A couple years ago, I saw a picture of beautiful sea glass with the ocean behind. The caption explained that this was Glass Beach, in Fort Bragg, California. I was disappointed to find Fort Bragg so far south, my intent being on Oregon and extreme northern California on that trip, but it went into the back of my mind as a place to visit, for sure, in the future.
Quick Stats for Glass Beach
About this time, one of my group members was sifting through my trip information and ran across a photograph of beautiful sea glass with an ocean behind. She, too, was disappointed that it was too far south.
So this year, when we were going slightly further south, guess what was our first stop on the coast? (Hint: It wasn’t Redwood, that was last year!)
We pulled into the Glass Beach parking area about midday (EDT) on a very, very grey and misty day. We chatted for a moment with a lonely hippie who wanted to visit New York someday, ate lunch (cold cereal, why not?) at the two picnic tables at the beach end of the parking lot, and headed down the trail right about the time the sun started breaking through the mist.
There are two paved trails that leave the parking area at its northwest corner. One is very wide and goes straight / left. This is apparently the trail you’re supposed to take. The other is much narrower and more grown-in and V’s off to the right. This is apparently the return trail. Since everyone we saw was going left, we decided to go right and see what we found.
What we found, which was what we expected, was that the two trails both take you to the top of the bluff overlooking Glass Beach. To get to the bluff from the wide trail, follow the sign for the easy trail (which isn’t easy; but that’s another post). From the narrow trail, you’ll just end up in generally the right area. From here, many social trails lead down to various beaches. All of them are part of Glass Beach, and most of them have varying amounts of sea glass.
The brief history is that in the late 1800s and early 1900s the area was a massive logging center. The workers liked their drink, and the garbage was simply shoved over the edge of the cliff into the ocean. Most of the garbage was more or less dragged away by the ocean, but many of the bottles were broken and polished by the ocean to be spit back up on the beach.
I hear that the amount (and size of the pieces) have been decreasing in recent years. Still, there is plenty of sea glass to be incredibly beautiful.
We scrambled down to one of the largest of the beaches, just to the right of the main bluff. There wasn’t much glass around, but we continued north. About the time we hit the surf line (it was more or less high tide), there began to be quite a bit of glass.
We sat around for a while, enjoying the glass, enjoying the nearby sea stacks, taking pictures, and generally exploring for fun’s sake. You could spend an hour or so here just exploring.
We weren’t feeling much like exploring – too many late nights and early mornings had left the group feeling pretty tired – and so we went back up on the bluff. There we did two other trails, one south along the blufftops, paved, known as the “Hard Trail”. The second looked almost like a social trail and rambled north along the top of the bluffs, dirt, eroded in places, but always with a trail around the eroded places. Both had great views, so I’ll detail them in posts of their own over the next couple weeks!
Round Trip Trail Length: About 0.6 miles to just explore Glass Beach
Net Elevation Change: About 35ft. (35ft. on the bluff top to 0ft. on the beach)
Facilities: Restrooms in the parking area; picnic tables on the opposite end of the parking area; other facilities available in Fort Bragg
Trail Notes: Because of size constraints, no RVs are allowed in the parking area for Glass Beach. Do not collect or remove glass (obvious, but I have to say it). Various parts of the beach have more or less glass. At this point, Google Maps doesn’t show the parking area or the paved trail. Someday, Fort Bragg will get new satellite imagery!
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
Key GPS Coordinates for Glass Beach
Trailhead: 39.4519306°N, -123.8109583°W (39°27’6.95″N, -123°48’39.45″W (39°27.11583’N, -123°48.65750’W) (22ft.) (0.0; ended 4.2 overall)
Trail Junction #1: 39.4519639°N, -123.8112611°W (39°27’7.07″N, -123°48’40.54″W / 39°27.11783’N, -123°48.67567’W) (30ft.) (109ft.)
Viewpoint #1 (Bluff Top): 39.4526917°N, -123.8133639°W (39°27’9.69″N, -123°48’48.11″W / 39°27.16150’N, -123°48.80183’W) (17ft.) (0.16)
Return to trail after Glass Beach: 39.4526472°N, -123.8128500°W (39°27’9.53″N, -123°48’46.26″W / 39°27.15883’N, -123°48.77100’W) (26ft.) (0.49)
Easy vs. Difficult Trail Junction: 39.4518917°N, -123.8123583°W (39°27’6.81″N, -123°48’44.49″W / 39°27.11350’N, -123°48.74150’W) (34ft.) (0.6; returned 2.2)
The gpx file for Glass Beach and surrounding trails can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.
File size: 79.0 KB Downloaded 6 times
(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website. Thanks!)
Getting to Glass Beach
From the town of Fort Bragg, drive toward the north end of town on CA-1. Turn left on W Elm Street for 0.2 miles. Here the road will turn sharply to the right; turn left into the good-sized parking area for Glass Beach.
If you’re coming from the north, cross over Pudding Creek (the trestle will be very visible to the right), then turn right on W Elm Street and follow the directions (above) to the trailhead.
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Mon Jan 22
Partly cloudy skies. Slight chance of a rain shower. High 53F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.
Tue Jan 23
Partly cloudy skies in the morning will give way to cloudy skies during the afternoon. Slight chance of a rain shower. High 54F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph.
Wed Jan 24
Rain likely. High 52F. S winds shifting to WNW at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 100%. 1 to 2 inches of rain expected.
Thu Jan 25
Rain likely. High 47F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall near a half an inch.
Fri Jan 26
Cloudy skies early, followed by partial clearing. High 52F. Winds light and variable.