Bodega Head forms the tip of a peninsula that extends south of the Bodega dunes and protects Bodega Harbor from the pounding ocean waves. It’s four miles long and one mile wide, and is geologically related to Point Reyes and the Farallon Islands. Bodega Head lies on the Pacific Plate; geologists believe that it was once some 300 miles to the south and was carried to its present location by the northward movement of the Pacific Plate along the San Andreas Fault. This major fault runs the length of Sonoma County along or near the coast. In the 1960s, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company proposed to build a nuclear power plant on Bodega Head, and had already dug a deep hole for the foundation, but after opponents pointed out the earthquake hazard, that project was abandoned. The “Hole in the Head” is now a pond where you may see ducks happily swimming. Along the way to Bodega Head you will find a boat launch area, sandy pocket beaches backed by granite cliffs, and two blufftop trails. The upper trail is accessible and is a good place to scan the water for gray whales during their spring and fall migrations—be sure to bring your binoculars. During my early June visit, the brown grasses of the uplands were colored with cowslip, lupine, mustard, and wild radish blooms.
Bodega Head Trail
see access criteria for definitions
Trailhead: Upper trailhead: The turnoff from Westshore Road is unmarked, but it is the last road on the left before you reach the main (lower) parking lot for Bodega Head.
Length: 1-2 total miles
Typical Width: 4 ft. & above
Widths vary throughout, but if the grasses are mowed there’s always at least a three-foot clearance.
Typical Grade: Gentle
Shrouded in fog on a mild summer afternoon, this trail felt like remote wilderness to me—an experience of nature that can be rare for a wheelchair rider. No power lines were visible, and the only sounds were the barks of harbor seals, birdsong, and crashing waves—it was truly magical. Viewed from a distance, this trail through the grassy uplands first appeared lifeless, but it turned out to be teeming with wildlife, wildflowers, and unspoiled views of the Sonoma and Marin coastline.
A few hundred yards from the parking lot, you come to an intersection. A left turn here will take you down a slight dip, hugging the hill as you head back toward the start, but the trail soon becomes too narrow for a wheelchair to navigate. Instead, go right at the intersection, and before long you will come to a vista point with birds-eye views to the east and north and an accessible picnic table. Here you can watch boats navigate the narrow channel into Bodega Harbor and see the mile-long beach at Doran Park. Past the vista point, the trail dips and climbs gently through the grasslands. The seals’ barks become louder, and soon a small island favored by them comes into view, when it’s not too foggy.
At the next fork, stay to your right to continue; the trail heading toward the cliff’s edge narrows to single-track. After the fork, the trail travels slightly inland, where egrets were abundant. I saw one hunt, capture, and devour a mouse. It was a scene out of a nature program, taking place right in front of my eyes! I was simultaneously wowed and repulsed, but excited nonetheless. Wildflowers blanketed the blufftop, and with only a lone cypress to the north, I was reminded of the harsh conditions here. Winds regularly sweep through, whipping up the waves, which crash loudly against the rocks.
I turned back after about a half-mile due to construction on a new section of trail that has since been completed. The trail now continues to the lower parking lot. As I made my way back, the nature show continued: quail scurried across the path and a snake with a brilliant green stripe darted through the grasses.
Viewing platforms and interpretive panels are planned for summer 2011.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Accessible Parking: Yes
Foot of Westshore Road and at upper trailhead (last turnoff before the end of Westshore Road). Neither the upper trailhead lot or the main (lower) lot at the foot of Westshore Road has striping. On my visit, both lots were nearly empty, so there was plenty of room to lower my lift. New accessible spaces for both lots are expected by Summer 2011.
Accessible Restroom: Yes
At both parking lots
Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes
Near the upper lot, one table is several hundred yards from the trailhead. Tables near the lower parking lot at the foot of Westshore Road have fantastic views of the rocky shoreline and a pocket beach.
Hours: 8 am to sunset
Map: See here.
Dogs: Not allowed