Coastal, forest and meadow vistas; historical schoolhouse
HIGHLIGHTS: Don’t judge this 210-acre park on Sonoma County’s coast by its small size: It is a natural jewel, combining an exquisite and pristine cove with a beach, redwood forests and wildflower-strewn meadows. Managed by the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department, Stillwater Cove provides some of the finest Northern California vistas.
ACTIVITIES: Hikers can enjoy the views and bracing salt air on more than 3 miles of trails. Picnicking and camping are both available. The cove is a favorite launch site for kayaks and other small boats. The fishing in these waters is superb, and abalone diving also is popular. For information on fishing and abalone season, call the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marine Region 7 at (831) 649-2870 or visit the department’s website. The wildlife viewing is particularly good: sea lions and harbor seals are abundant, as are many species of seabirds.
VISITOR CENTER: None.
CAMPGROUNDS: 23 standard sites. They can fill up rapidly during the abalone season.
TRAILS: The park has 3.19 miles of trails. Enjoy beach access and good general views of the park on a 1.6-mile loop along Stockhoff Creek. A short side route leads to the historic Fort Ross Schoolhouse. Other trails traverse lovely redwood-forested canyons and open meadows.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: Built in 1885, the Fort Ross Schoolhouse harkens to a simpler time. The building has been lovingly maintained, and is only a half-mile walk from the main beach trail.
HIDDEN GEM: Stillwater Cove is a wonderful place for tidepooling, particularly during a minus low tide. Please exercise care and respect: observe — don’t disturb — this delicate intertidal habitat.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: The park’s restrooms, picnic areas and two campsites are accessible to disabled people.
DOGS: Allowed on leash.
ENTRANCE FEE: $6 per vehicle.
SPECIAL EVENTS: The Sonoma County Department of Regional Parks supports an ambitious environmental education program that incorporates protected properties. Visit the department’s events calendar for details.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit the park’s webpage, or call (707) 847-3245.
PLACES TO EAT AND STAY: Just south of the park at the mouth of the Russian River is the small town of Jenner, which has a couple of lodges and restaurants. Gualala, north of Stillwater Cove, also has some restaurants. Bodega Bay, Guerneville and Santa Rosa are within reasonable driving distance, and offer a variety of options for both lodging and dining. SonomaCounty.com offers information on food, wine, lodging and other things to do.
EAT: Aquatica (external link), a cafe in Jenner, is renowned for its great sandwiches, coffee, and fresh-baked cookies.
Boon (external link), on the main drag in Guerneville, offers fresh seasonal ingredients from Sonoma County.
The River’s End (external site) in Jenner is an upscale restaurant with an unbeatable view.
STOP: For shopping and restaurants, make a quick stop in Guerneville. If you’re taking highway 116 west to the highway 1, then stop at the historic Duncan’s Mills for art and antiques.
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