Stengel Beach

Sea Ranch, widely touted for the unobtrusive architecture of its award-winning houses, sits on 5,000 acres of bluffs and forest the largest block of private land on the Sonoma coast. Its 11 miles of scenic beach lands line State 1 about 120 miles north of San Francisco. Trails along Sea Ranch provide access to beaches where you can picnic, look for shells, fish, or dive for abalone.

Signs on the highway indicate where the trails are. Keep to marked trails-everything else is private land. April can bring sunny days, but it's often windy so dress warmly. Also, note that trails are open for day use only, that parking lots are small (holding four to six cars and no RVs) and charge a $5.00 use fee, and that there is no parking along State I or in Sea Ranch itself.

On Stengel Beach trail, you'll find a new bridge and stairway at the end of a 0.2-mile trail down to rocky Stengel Beach. (The stairway ends at a rock outcrop, so watch your step.) The tiny beach has a delicate little intermittent waterfall and offers wind-sheltered picnicking. Make sure high tide doesn't trap you on any of this cove's rocky arms.