Bodega Bay to Sebastopol: Hiking, Nature and Art Trails
Finding Sonoma County’s Hidden Art Trail in Sebastopol, California
By Chelsea Staub
The Sunday my family and I took a day trip to Sonoma County was a warm, summer day in Oakland.
It was hard to imagine leaving the warm East Bay with a thick sweater and beanie in preparation for the brisk sea air I would find in roughly an hour’s time.
Although California’s fire season hadn’t started yet, the city air felt hot and thick with smog. It was a good day to leave the city behind.
While I anticipated breathing in the cool, clean air of Bodega Bay, I was not expecting to fall in love with the junk I found in Sebastopol. Nor was I expecting my day trip to encapsulate my love for California.
If the traffic gods are on your side, taking the US-101 N to CA-1 N will put you in Bodega Bay in an hour and fifteen minutes. However, leaving on a Sunday morning meant traffic was light, making the drive a surprisingly quick escape from San Francisco.
Tasting Valley Ford
The drive through Valley Ford served as a reminder of the understated beauty found in the West. The contrast between the wheat-colored hillsides and Bishop pine trees that lined the curving highway embodied the subtle variances that can only be described as “Californian.” Here, the hills brought down the beating sun, while the trees revealed a dry soil.
If you’re eager to make a stop on this beautiful route, you can taste the fresh food of Sonoma at Rocker Oysterfeller’s, a Southern-style seafood joint. Here you can enjoy an Oyster PoBoy for $21.95 along with live music on Sunday’s. 14415 CA-1, Valley Ford, CA 94972
If you’re in need of a snack, but hoping to save your seafood meal for a fresh crab roll or chowder near Bodega Head, Valley Ford Cheese and Creamery serves Italian-style artisan cheese boards that can be enjoyed with a glass of wine, beer, or coffee.
If you need to satisfy a sweet tooth, soft-serve ice cream is also available. 14390 Valley Ford Rd, Valley Ford, CA 94972
The Golden State’s Bluffs and Beaches
Following CA-1, you will drive around winding, vacant hills until turning into the thickly settled town of Bodega Bay. As predicted, the sky slowly turned to grey, and the air felt crisp.
Although this route bypasses Sebastopol, we decided an afternoon of lowkey hiking at Bodega Head couldn’t be missed. We continued our journey, taking in the scenic ocean views before planning an early dinner on our slow descent back to Oakland.
Westshore Road will take you to the Bodega Bay Trailhead where you will find the bluffs and beaches that embody the beauty of western coastlines.
While the sea breeze, the bustle of working fisherman, and the promises of freshly caught shellfish presented a remarkable likeness to a coastal town of New England, the foliage around the trail encompassed the unique attributes of The Golden State.
Seaside buckwheat traced the trail, while sea fig ice plants engulfed the bluffs in tones of red.
The Seagulls and Scenic Views of Bodega Bay
The ambiance of squawking and chirping birds nestled into the neighboring trees will heighten your experience, allowing any eager Alfred Hitchcock enthusiast to get a glimpse into the mind of “The Master of Suspense,” while simultaneously forgoing possible tourist traps.
A parking lot, restrooms, and picnic benches were available at the trailhead, and portions of the trail were wheelchair accessible.
Although the park had a steady flow of Sunday visitors, there was enough outdoor space to stretch out without wearing a mask.
If you’re traveling with kids, you can take in the scenic views while keeping the family entertained with kite flying and saltwater taffy. Second Wind has an array of kites, spinners, games and candy. Single line kites start at $16. 1805 N Highway 1 @ Corner of, Eastshore Rd, Bodega Bay, CA 94923
For the Love of Pizza
The primary reason for our 16-mile detour to Sebastopol from Bodega Bay was pizza. Although there were numerous dining options offering the best of Sonoma County’s seafood and wine selection, family compromises were made, and the consensus landed on Detroit-style pizza. Luckily, this took us straight to The Barlow.
The outdoor market district of Sebastopol stretches across four city blocks, creating an extravagant art, food, and shopping scene. Industrial warehouses provide an assortment of local food and spirits, while pop-up shops offer crafts, home goods and clothing.
You can catch live music or enjoy a “Beer and Bingo” night with 16 taps of on-site brewed beers at Crooked Goat Brewing. 120 Morris St #120, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Sebastopol’s Arts Scene
Head over to Gallery 300 to marvel at collections of contemporary art inspired by the Sonoma County scenery, then visit the Lori Austin Gallery for art and jewelry made by a range of national and international artists. Gallery 300, 6780 McKinley St Suite 130, Sebastopol, CA 95472. Lori Austin Gallery, 6780 McKinley St Suite 150, Sebastopol, CA 95472
Other shopping includes Indigenous Designs, a clothing boutique for men and women offering ethical, sustainable, and fair-trade products. Indigenous Designs, 6770 McKinley St #140, Sebastopol, CA 95472.
California Sister, a florist, is also a must-see. If you don’t want to treat yourself to a flower bouquet, this shop also offers beautiful home goods with some special vintage finds, natural beauty products, and elegant gardening tools. The smell and assortment of flowers makes the visit worth it alone. 6790 McKinley St #190, Sebastopol, CA 95472
After shopping, we finally made it to our dinner destination. Our delicious, deep-dish pizza was at Acre Pizza. California-grown tomatoes and mozzarella from Valley Ford made our toppings nice and fresh, while the crust was both cheesy and crispy.
Indoor seating is limited, but there are plenty of outdoor seating spots around the corner. Bring a sweater and enjoy a glass of local red wine poured right from the tap for $9 to stay warm.
Two people can split an 8×10 square pizza starting at $18. Gluten-free thin crust, vegan mozzarella, and salads are also available. 6760 McKinley St Suite 150, Sebastopol, CA 95472
The delicious, local food and modern-chic shops made our trip to The Barlow the perfect place to stop, but our walk following dinner made the town of Sebastopol really shine.
Turning Sebastopol’s Trash into Artistic Treasure
A 13-minute walk on McKinley Street to Wilton Avenue will take you from The Barlow to the quaint neighborhood of Florence Avenue. Here, a whimsical art trail awaits.
Along a row of craftsman-style houses, a collection of recycled junk has been crafted into humorous lawn sculptures, creating a mesmerizing outdoor gallery.
The trash of Sebastopol, or “junk art,” was conceived by Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent, two artists local to this Sonoma County town. Items meant for the landfill have been re-envisioned into creating community camaraderie through environmentally friendly art.
Where the Arts Meet Pop Culture
Nods to pop culture, sports, and fairy tales make the excursion exciting and diverse. On one front lawn, scraps of metal have been welded together to create a roaring Godzilla with teeth made of coiled springs, while another home hosts an enchanting mermaid with a paint lid fin tail.
Amiot’s art museum house stands out among the rest, as several sculptures rise from a garden of cacti and succulents.
Cheeky references to Start Trek and Batman mingle with hanging string lights on an arched metal gateway. Pedestrians can grab a pamphlet about the artwork from a repurposed Kellogg crank telephone box.
A Guessing Game of California Culture
Each artwork impresses through its clever construction, allowing viewers to play a guessing game of “what kind of trash is that?”
Stroll along the Florence Avenue Art Walk and enjoy the playful sculptures against the Californian backdrop of palm trees and bright sunshine. 382 Florence Avenue, Sebastopol, CA, 95472
The contrast between the natural beauty of Bodega Bay and the fantastical recycled trash of Sebastopol will leave you with a taste of California culture.
From the sustainability found in local food ingredients and preserved hiking trails to the mix of well-curated shops and modern works of quirky art, this pocket of the West epitomizes the many wonders to be explored in the great Golden State.