Walking the Kortum Trail in Winter

Kortum Trail is one great place to walk clifftop along the Sonoma coast. Round trip, it’s eight miles from Goat Rock to Wright’s Beach. I like to pick it up at Shell Beach and walk a shorter piece.

In winter, this part of the Sonoma coast is a study in grasses. I like the rawness of it. Not quite wild, since it used to be pastureland, but a harshness, that I find invigorating. Winter also provides some clear vistas.

Kortum Trail Boardwalk

Heading north from the Shell Beach parking lot, we soon wished we’d put on our rain boots. The meadows showed how much water the land could hold. No rain for a week, yet much of the Kortum trail was a muddy mess.

The Coastal Conservancy, Coastwalk and others have built some boardwalks over the wettest parts of the trail. More are needed. Creeks and newer runoff babbled under the bridges and walkways.

Kortum Trail walkers

A few dandelions or hairy cat’s ears bloomed yellow in the marshy spots. We rarely see animals or animals signs, but almost a full skeleton lay right by the boardwalk. Can anyone identify? My first thought, bobcat. Second, deer. Maybe some of both and someone was messing around. It looked staged, it was so unusual.

Kortum Trail Skeleton

We walked closer to the cliff edge to avoid the soggy trail and to see and hear the ocean better. I used my poles to climb down and up one creek crossing. One of the fun features of the Kortum Trail is that there’s a different garden mix at each creek. January is not exactly the high season for wildflowers but a few nettles bloomed in purple spears.

Nettle on Kortum Trail

The rest of the walk we saw single flowers of a seaside daisy and a coastal buckwheat. We’ll come back in May to see a great floral display.

My goal had been to go as far as the main outcrop, which we did. Access to the rock is now closed. Too many people destroying the rock, while injuring themselves?

Kortum Trail cliffside

The return walk was just as wet, but the sun glistened on the water and the boardwalks. The ocean is still my favorite place to be.

Kortum Trail Bridge facing south

See you on the trail!

Words by Lynn Millar, Photos by Mike Millar

For our other walks on the Kortum trail, see it in spring Walking Sonoma Coast; or January 1, 2010 Shell Beach North. My crude and slightly amusing map or the trail, click Kortum Trail Map.


Steep stairs to Shell Beach.

Kortum Trail signNorth, as we did. 2.3 mi to Goat Rock with 2 creek crossings and a climb after  1.5 mi. Just past the first fence to the right (inland) is a labyrinth. Walk the path and pay homage to the ocean.



Kortum Trail BridgeSouth, creek crossing right away, new higher bridge, trail graveled but eroding. Recent cave-in serves as reminder that coast is also fragile. Another creek to cross at Furlong Gulch. Less than 2 mi to Wright’s Beach.




East, across road from Shell Beach lot is trail to either Red Hill or Pomo Canyon.


Best view for any bathroom. Pit toilet, no water.

Wheelchair: not really, until there are more boardwalks.

No dogs on the State Sonoma Coast clifftops. People take their dogs to Furlong Gulch. Dogs okay at Doran Beach, south of this area.

Kortum Trail Ocean

Published by Lynn Millar

Walker, reader, writer, traveller - see About Walking

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