathrooms with flush toilets are within walking distance. RVs and trailers up to 27 feet long will find ample room in these sites. Although there are no hookups at this site, campers may use amenities at Bodega Dunes Campground, which is located close by and has token-operated showers.

This campground does not offer potable water or a dumping station. Visitors camping in an RV or trailer are encouraged to fill their water tanks at the Bodega Dunes Campground where you will also find a dump station near the entrance to the campground. Each campsite is furnished with a level, paved pad. Quiet hours must be observed at night, while generators may be used during the day. Pets are only allowed within the campground when restricted by a six-foot leash.

Bodega Dunes Campground

The Bodega Dunes Campground offers 99 campsites within two specific loops. Each campsite features a fire ring and picnic table. No hookups are provided for RVs or trailers, but campers can fill their water tanks at the potable water station located near the entrance of the campground. RVs and trailers are limited to 31 feet in length. Each campsite is furnished with a paved, level pad.

A dump station is located near the entrance of the campground for your convenience. Restrooms with flush toilets are available within walking distance, and tokens may be purchased for hot showers. Quiet hours must be observed at night; however, generators may be used during the day. Dogs are only allowed within the campground when restricted by a six-foot leash. The campground also has a campfire center where visitors can watch interesting lectures and ranger programs in the evening.

First-come first-served

Willow Creek Environmental Campground

The Willow Creek Environmental campground offers 11 walk-in campsites. This primitive campground features a fire ring and picnic table at each campsite. There are plenty of willows around each campsite that provide shade. The campground is located near a swimming beach along the Russian River. There are only primitive pit toilets for campers. Quiet hours must be observed at night. Pets are not allowed within the campground to ensure the safety of the wildlife in the area.

Overflow Campground

Overflow camping is available for self-contained units. The overflow area is located in the parking area outside of Wright’s Beach campground. There are no amenities available. The overflow campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Seasonal activities in Sonoma Coast State Park

Off-Season

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

Traveling the Pacific Coast Highway is a vacation in itself. One of the Sonoma Coast State Park's many features is that this spectacular highway runs right through the park. The scenery along this famous stretch of road is incomparable. The highway contains vehicle turnouts for drivers to enjoy the stunning views of sea stacks and high bluffs along the Pacific Ocean.

One of the more popular places to stop along the highway is Vista Point in the northern portion of the park. Other great viewing spots while traveling along the Pacific Coast Highway are Rock Point and near the trailhead to Arched Rock Beach.

Driving the coast is especially nice in the winter months when traffic is lighter and the sunsets are longer. Make sure to get a picture of a beautiful winter sunset off the Pacific Coast Highway during this special time.

Whale Watching

Whale watching is one of the most memorable things to do in Sonoma Coast State Park. Grey whales migrate south during the winter months from December to February and then migrate north along the coastline from March to May. The high bluffs are ideal for panoramic views of the whales with several lookouts such as Vista Point, Duncan’s Landing, and Goat Rock. From Goat Rock, you can take a short hike to Goat Rock Beach, which is home to a colony of harbor seals year-round.

Few things are so moving as witnessing up close a pod of majestic whales on their annual journey or a group of intelligent Pacific harbor seals at play. Your winter trip to Sonoma Coast State Park will be remembered for years to come.

Beachcombing

There are 12 beaches that can be accessed at Sonoma Coast State Park. The beach areas offer plenty of sand for lounging and picnicking while enjoying stellar coastal scenery that includes hundreds of sea stacks and erosional features. One of the more popular beaches is Shell Beach where visitors will find superb tide pools to peruse. Visitors enjoy collecting various seashells and stones along the shore. The largest of all is South Salmon Creek, which stretches for two miles and offers an excellent picnicking area. Swimming is not advisable at any of the beach areas due to dangerous rip currents, backwash, and waves, but with the chilly temperatures, you'll want to stay dry anyway.

Photographing Nature

Amateur and professional photographers come from miles around to capture some of the most dramatic seascapes available on the West Coast. The Sonoma area is known for its beautifully rugged coast and sea stacks. Crashing waves against jagged rocks, the foaming sea rolling in at twilight, or the ancient grass prairies under a pink sky seen from the bluffs, all make for some spectacular photo opportunities. The surrealistic beauty of the surrounding area is unmatched, and you won't have any trouble finding a great shot to show your friends back home and to remember this once-in-a-lifetime RV adventure.

In-Season

Fishing

There are plenty of ideal fishing spots at Sonoma Coast State Park that range from surf fishing to boat fishing to fishing along the Russian River. The Portuguese and Schoolhouse Beaches are perfect for surf fishing from a sandy beach where anglers can catch rockfish and perch. Boaters can find several ramps including Bodega Bay in the south and near Jenner along the Russian River.

Anglers will find plenty of salmon and steelhead to catch in the Russian River, as well as sport fish outside the Russian River State Marine Conservation Area. You can go crabbing along the shoreline of Bodega Bay, where you can also find red abalone and mussels. So, no matter what type of fishing you had in mind, an RV visit to Sonoma State Park is the ideal choice.

Enjoying Water Sports

If you are looking for excitement and enjoy water sports, you may want to try windsurfing on the Pacific. The frequent winds and strong waves are popular with experienced windsurfers looking for a challenge. These large waves and rip tides can be dangerous for beginners but are perfect for thrill-seekers.

Sea kayakers are treated to views of the coastline that boast high bluffs, as well as sea stacks. Cold water scuba divers and snorkelers can enjoy the excellent marine life within the Russian River State Marine Conservation Area. Swimming along the coastline is not advised due to these dangerous rip tides, backwash, and large waves, so anyone going out on the water should use caution and be aware of their limitations in these conditions.

Hiking

When you want to get out of the RV, hiking in Sonoma Coast State Park is ideal for all types of hikers. The 2.5-mile Kortum Trail runs along the high bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean from Wright’s Beach in the south to Blind Beach in the north. Hiking these bluffs is one of the best ways to get up close and personal with nature. You'll see views of the Bodega Dunes from above and experience the majestic grandeur of the Pacific from the perfect vantage point.

Hikers may also want to check out the over three-mile Shell Beach to Pomo Canyon Trail that takes hikers from high bluffs to canyon terrain, which ends near Pomo Canyon Campground. Another nice hike, especially during springtime when the wildflowers are blooming within the coastal Prairie, is the one-mile Red Hill Loop Trail. All trails are closed to pets.

Exploring Coves and Sea Caves

One of the more unique features of the Sonoma coastal region is the existence of sea caves that can be reached by boat or even by foot, hiking in and wading at low tide. If you want to explore sea caves on your RV stay at Sonoma Coast, you will want to get a copy of the Southern California Sea Cave Survey to find out where accessible caves are located.

Exploring by boat will allow you to enter secret coves most other campers are not aware of, and find those hidden caves waiting to be discovered. This could be dangerous, so you'll want to come equipped with a wet suit, helmet, waterproof flashlight or headlamp, and a snorkel mask. Be safe and make sure to plan your excursion to begin and end before the tides rise. During high tide, caves may completely fill with water, so you don't want to be caught inside when that happens.

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