Archived Trail of the Month:
Needle Rock

Every month, we feature a sample hike from one of our hiking guide books. The sample trail listing is from:

The Hiker's hip pocket Guide to the Mendocino Coast

long, dark-sand beach
DISTANCE 1-½ miles one way, three miles round trip.
TIME 2 hours.
TERRAIN Grassy headlands, stairway to a long, broad, dark-sand beach.
190 feet+ / 190 feet-
BEST TIME Medium to low tide
WARNINGS Never turn your back on the ocean; rogue waves can strike any time, especially in winter. Moderate to low tide only (not high tides), especially in winter.
From Sinkyone Park Visitor Center, trail leads west.
FURTHER INFO Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. 707-946-2311 or

The trail starts directly across the road from the Visitor Center. Go west over gently sloping grassy headlands past a giant cypress snag. In 350 feet you come to a long winding stairway that takes you to the beach just east of Double Rock. Needle Rock is visible not far to the north. (You may also walk north along the beach past Needle Rock to Jones Beach, ¾ mile north, where another stairway leads up to the Whale Gulch Trail.)

Your walk heads south along the dark-sand beach beside high cliffs. The cliffs are cut by several steep gulches, which may have waterfalls in the spring. The deepest gulch, about halfway to the end of the beach, generally has a stream throughout the year. To the south, the beach widens, while the cliffs are cut by more steep gulches. Near its south end, the beach become very broad, then comes to a point with several small tidepools offshore. To the southeast is Secret Beach, accessible only at low tide.

Just northeast of the point, where the beach narrows and comes to a creek, is a rough stairway leading up the bluffs to a path to the main road just north of the rough crossing at Flat Rock Creek. It is much easier, however, to walk back the way you came.