Blink and you’ll miss some hidden beach bliss. Located in the tiny town of Elk on scenic Highway 1, Greenwood State Beach is easy to miss because it’s a half-mile walk down to it from the parking area. That means chances of you having the place nearly all to yourself are pretty high! But before you hike down, pick up some fresh sandwiches directly across the street from the trailhead at Elk Store.
Gourmet deli selections range from build-your-own to Four Mules Named Maude (pastrami & swiss on fresh-baked rye). Then hike down to Greenwood, getting sweeping views of the Pacific the entire way, punctuated by sea stacks rising from the water like castles. The crescent-shaped beach is large, and decorated by hulking driftwood brought in by more tempestuous waters. Backed by 40-foot cliffs, this beach seems to elude a lot of human visitors, though you’re likely to see cormorants and great egrets standing atop the thick kelp ropes. There’s a tranquil tidal estuary, and offshore in the near distance giant sea stacks with arches and keyholes are particularly photogenic: Gunderson Rock, Wharf Rock, and Casket Rock. Spread a blanket or find a picnic table and take in the scenic show.
Greenwood State Beach is located in Mendocino County about 15 miles north of Point Arena on Hwy. 1. This is a rugged part of the coast, so be aware of tides, and the nature of the ocean when you’re visiting. Dog-friendly!