It gets overlooked by Point Reyes, but a terrific coastal-view hike right here in our backyard is the trek up and down into Pomo Canyon.
Having not been out there in a while, I took advantage of a brilliantly sunny and warm day to head to the beach. Park at the large (and free) parking lot at Shell Beach where there are facilities, ocean views and maps. And then walk across Highway 1 and head upward. It’s a steep climb right at the start, but suddenly, you’re at the top of a coastal ridge with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. I scanned briefly for whales amid the whitecaps, but saw no activity. I was also breathing pretty hard from hustling up the hill so that could have affected my concentrated gazes.
The trek to Pomo Canyon itself is an interesting one. For one, wear long pants if possible due to an abundance of poison oak. I didn’t, but managed to come out OK. Still, it’s hard to avoid. There’s a descent through some impressive, if young, groves of redwoods to the canyon itself. In past years, I’ve seen a flowing waterfall and creek, but this year, the creek is barely there, and the waterfall isn’t at all. The campground is officially closed although there are some indications that it may be reopening soon. Or else it has just been cleaned up in cautious optimism by the state parks department.
Round-trip, the hike is nearly seven miles, with plenty of picnic and scenic spots throughout. Wear layers to handle the stiff ocean breezes near Red Hill, and then to shed them as you head into the canyon and back up. On this day, the fog teased us, appearing and disappearing as we traversed a ridge line. As the afternoon lengthened, the fog did too, extending far over the ocean and blocking the chance for a horizon-filled sunset.
Oh, if there’s any doubt that this is a terrific wildflower year, that should be dispelled by a short hike nearly anywhere around here. No exception way above Shell Beach.