On our way home from Fort Bragg and Mendocino, we decided to stop at Bowling Ball Beach along the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California. The beach has been named after ball shaped rocks that have formed from hard spots in the sandstone cliffs.
The Bowling Ball Beach is in the north part of Schooner Gulch State Beach, and can be a little bit tricky to find. Even Google Maps showed it in the wrong location, but as a good traveller should, I suggested an edit and moved it to a correct spot. First you want to find Schooner Gulch State Beach, and then the correct trail that leads you to Bowling Ball Beach.
When driving down from the north, the road after Point Arena Lighthouse is pretty curvy. The Schooner Gulch parking lot comes quite suddenly, and can be hard to spot. The signs for the beach were hidden by cars parked in front of them so, we didn't see them right away and we had to make a u-tun and go back. On the other side of the parking lot there is a small gravel road, where you can also park your car if this tiny parking lot is full. The sign shows you a picture of bowling ball rocks on the beach, but doesn't actually tell you how to find them. We first took the trail from the signs to a beautiful beach in a cove, until someone there told us that the rocks are in the northern part of the beach. Then we tried another trail going north, but it only took us up to the cliff edge. We were disappointed and walked back to our car, but then we noticed one more trail leading from the other end of the parking lot. We decided to walk a little ways to see where it leads us to. When I saw a ladder going down to the beach, I knew we were in the correct spot because I had read about them.
We started walking north until we found a little lean-to. Maybe someone had spent the night here. We were the only ones on this gorgeous beach. We saw a few rocks looking like balls in the water, and right away we knew that we are not going to see the Bowling Ball Beach as it's best. We arrived at the wrong time of the day. Most of the rocks you can only see during low tide which would have been early in the morning or late evening, but it just didn't fit into our schedule on this trip.
During low tide, you can see multiple rows of rocks that look like bowling balls. You would would think that the waves made them round, but they come this way from the cliffs. Too bad, we only saw a couple, but we did find some very small bowling ball rocks on the shore. They even had holes for your fingers like real bowling balls do. The cliffs on the beach were heavily affected by erosion, the winds and waves. Looking up you could see some trees that were about to fall down soon.
See from here what the beach would have looked like during low tide.
We enjoyed the beach life for a couple of hours, and we even saw a few seals swimming by the shore. No one else came by expect a Dutch couple, who didn't know that the rocks can only be seen during certain hours of the day. We had fun before our long drive home, and after playing in the sand our little girl slept most of the drive.
TIPS TO FINDING THE BOWLING BALL BEACH:
- If you are driving south, start looking for the signs after the Point Arena Lighthouse. There might be some cars parked in front of it, so it might be hard to see.
- From the parking lot, choose the most northern trail which takes you thru a field and then thru a forest, all the way to the steps down to the beach.
- After the steps, you will have to use a ladder, so this beach can be challenging to access with small kids or with a disability. I'm not sure if you can use the other trails to access during the low tide.
- From the beach walk north until you see the round rocks.
- Make sure you visit during low tide, you can check the schedule here.
- Watch for falling rocks and branches. Erosion has made the cliffs unpredictable.