Sonoma Section 5

Fort Ross State Historic Park to Russian Gulch

Sonoma Section 5

Fort Ross State Historic Park to Russian Gulch

This hike begins with an easy walk through the historic Russian fort to scenic Fort Ross Cove, gets rougher climbing over bluffs to Reef Campground, then explores one of the roughest and most remote areas on the California shore, Sonoma's Lost Coast. This dramatic terrain results from the proximity of the San Andreas Fault, which comes ashore amidst these high bluffs, causing this land to rise steeply from the sea. Most of the hike follows the base of cliffs far below the highway where you must scramble over rocks, walk on slippery uneven cobbles, and make several steep climbs and descents. It's a stimulating trek for fit hikers, passable only in calm weather when the tide is ebbing. Sonoma's Lost Coast has a wilderness feeling. An Alternate Route follows the highway.

Start at the Fort Ross Visitor Center where excellent displays discuss the Kashaya Pomo, Russians and Americans who lived on and worked this land. Walk through the museum if its open, or around to its right if it's closed and descend the paved path through a cypress grove past historic Call Ranch buildings to the fort at ¼ mile. Fort Ross testifies to the hardships and ingenuity, but ultimate failure, of the Russians who tried to settle here. From the fort's southwest corner, the trail winds down the bluff to Fort Ross Cove beyond ½ mile. Walk the cove's beach, passing a side trail on the left to the old Russian cemetery. CCT climbs the narrow path up the bluff, reaching the top at ¾ mile. Follow the trail along the bluff’s edge, descending to the end of the Reef Campground road before 1 1/8 miles where you'll find water and an outhouse, the last of civilization for the next 5 ¾ miles. Cross the small dirt parking area, hop over the stile and descend the trail to the rocky beach.

Distance: 6 ⅞ miles (11.1 kilometers)

Open to: Hikers

Surface: Trail, beach, rocky tideline

Access point: Fort Ross Visitor Center

How to get there: Turn west off Highway 1 12 miles north of Jenner at Milepost 33.00 into Fort Ross entrance and park at the visitor center lot.

Other access: Fort Ross Reef Campground.

Difficulty: Hard

Elevation gain/loss: 470 feet +/560 feet-

Cautions: Hike requires boulder hopping, walking uneven beaches, and steep climbs and descents. It is only passable at a 3.0 foot or lower tide in calm weather. Wear sturdy boots and don’t go solo.

Further information:

Facilities: Fort Ross has water, phone, restrooms, and picnic tables. Chemical toilets at Fort Ross Cove, Reef Campground (water too), and Russian Gulch.

Campgrounds: Reef Campground is 1.6 miles south of the For Ross entrance.

Lodging: Several motels are north of Fort Ross.

Points of Interest

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