Best Northern California Beaches

Schooner Gulch State Beach and Bowling Ball Beach

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Do you love going to the beach? Just to feel the warmth of the sand under your feet, find peace in the sound of the crushing waves and comfort in the cool breeze? Yeah?!!


Well, the best Northern California beaches are different. The sand is cold under your feet, and the breeze is chilly to freezing, but the views are stunningly beautiful that it makes up for everything else. Be sure to dress in layers for comfort.


Schooner Gulch State Beach is in Mendocino County, only 3.7 miles south from Point Arena, about 50 miles Northwest of Santa Rosa.


On our weekend getaway to Point Arena, we explored Schooner State Beach and Bowling Ball Beach. It is more like a northern California beach exploration really since we heard the trail is quite confusing and the parking is not very much and the place is remote.


The GPS takes you within .3 miles to the trail along highway 1, then you are on your own finding it.


The trail north of the parking sign in front of the parked car leads to Bowling Ball Beach


The parking area is on the west side of Highway 1 with a very small sign and you park South facing only and this part of the road is narrow. If there are more parked cars, you can also park on the other side of the road, facing North, then just cautiously cross the street to take the trails.


The trail down south of the parking sign where you will find this information sign leads to Schooner Gulch State Beach


There are two trail heads. The trail towards the South leads to Schooner Gulch State Beach and the trail towards North leads to Bowling Ball Beach. With our beach chairs, beach blanket and beach towels, we headed to Schooner beach first.



It takes about 5 minutes of leisurely walk along the trail to reach the Schooner Gulch State Beach. It is good to wear hiking shoes and long pants or jeans because of the bushes and shrubs. But we were on our flipflops since we liked to play in the water and walk in the sand barefoot.


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There are lush green shrubs and beautiful wild flowers. The trees provide the shade along the trail. We asked the locals about snakes and they assured us that due to the cold climate, there are no snakes in the area, or none that are dangerous.



As  the trail opens into the beach, you have to go over a big log or walk around it to actually be on the beach. The children had a lot of fun climbing the logs and balancing on it.

The small and beautiful Schooner Gulch State Beach, a view from the cliff.



Schooner Gulch Beach is small and private,but there is enough expanse of sandy beach for families to play, run around and have a picnic. It was a bit windy and chilly and yet you can still feel the warmth of the sun on your skin.



The fine sand is soothingly cold under your feet but the water is strikingly freezing. The fresh air fills your lungs with each breath while you listen to the gushing of the waves and it was relaxing and peaceful.



It is off the beaten path so there are very few people who go and visit. There were only 2 families when we got there. Along the cliffs are a few water caves and interesting rock formations. There are tide pools on low tides.



You can lay your blanket on the cliff or sit on the beach and watch the sunset and it was so beautiful!


…such a beauty to behold…


There was a tale of how Schooner Gulch Beach got its name from. A long time ago, one fateful evening, a schooner was seen stranded on the beach, but on the following morning, the visitors have seen no sign whatsoever of a schooner being on the beach at all. Hence the name Schooner Beach.



Bowling Ball Beach is part of Schooner Gulch State Beach, on north side. During very low tide you can hike from Schooner Gulch State Beach past the points to the Bowling Ball Beach, otherwise, you have to go down the trail from the road, walk across the meadows, tread down the cliffs to Bowling Ball Beach.


The trail to Bowling Ball Beach across the meadow


The hike took about 5 minutes to reach the beach from the road. The last 10 yards of the trail down the cliffs have suffered erosion over the years and park officials have declared it close. People still uses the trail at their own risk. Part of the wooden steps were gone. One must be very careful going down the cliff or you will slip and fall and be injured.



People made makeshift steps from old logs and it did help, but it could still be difficult. There was nothing to hold on to going down so you rely on your balancing ability so you won’t fall. I think trekking poles will help you going down this cliff. And for the adventurous at heart, the trail was perfect! There are logs and sticks scattered in the area which is perfect for exploring.


The makeshift steps from logs. There is nothing to hold on to going down to the beach. And then you cross the water balancing on the log if you don’t want to get wet.

Jorge going up the cliff

Once you are down from the cliffs, you take a little hike toward north to reach the bowling ball shaped rocks. The hike was fun as the kids explored the side of the cliffs and the tide pools.


People made this little fort to protect them from the wind.


During low tide, you can see the tide pools and the bowling ball shaped rocks. These spherical rocks are shaped by the process of concretions. Concretions are formed when sediments of rocks and sand are cemented together by mineral elements, forming a solid mass, which accumulates and grows within itself, building up layer upon layer, becoming larger and larger. This process takes thousands of years and the product is mostly spherical in shape.


The rows of bowling ball shaped rocks


Further north though, the concretions are muffin shaped and are still attached to the side of the cliffs.This bowling ball shaped rocks have  attracted curious visitors, photographers and geologists. The rocks are lined up almost in rows, and are about 2 – 3 feet in diameter. It was awesome!


Tyge, Treigv and Domer exploring

The lone starfish!

Tyge, my niece Daphne and Tyreen on the concretions.


We loved our exploration of these 2 beautiful beaches and everyone if so desire, should visit these places. It was a wonderful day spent with family and experiencing nature at its best.


Our little family at Bowling Ball Beach.



This place is in the middle of nowhere, and there are private properties and houses, but no stores, public facilities or bathrooms nearby. The nearest town is Point Arena and the town of Gualala is 10.1 miles south.


When was the last time you went exploring? Go and see the beautiful Northern California beaches!


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