After spending the morning exploring Bowling Ball Beach and Fort Ross, we headed back to Bodega Bay to explore some beaches. Just past the town of Jenner, immediately south of the Russian River, there was a roadside pullout with several parked cars and people looking down at the beach below so we pulled over too to check it out.
Below us on the beach was a long line of sunbathing seals that reminded us a bit of the Elephant Seal Rookery we visited near Hearst Castle. The beach stretched out far past the river outlet and the seals to a giant rock we later discovered to be Goat Rock — and of course, we had to get a closer look!
Goat Rock, standing tall in the wild Pacific surf just south of Jenner, is connected to the rugged California coastline by a low isthmus of land that is used as a parking lot.
The land area surrounding Goat Rock is part of the larger Sonoma Coast State Beach and known for it’s gorgeous shoreline and easily accessible sandy beaches. The ocean area is part of the Russian River State Marine Conservation Area, which prohibits fishing.
When passing through the Goat Rock Point entrance gate, there is a small parking area atop the bluffs, but if you drive down the narrow road, you’ll find two more parking lots much closer to the beach!
- The lower parking area to the north is the parking area for Goat Rock State Beach.
- The lower parking area to the south, on the ithmus of Goat Rock, provides access to Blind Beach.
Goat Rock State Beach
Goat Rock Beach is a large, crescent-shaped, sandy beach that sits between the mouth of the Russian River (north end) and Goat Rock (south end).
The beach is home to river otters, elephant seals, harbor seals, and sea lions, and often, the animals can be found lined up along the edge of the beach. When we visited the beach, they were lying along the edge of the Russian River’s terminus.
Standing on the beach and feeling a sense of déjà vu? The ending scene from The Goonies where One-Eyed Willie’s ship sails out to sea was filmed here!
During the summer, a sandbar forms along the beach that separates the Russian River from the Pacific Ocean. This sandbar is breached during late fall and/or early winter, which splits the beach in two sections. The northern section is then protected by the river and provides a safe place for harbor seal pupping.
Blind Beach is a long, narrow, sandy beach that sits immediately south of Goat Rock and Goat Rock Beach and has incredible views of Arch Rock and towering sea stacks.
Unlike Goat Rock Beach, Blind Beach is dog friendly. While dogs are supposed to be on a leash, we find that dog owners rarely respect these rules on beaches so be prepared for dogs running on the beach off leash. If you’re not a dog person, this isn’t the beach for you.
The easiest and fastest way to access Blind Beach is from the parking lot on the Goat Rock isthmus at the end of Goat Rock Road. If you’re up for a hike however, park at the upper parking lot on the bluffs just inside the entrance gate. From here there are two trails available:
- The approximately 4.0 mile, out-and-back Kortum Trail begins from the road just south of the upper parking lot and follows the grassy cliffs south past the Sunset Boulders and Shell Beach to Wrights Beach.
- The moderate, out-and-back Blind Beach Trail is a steep, narrow trail with precarious wood steps that descend the bluffs to Blind Beach. Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be on leash.
Know Before You Go
Goat Rock Beach and Blind Beach are located about a mile south of the Russian River Bridge at the intersection of CA Highway 1 and Goat Rock Road at 9590 Goat Rock Rd, Jenner, California 95450 in Sonoma County. Both beaches are part of part of Sonoma Coast State Park.
- Download the Sonoma Coast State Park Brochure.
- Goat Rock and the isthmus of land connecting it to the coastline separate Goat Rock Beach to the north and Blind Beach to the south.
- Due to its sheer cliffs, dangerous surf, and strong coastal winds, you can’t climb or get around Goat Rock.
- Goat Rock State Beach is home to a pod of harbor seals. Please stay 50 yards from the seals, especially during pupping season, March-August.
- No dogs are allowed on Goat Rock Beach. Dogs are allowed on Blind Beach (south of the parking lot at Goat Rock) but must remain on leash.
- Due to the dangerous rip currents, heavy surf, and sudden ground swells at Goat Rock Beach, swimming is strictly prohibited.
- Occasionally, when dangerous ocean conditions prevail, the Goat Rock entrance gate will close to vehicle traffic during day use hours. When the road is closed, visitors are still allowed to walk in.
- Blind Beach Trail is a moderate, 0.5 mile, out and back trail with steep zig-zags and wooden stairs that can be difficult to navigate. It leaves from the upper parking lot above blind beach and is open to dogs as long as they are on leash.
- Picnic tables and restroom facilities (port-a-potties) are also available.