If you're looking to travel locally this summer, here's a great suggestion for anyone living in the Bay Area. Why not take a day to explore the windy beaches of Salt Point State Park? We've put together a quick guide for anyone who wants to visit this section of the California coastline north of San Francisco.
Where Is Salt Point State Park?
Salt Point State Park is on the coast of Sonoma County in Northern California. Due to its location north of San Francisco, Salt Point State Park is a popular destination for nature enthusiasts from the Bay Area. It’s also relatively easy to reach Salt Point State Park if you’re staying in Sacramento.
How To Get To Salt Point State Park?
You could easily reach Salt Point State Park on a drive up California’s famous State Route 1 North from San Francisco. If you’re using a GPS, try plugging in this official address when traveling to Salt Point State Park:
Jenner, CA 95450
FYI: this previous TripMemos post details everything you need about planning a phenomenal CA-1 road trip.
How Far Is Salt Point From San Francisco?
Salt Point State Park is about 95 miles north of San Francisco, which makes it a great day-trip idea for people staying in the Bay Area. Depending on traffic, it usually takes 2.5 hours to travel from SF to Salt Point.
What Is There To Do In Salt Point State Park?
Salt Point State Park is most famous for its remarkable coastline with its powerful waves, fascinating sandstone formations, and colorful underwater life. Indeed, Salt Point is distinguished amongst CA State Parks for its many protected marine conservation areas.
To help you make the most out of your visit to Salt Point, let’s take a peek at a few of the best things to do there.
Take Plenty Of Pictures By The Remarkable Tafoni
The majority of people who visit Salt Point enjoy strolling along the park’s sandy coastline and admiring the many eye-catching “tafoni.” From the Italian for “cavern,” tafoni are fascinating sandstone rocks with wonderfully weird “honeycomb” formations. You can find many of these tafoni along the southern Gerstle Cove area.
As you admire the tafoni throughout the coast, keep your eyes peeled for drill marks in these rocks. Interestingly, most of the sandstone used in San Francisco’s initial construction came from this area. You might even notice a few eyebolts along Gerstle Cove from when ships used to dock in the 19th century.
Enjoy An Unforgettable Glimpse At Underwater Life
Salt Point State Park takes great pride in protecting many delicate underwater ecosystems. In addition to the Salt Point Marine Conservation Area, Salt Point’s coastline includes protected areas like the Gerstle Cove State Marine Reserve and the Stewarts Point State Marine Reserve. In each of these areas, you could see an abundance of kelp, red abalone, starfish, and many more sea critters.
A few activities permitted on these reserves include kayaking and recreational diving. There is also horseback riding excursions for those who are interested.
Although fishing is prohibited at Gerstle Cove Marine Reserve, there are a few zones where permit-carrying fishers could cast a line. Just keep in mind, Salt Point only allows the capture of finfish on its coast.
Licensed divers could also try their luck at picking up red abalone on Salt Point’s coast. If you are interested in catching this mollusk, please be sure to read through CA’s Red Abalone Fishery Management Plan to better understand the state’s legal limits.
Camping In Salt Point State Park
There are two major campgrounds in Salt Point State Park: the Oceanside Gerstle Cove and the eastern Woodside. Gerstle Cove now has 30 family-sized campsites while Woodside has 79. Anyone interested in camping at Salt Point could do so during the official camping season (March 15 – October 31).
A few of the amenities guests enjoy at both of these sites include food lockers, picnic areas, fire rings, and restrooms. Just be forewarned: there are no dump stations or showers on either of these campgrounds.
Since these campsites tend to fill up months in advance, it’s best to reserve your spots ASAP. To learn more about booking a Salt Point campsite, you could either visit this website or call a CA Parks representative at (800) 444-7275.
Hiking In Salt Point State Park
The best way to appreciate Salt Point’s unique flora and fauna is to walk on one of the park’s many hiking trails. Impressively, there are now 20 miles of trails to choose from throughout this 6,000-acre park.
Below, we’ll share two of the most popular hiking trails in Salt Point State Park. If you’d like to see a map of all these trails, be sure to visit this official PDF.
Salt Point Trail
For the ultimate coastal experience, you must take a walk on Salt Point’s namesake trail. As you stroll along the sandy Salt Point Trail, you’ll get the full NorCal beach experience with inspiring vistas, crashing waves, and unusual rock formations.
This level trail is perfect for all skill levels and only measures about three miles round-trip. You can easily find Salt Point Trail’s start either near the park’s Visitor’s Center or by the Stump Beach Parking Area.
Pygmy Forest Trail
Although Salt Point’s coastline is spectacular, don’t forget to explore the park’s equally marvelous inland areas. Indeed, at the park’s highest elevation, you’ll find a unique pygmy forest with a plethora of mini-redwoods and cypresses.
To best experience Salt Point’s pygmy forest, we recommend starting at the Ranger Center near the park’s entrance and following the Central Trail. After about one mile, follow the sign to North Trail and enjoy the pygmy forest. Keep walking on North Trail until you hit the Water Tank Trail and then rejoin the Central Trail. This four-mile hike has a steady incline and is usually listed as moderate difficulty.
When’s The Best Time Of Year To Visit Salt Point State Park?
Summer is the most popular time to visit Salt Point State Park due to the more favorable weather conditions. Although it’s usually never “hot” in Salt Point State Park, average temps in the summer hover around 65° F. Just keep in mind that summertime fog isn’t uncommon here.
For people who are interested in whale-watching, you should plan to visit Salt Point State Park in the winter. Typically, gray whales migrate along the Sonoma Coast during winter months, which makes it a fantastic time to break out your binoculars and enjoy the views.
What Time Does Salt Point State Park Open?
Salt Point State Park is usually open between dawn and dusk every day of the week. The Visitor’s Center, however, is only open between 10 AM – 3 PM on Saturdays and Sundays between April and October.
How Much Does It Cost To Get Into Salt Point State Park?
If you’re parking your vehicle for the day at Salt Point, expect to pay $8. Those who are camping at Salt Point usually have to pay $35 per night and $8 for each additional vehicle. The camping overflow price is now set at $30 per vehicle per night.
Are Dogs Allowed At Salt Point State Park?
Yes, you can bring your dog to Salt Point State Park, but they are not allowed on beaches or trails. If you’re camping with a canine, please keep your dog inside a tent or vehicle overnight. Also, you must put a leash on your pooch before parading him around the park.
Why Is This Park Called Salt Point?
It’s no secret that there’s a lot of salt on Salt Point’s coast—hence the park’s name. Indeed, the main reason the park’s tafoni formations look the way they do has a great deal to do with salt deposits.
Where To Stay When Visiting Salt Point State Park
As we’ve already explained above, Salt Point State Park has two campgrounds if you’d like to stay over a few nights. If you’d rather sleep in a cozy hotel, then check out these phenomenal properties.
Timber Cove Resort
Only three miles south of Salt Point, the Timber Cover Resort is one of the closest hotels to this CA State Park. At the three-star Timber Cove Resort, guests enjoy stunning coastal views, an outdoor fire pit, and two hiking trails.
About a 30-minute drive south of Salt Point, the Jenner Inn is another lovely three-star hotel located along the Sonoma Coast. Inside this historic hotel, guests enjoy perks like free parking, free breakfast, and pet-friendly rooms.
As always, let us know what you think! If you've visited Salt Point SP, we'd love to hear your impression and any tips you might be able to share with us. Just leave us a comment below!