This small turnout along Highway 1 by Bodega Bay, known as the Vista Trail, is a great place to stop for a picnic and a short hike along a loop trail that has spectacular views of the ocean and offshore rocks—if it’s not completely fogged in. (If so, try visiting later in the day, when the fog often burns off.) Traveling north from the little town of Jenner, Highway One climbs steeply from the Russian River Valley to the blufftop where this vista point is situated. You can picnic near the parking lot, which is sheltered from the wind but isn’t very interesting to look at, or try one of the tables scattered along the Vista Trail; from the southernmost of these, you can see south along the coast past Jenner to Goat Rock, fog permitting. There is no shade along the trail.
see access criteria for definitions
Trailhead: South end of the parking lot
Length: 1-2 total miles
Typical Width: 4 ft. & above
Typical Grade: Gentle
The trail’s asphalt surface was cracked and buckled along much of the route, with weeds growing up thickly through the cracks in places, making for a bumpy and occasionally challenging ride. The grass along the trail’s edge had been mown earlier in the year and the grass was left to blow and drift in mounds across the path, adding to the challenge.
From the trailhead, you travel up a gentle slope through grasslands dotted with coyote brush and poppies. On my visit in July, swallows swooped and glided along the hillsides, and fat bumblebees buzzed among the dandelions. I could feel the warmth of the sun trying to break through the dense, blowing fog.
You quickly come to a fork in the trail, which is the beginning of the loop portion; follow the right-hand branch toward the ocean. After about a quarter of a mile, you reach another junction. The trail on the right leads gently uphill, ending at an overlook with benches and a grab bar, although a wood fence along the west side here completely blocks the view for those who are seated. Along the trail approaching the overlook, the fence is lower and more open; from there you can see the bluff dropping steeply to the ocean and waves foaming around the jagged rocks below.
Back at the junction, follow the left-hand trail as it curves south along the bluff. You soon pass a picnic table, but the best picnicking views are a little farther along, at the southernmost picnic table along the route, where the trail curves inland again. Although the trail was almost completely fogged in on my first visit (I caught no more than a glimpse of a few rocks close offshore, even from the overlook), when I returned another day, from this picnic area I could see south to the mouth of the Russian River and Goat Rock beyond.
As you round the loop and start back toward the parking lot, you see forested hills rising to the east. Highway One is close here, and now and then I could hear cows lowing as they browsed the ranchlands on the other side, interspersed with the blatt of trucks braking for the steep southbound grade. The traffic noise is faint, though, muffled by the sound of wind and waves.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Accessible Parking: Yes
The lot has designated accessible spots (painted but not signed).
Accessible Restroom: Yes
There is no sink.
Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes
On my visit, several of the picnic tables had deep piles of dead grass around them.
Hours: Always open
Map: See here.
Dogs: On a leash