A wild and beautiful meeting of land and sea, Salt Point State Park encompasses 6,000 acres along the Sonoma coast, about 95 miles north of San Francisco. Grassy terraces crown wind-lashed headlands where sandstone cliffs drop abruptly to the Pacific. Tidepools and kelp beds teem with marine life; in fact, the park’s offshore waters are protected as one of California’s first underwater parks: Salt Point State Marine Conservation Area.
Bisected by Highway 1, this beautiful coastal park, 17 miles north of the mouth of the Russian River and the hamlet of Jenner, gives you plenty of reasons to pull over and start Instagramming. Better yet, get out and explore: choose from some 20 miles of trails leading to sights such as wind and water-carved tafoni, or honeycombed sandstone formations. Take the steep but short hike up to the park’s pygmy forest of stunted cypress and pine trees. Head north from the main park entrance to Fisk Mill Cove, popular for abalone diving, to follow a bluff-top trail. This level path meanders through a forest with rhododendrons and ferns to peek-a-boo views of rocky pocket beaches with crashing waves, playful seals, and abalone divers. Save energy to climb to the top of Sentinel Rock for a striking coastal overlook.
Insider tip: Salt Point State Park has two campgrounds—perfect for first time family campers. Best on calm days, Gerstle Cove Campground, on the ocean side of the highway, features exciting sea views, while pine-shaded Woodside Campground, on the more protected east side of the highway, offers better shelter on windy days.