California’s textured-sandstone seaside landscape
HIGHLIGHTS: Rocky promontories, panoramic views, kelp-dotted coves, beaches, tidepools, and a pygmy forest.
ACTIVITIES: Picnicking, hiking, camping, bike riding on fire road, interpretive programs, horseback riding, skin and SCUBA diving, boating, tide-pooling and botanizing. Outside Gerstle Cove (a protected area), fishing is allowed for lingcod, cabezone, rockfish and greenlings. State license required.
Most of the park’s ranger- or docent-led programs (including campfire talks, forest walks, and Junior Ranger programs) start on Memorial Day weekend and end after Labor Day. Check the schedule for days and times. Aimed at kids age 7 through 12, these programs offer games, crafts, hiking, and exploring with other children.
VISITOR CENTER: Just west of the western park entrance at Gerstle Cove. Open weekends from 10 to 3, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
CAMPGROUNDS: A total of 109 family sites are available at Gerstle Cove (west of Highway 1) and Woodside (east of Highway 1). Trailers up to 27 feet; campers/motorhomes: 31 feet. No dump station. Amenities include drinking water and restrooms, but no showers. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis from November 1 to March 14. At other times, make reservations by calling (800) 444-PARK or going to reserveamerica.com (external link). A few walk-in, hiker/biker and overflow sites are first-come, first-served year-round. On weekends from April to September, the facilities are consistently full.
TRAILS: The park has more than 20 miles of trails. For big views, follow the Salt Point Trail northward along the bluff for more than a mile; then head down to Stump Beach Cove. Round-trip: 2.5 miles. If you’re still feeling frisky when you reach the cove, you can continue along the coast to Fisk Mill Cove and Horseshoe Point, a 10-mile round-trip.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: “Tafoni” is the name for the oddly textured seaside sandstone here. Salt has weakened the rock, making cavities that look like the pits in a giant morel mushroom. If you gaze toward the ocean in the summer, you may see traces of the bull kelp forest, home to rockfish and other marine life. In winter, watch for migrating gray whales. In May, head north to see Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve in the pink.
HIDDEN GEMS: At about 1,000 feet, the park’s upper elevations include a pygmy forest with stunted stands of cypress, pine and redwood created by the breakdown of acidic leaves in impermeable soils. The forest also includes such unusual species as pygmy cypress (Cupressus goveniana pygmaea) and Bolander pine (Pinus contorta bolanderi).
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Restrooms, picnic areas, Salt Point Trail from 0.5 miles from Gerstle Cove parking area.
DOGS: Not allowed on trails or beaches. On leash elsewhere. In tent or vehicle at night.
ENTRANCE FEE: $8 for day-use vehicle entry; no charge to walk or bike into the park.
MORE INFORMATION: For details, visit the park’s website (external link), call (707) 847-3221, or write to Salt Point State Park at 25050 Coast Highway 1, Jenner, CA 95450.
EAT: Try dining at the River’s End Restaurant and Inn (external link) where you can sit on the patio and take in the view.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: If you’re a diver, the park includes one of the first underwater parks in California, Gerstle Cove Marine Reserve, where marine life is completely protected. The ocean view from Salt Point is breathtaking. Go about 30 minutes before sunset to really enjoy the gorgeous colors of the sky.
DON’T MISS: Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve (external link) is located adjacent to Salt Point State Park.
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