Salt Point State Park: The Complete Guide

Pacific Ocean waves at Salt Point State Park in Sonoma County, California.

Gerald Corsi / Getty Images

Map card placeholder graphic

Salt Point State Park

Address
25050 CA-1, Jenner, CA 95450-9738, USA
Phone +1 707-847-3221

Enveloping over 6 miles of rocky coastline in Sonoma county and with 20 miles of hiking trails, Salt Point State Park has no shortage of activities for visitors. A variety of wildlife can be found in the underwater section of the park—a favorite for scuba divers—as well as the many open grasslands and forests that help dot the landscape. If it's views you’re after, Salt Point offers sweeping panoramas of the Northern California coast accented by hidden coves and massive rock formations accompanied by crashing waves and salty air.

Things to Do

Salt Point State Park is locally renowned for its hiking and diving, but the property is also a great place to camp, picnic, fish, horseback ride, or just take in dramatic views of sandstone cliffs dropping into the ocean (the sandstone formations found throughout the park are known as “tafoni,” honeycombed-shaped indentations carved by the water over many years). The park also features a day use area with paved parking, picnic tables, barbeques, restrooms, and potable water, all connected via a short walk to the sweeping views provided by Sentinel Rock’s wooden deck. There’s a full 6,000 acres to explore here, so take your time.

Diving

The offshore section of the park is protected as the Salt Point State Marine Conservation Area—one of the first underwater parks ever created in California. Where above the water the landscape is characterized by grassy meadows, sandstone, and hiking trails, the portion beneath the waves is absolutely bursting with ocean life thanks to healthy kelp beds and scattered tidepools.

Just north of the main parking lot off of a forested trail, Fisk Mill Cove is a popular spot for abalone diving and is also home to a regular population of local seals.

Keep in mind that the ocean at Salt Point is often too dangerous for swimming or even wading, with the exception of those who are experienced and well trained.

Pink Wildflowers and a view of rocks in water at Salt Point State Park in Northern California
Alan Majchrowicz / Getty Images

Best Hikes & Trails

The 6,000-acre park features about 20 miles worth of hiking trails along the coast, past rolling grasslands, and through forested areas. Stop by the Salt Point Visitor Center for more information and mapped brochures.

  • Salt Point Trail to Stump Beach: A moderate, 3.3-mile out-and-back trail offers scenic views and a paved section (for the first 750 feet). At the end of the pavement, hikers have a choice to head down to the beach or continue on along the coastal trail. Bird watching is popular here, especially from March until October.
  • Salt Point and North Trail Loop: A moderate, 8-mile loop trail that features beautiful displays of wildflowers and is accessible year-round.
  • Pygmy Forest Trail: A 4.9-mile lightly trafficked loop trail set at the highest elevation within the park. Although the Bishop and Bolander pine, Mendocino cypress, and redwood trees along the trail are fully mature, most are only a few feet tall.

Where to Camp

All together, the park has 109 campsites, including walk-ins and those that accommodate tents or RVs. There are two campgrounds at Salt Lake Point, Gerstle Cove Campground on the ocean side of Highway 1 and Woodside Campground on the east side. Generally, Gerstle Cove is better for views and Woodside offers more protection from the notorious coastal wind. Reservations can be made from two days up to six months in advance on the online Reserve California website and all campsites are equipped with both a picnic table and a fire ring.

  • Gerstle Cove Campground: While this campground may be open year-round, it’s first come, first served from October through mid-March. Gerstle Cove also has a group campsite as well. 
  • Woodside Campground: The site here is only open from April through early September. Much more inland than Gerstle, the Woodside Campground is divided into two loops and has the added advantage of additional shade and a farther distance from the noise of the highway. 

Where to Stay Nearby

The area around Salt Point State Park is generally isolated from many amenities, including large hotels, but there are still a few locally run, small establishments nearby where travelers can stay as close as possible to the park.

  • Ocean Cove Lodge: Only a half-mile south of the park, the Ocean Cove Lodge is a cozy spot overlooking the ocean. The property is decorated with a manicured garden and there is also a bar and grill onsite.
  • Timber Cove Resort: Known for its upscale ambiance and stunning cliffside views of the Pacific Ocean, Timber Cove Resort is found just over 3 miles south of Salt Point. This resort offers eight guest rooms (some with fireplaces and balconies) and visitors have access to an outdoor fire pit, a lounge with live entertainment, and an onsite restaurant.
  • Mar Vista Farm + Cottages: For those willing to travel a bit further north (almost 20 miles from the park), the Mar Vista Farm + Cottages is a unique accommodation where guests can stay in one of several colorful coastal cabins and harvest their own produce from the property’s very own farm. 
Weive of smooth rock with deep grooves the Salt Point Coastline in Northern California
dypics / Getty Images

How to Get There

The park is located about 95 miles north of San Francisco off of Highway 1, almost equidistant from the towns of Jenner and Gualala. The road there is narrow and extremely winding, so drivers will want to plan for at least 2.5 hours to get there from the city. Keep in mind that cell phone service will be spotty inside the park and in the areas surrounding it, so be sure to download offline maps ahead of time. 

Accessibility

Gerstle Cove Campground has three campsites—numbers 7, 8, and 24—that are accessible with tables, fire rings, and drinkable water (the restroom near site number 8 is accessible), while Woodside Campground has three campsites—numbers 56, 59, and 98—that are considered generally accessible (the restroom near site number 98 is accessible).

There are three accessible tables located overlooking Gerstle Cove for picnicking, as well as accessible parking and restrooms. An accessible loop trail along the Salt Point Trail travels 0.46 miles from the Gerstle Cove day-use parking area, offering ocean views and a surface of asphalt and compacted soil.

Tips for Your Visit

  • The weather here can be a bit unpredictable because of the rugged ocean conditions and foggy predisposition (even in the summer), so come prepared with layered clothing during your visit.
  • The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
  • Some local attractions nearby Salt Point State Park include: historic Fort Ross, Bodega Bay, the Kruse Rhododendron Nature Reserve, and Sea Ranch.
  • Sonoma County is prone to wildfires during drought years and in the late summer and fall, so expect open fires to be restricted if you’re camping during these times.
  • The day use fee is $8 per vehicle.
Back to Article

How to Visit Salt Point State Park