We planned to spend a week exploring the Northern California coastline during spring break with Fort Bragg as our home base. On the first day of our trip, we decided to explore Pomo Bluffs Park, Noyo Headlands Park, historic downtown Fort Bragg, the Guest House Museum, and Glass Beach.
It was overcast and rainy when we began our adventures at Pomo Bluffs Park, but luckily, the fog cleared and the rain stopped by the time we reached Fort Bragg’s newest park, Noyo Headlands Park.
Noyo Headlands Park sits north of Noyo Harbor atop the rugged bluffs of California’s rocky Pacific coastline. The 92 acre oceanfront park is located on land that was reclaimed from an industrial mill site owned by Georgia-Pacific. Most of the land was originally covered in asphalt, but it has since been restored to its natural state.
Noyo Headlands Fort Bragg Coastal Trail
The new Noyo Headlands Fort Bragg Coastal Trail has A LOT of names. Everywhere I look, it’s called something different, like the Noyo Headlands Park Trail, the Noyo Headlands Coastal Trail, and the Ka Kahleh Trail (Pomo language for White Water Trail). It’s also part of the Pacific Coast Trail and California Coastal Trail. Needless to say, there is a little bit of confusion about the name!
The trail provides the first public access to Fort Bragg’s rocky coast since the 1800s:
- The northern section of the trail that includes a stairway to Glass Beach opened in 2015, connecting the Pacific Coast Trail from Pudding Creek to Otsuchi Point.
- The southern section of the trail opened in 2016, connecting Noyo Harbor to the Crow’s Nest, the Noyo Center for Marine Science Visitor Center.
- The center section was completed in 2017 and now the Pacific Coast Trail passes uninterrupted from Pomo Bluffs Park, through Noyo Headlands Park and the City of Fort Bragg, across the Pudding Creek Trestle to MacKerricher State Park.
The flat, eight foot wide, ADA-accessible, paved coastal trail hugs the cliffs, providing awe-inspiring views of the Northern California coastline, scenic lookout points, benches made by local artists, and interpretive displays. With the sparkling blue ocean on one side and open fields and headlands on the other, the trail is a popular destination for walking, hiking, biking, and more.
We began our morning walk at the foot of Cypress Street and headed north, enjoying the sun, the views, and the California Coastal Trail marker painted on the trail. We also found Skip’s Punchbowl on the left side of the trail. The punchbowl began long ago as a small hole in the top of a sea cave. Waves crashing into the cave forced water through the hole, making it bigger and bigger until a blowhole formed. Eventually the roof of the sea cave collapsed and the punchbowl was formed.
After a while, we antsy to explore the town, poke around in the shops, and visit the Guest House Museum, so we turned around the way we came, saving the northern portion of the trail for later in the trip when we planned to visit Glass Beach and MacKerricher State Park.
Mendocino Indian Reservation
In Noyo Headlands park, you’re actually standing on land that was, in 1856, part of the 25,000 acre Mendocino Indian Reservation. And this history isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
According to interpretive signs along the Noyo Heandlands Coastal Trail, like other reservations established, the Mendocino Indian Reservation operated more like a concentration camp. The Fort Bragg army post was established to keep the Indians confined and force them into slave labor at the mills and local ranches.
In 1858, the Bureau of Indian Affairs illegally gave the Noyo River Lumber Company permission to build a sawmill on reservation land at the mouth of the Noyo River. Reservation authorities stole rations to feed lumber mill workers, and many native people starved.
The reservation was officially closed in 1868 amid various scandals and the Indians were forced to relocate inland to the Round Valley Reservation.
Know Before You Go
- Noyo Headlands Park is located at the foot of Cypress Street (south end) and the foot of Elm Street (north end) in Fort Bragg, California 95437 in Mendocino County.
- The ADA accessible Noyo Headlands Park Trail is part of the California Coastal Trail and as you walk, jog, or bike along the trail, you’ll see compasses in the pavement marking the location.
- The eight foot wide Fort Bragg Coastal Trail follows the rugged cliffs from just north of Pomo Bluffs Park all the way to the Pudding Creek Trestle and MacKerricher State Park, past all three Glass Beaches and several sea arches.
- Open dawn to dusk with free parking and free access.
- Dogs must be on leash and cleaned up after, and they must stay on the trail. An off-leash dog park is nearby.
- At this 92 acre park, there are amazing panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the rocky northern California coastline, and Noyo Harbor, over seven miles of hiking/biking trails with benches along the main paved trail, picnic tables, vault restrooms, and interpretive displays.
- There is access to Glass Beach down a short stairway at the north end of the Noyo Headlands Coastal Trail at Elm Street.