How many opportunities could one have to experience a 6-mile hike along a trade route used by Native Pomo and Miwok Indians? One of the many gifts of living in Northern California is having endless adventures right in our backyard. We decided that our plans to spend the weekend in Jenner, California had to include hiking the Pomo Canyon Red Hill Trail.
The trail takes hikers to the tallest ridge overlooking the point where the Russian River flows to meet the coast. The incomparable views look down onto the river, over the Jenner Headlands and out to the Pacific Ocean. Only a drone could provide a better view!
The hike begins with an uphill path winding through open areas with diverse and ever-changing scenery including chaparral, meadows and grasslands that eventually lead to deeply shaded redwood groves and running streams.
Hawks circle above, alternating between effortless gliding and powerful swooping as they detect potential prey. Hikers pass primitive rock formations, share the trail with butterflies, and are serenaded with an abundance of birdsong.
It’s a profound experience to walk in the steps of ancient peoples. To see what they saw. To feel what they felt because the land is largely untouched and pristine. It is a living tribute to conservation and a commitment to the land that preserves natural treasures for future generations.
I imagine that the trial provided a sense of serenity and a measure of safety high above the rugged California coastline at Goat Rock Beach – where “sneaker” waves make it one of the most dangerous stretches of water in California. The trail also likely offered roots and berries for food, items to use to build shelters, fresh running water, and wildflowers to use as plant medicine.
Hikers can park free of charge in the Shell Beach parking lot and (carefully!) cross Highway 1 to access the trailhead at the Dr. David C. Joseph Memorial sign. You will need more than tennis shoes. We were there in April and parts of the trail were still quite wet and rocky. Hiking boots, a sun hat and plenty of drinking water are a must.
After a beautiful and moderately challenging hike you know you are once again nearing the coast when you begin to feel hints of the ocean breeze and whiffs of salty sea air. A great way to end your morning of hiking is right back where you started at Shell Beach.
Insider’s Tip: Be sure to walk down to explore the stunning cove at Shell Beach with it’s extraordinary tide pools filled with anemones and other sea life.