If Big Sur had a little sister, we think it would be the Sonoma Coast … equally beautiful yet less filled with people, especially when you hike the new trail system at the Jenner Headlands Preserve in Sonoma County.
These beautiful developed trails opened last year, offering access to quiet stretches of coastal redwood forest and huge views of the Pacific. It’s also a refreshing escape on hot days. Get an early start, as the parking lot fills up. We recommend a wide-sweep hike combining the Sea to Sky Trail, Russian Gulch Trail, and Raptor Ridge Trail.
The first big views come early at Sentinel Point, a stone-tiled lookout with engravings of the types of wildlife you are likely to see, from gray whales to brown pelicans.
Keep going up the coastal prairie grassland, then descend into a quiet shaded forest filled with second-growth redwoods.
Chances are good you’ll be enjoying these redwoods almost all to yourself.
Connect back to the Sea to Sky Trail and enjoy a break at the Red Barn.
Several picnic tables here offer gorgeous views of the Pacific, with the occasional cow looking on casually. Finish your hike by heading down Raptor Ridge Trail and follow it back to the parking area.
POLE MOUNTAIN PEAK: There’s an epic peak hike that also starts at Jenner Headlands Preserve and ends at the peak of Pole Mountain in its namesake preserve. It’s about 15 miles (round-trip) to the peak of Pole Mountain, hiked via the Sea to Sky Trail. It’s doable, but it can be very windy.
TIP: Post hike, head 5 miles south on Highway 1 to Shell Beach. A short flight of stairs takes you to the sand and surf. Afternoon sun and mist mingle here on good days. Keep an eye on the tides!
Dog friendly! Map to parking area.