Location: Duncans Mills, CA near Sonoma Coast State Park
Distance: ~6.5 miles
Rating: Easy to Moderate
Permits: There is an $8 parking fee when parking in the Pomo Canyon Campground side of the trail. Parking in the Shell Beach parking lot is free, but can get very busy during the summer months.
We had been planning a little weekend getaway for a couple of months and decided to make a hiking trip out of it as well. The Friday night before we went on the hike, we booked an Airbnb (first time) in Occidental, CA with a very nice couple. It was a lot cheaper than booking a hotel in this area since it is so secluded. As usual, I brought my day-pack filled with a water bottle, sunscreen, my flip-flops for the beach and sunscreen.
We drove to the trailhead Saturday morning after checking out of the Airbnb. We decided to start at the Pomo Canyon Campground and hike to Shell Beach. When we got to the Trailhead and parked, we saw this sign:
Once we left the $8, we started the hike. The first half of the hike was uphill, shaded and in the Redwoods. The weather was absolutely perfect! It was a sunny day in the mid-80’s and the trail was lightly trafficked. After about 30 minutes into the hike, we came a cross a fork in the road and a sign that had fallen over. This is the part of the hike that splits into two options; to the right, continue on Pomo Canyon Trail and to the left, continue on Red Hill Trail. We chose to stay on the Pomo Canyon Trail all the way down to Shell Beach.
About halfway through the hike to Shell Beach, the landscape begins to open up, and the ocean starts to come into view. This was my favorite part of the hike. At this point, there is limited shade, so sunscreen is needed.
Once we hit the point of the trail where Red Hill Trail meets back up with Pomo Canyon Trail, we climbed down the steep hill to the base of the trail and crossed Highway 1 to get to Shell Beach. After climbing down another set of steep stairs, we finally reached the beach and hung out for a little while, taking in the views and the gorgeous weather.
After about 30 minutes or so, we climbed back up the stairs, crossed Highway 1 to get back to the trail and headed back to the Pomo Canyon Campground. There is an option to make the trail into a loop instead of an “out and back” hike by taking the Red Hill Trail, but we decided to stick to the Pomo Canyon Trail. Once we finished the hike, we packed up our things and drove the scenic route home down Highway 1 and through Sonoma county. A perfect end to a perfect day!