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Red Hill at Sonoma Coast State Beach

An old California ranch overlooking the coast and Jenner headlands
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Rating: 3 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 5.8 miles
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly

Overview:  Red Hill provides a series of trails climbing the tallest ridge just south of the Russian River on the coast. This exposed landscape... more »

Tips:  Don’t rely on the park map for the Red Hill Trail system. Several trails are not displayed that intersect this route. The physical... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Trail Head

To start, locate the Shell Beach access point just south of Pacific View Drive on HWY 1. It’s approximately 1.6 miles south of the bridge at crossing the Russian River. Leave the car there and the trail head is just across HWY 1.

Start heading up the old ranch road (Pomo Canyon Trail) at the cattle gate and through the coastal coyote brush and... More

2. Junction

At 0.5 miles you will encounter the first intersection. Take the right fork and continue up the Red Hill Trail. Passing between the mounds you’ll ultimately pass into a hidden valley.

3. Junction

Continue up the Red Hill Trail. It appears the other fork is a trail being abandoned for vegetation regrowth.

4. View

A first look at the Russian River Valley out to Jenner and the coast.

5. Vista

Panoramic vista of the Russian River and Willow Creek Valley. This area is part of an old ranch that hasn't been grazed in a long time. The coastal chaparral has started taking over.

Up ahead will be an old range fence and gate to cross.

6. Upper Meadows

Arrive at upper meadows. The steady upgrade has settled out.

7. Junction

Intersection with overgrown ranch road. Stay on the Red Hill Trail to the right.

These trails are frequently crossed by old ranch roads. In a few spots it's tempting to take them.

8. Island Forest on Red Hill

Breaking into and ridge top forest of mixed redwood, oak, and bay.

A great shelter when the winds pick up.

9. Junction

Take the right fork to the top of Red Hill. Follow the left fork to continue to Pomo Canyon.

10. Junction

Cross the side trail and keep heading easterly toward Willow Creek.

11. Bridge

Into a shallow draw you'll encounter a bridge with running brook.

12. Vista

Vista of Russian River out to the Jenner coast. The trail gently heads downhill toward the ridge separating Red Hill and the Willow Creek watershed.

13. Forest

Breaking into new growth Redwood Forest. Entering the Willow Creek watershed.

14. Junction

THIS IS AN IMPORTANT INTERSECTION. Red Hill Trail, Pomo Canyon and Shell Beach trails. The Park map looks as though the Pomo Canyon Trail will loop back toward the coast. If that is your desire, take the Shell Beach Route and keep your elevation. We followed Pomo Canyon down into Willow Creek. The route down will take you to the valley floor and... More

15. Forest POI

Spectacular second-growth redwood grove with heavy fern ground cover. Some of the old stumps show signs of the old lumberjack springboards. The trail transitions to what appears to be a carpeted skid trail.

16. Junction

Unmarked trail intersection. Both ultimately head down the hill into the Pomo Campground. We took the right fork on a beautiful and steep avenue down through the grove which shortly landed us in the middle of the campgrounds.

17. Trail Head and Campground

At the floor of Willow Creek.
Pomo Canyon trailhead and parking area. Outhouses, garbage cans, water, and campground self registration available. The campgrounds are nestled up the slope, each tucked into redwood groves on a small flat bench. Most appear fairly private. It's a really nice place.

If you can't bear climbing that hill you've just... More

18. Trail Choice

Retrace your route back up the hill to the intersection at WP 15.

Two trails immediately present themselves at the camp entrance. The one you came down and one that looks like it follows the base of the hill. This one provides access to campsites then heads up the hill back to that unmarked junction at Point 17.

19. Junction

Back at Point 15. Take the Shell Beach Trail along the ridge toward the Russian River. The trail follows the ridge line through mixed forests and grasslands.

20. Views

Still along the ridge, breaking out of forest with a great view of the Russian River and the mouth of the Willow Creek watershed.

21. Chaparral

Breaking out of the forests and into chaparral lands.

22. Junction

Right fork heads toward Jenner. Left fork heads westerly. Take the left fork.

23. Bridge

Bridge. The trail has the look and feel of an old ranch road that is currently used by the park.

24. Seasonal flooding

Trail flooded in wet weather.

25. Junction

Follow the side trail to the hilltop nose. There you will find a picnic bench and a spectacular vista overlooking the Russian river, the village of Jenner, the coast, and Willow Creek.

26. Vista

One of the nicest vistas on the hike. Better yet, there's a good picnic bench on this knoll.

27. Junction

Returned to Way Point 2. Backtrack down the hill.

28. End

Return to trailhead.