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Walking Mostly - Kortum Trail in Winter by Lynn Millar


Walking Mostly - Kortum Trail in Winter by Lynn Millar

Lynn Millar has be blogging about walking Sonoma County (“mostly” since she occassionally walks other areas) for five years. In honor of Bill Kortum, I am turning readers on to Lynn's Kortum Trail in Winter. Once you are connected to her walking blog, you can find other times of year when she walks the Kortum Trail - and other walks. She is an excellent resource for good walks!

Walking the Kortum Trail in Winter

Kortum Trail is one great place to walk clifftop along the Sonoma coast. Round trip, it’s eight miles from Goat Rock to Wright’s Beach. I like to pick it up at Shell Beach and walk a shorter piece.

In winter, this part of the Sonoma coast is a study in grasses. I like the rawness of it. Not quite wild, since it used to be pastureland, but a harshness, that I find invigorating. Winter also provides some clear vistas.

Heading north from the Shell Beach parking lot, we soon wished we’d put on our rain boots. The meadows showed how much water the land could hold. No rain for a week, yet much of the Kortum trail was a muddy mess.

The Coastal Conservancy, Coastwalk and others have built some boardwalks over the wettest parts of the trail. More are needed. Creeks and newer runoff babbled under the bridges and walkways.

A few dandelions or hairy cat’s ears bloomed yellow in the marshy spots. We rarely see animals or animals signs, but almost a full skeleton lay right by the boardwalk. My first thought, bobcat. Second, deer. Maybe some of both and someone was messing around. It looked staged, it was so unusual.

We walked closer to the cliff edge to avoid the soggy trail and to see and hear the ocean better. I used my poles to climb down and up one creek crossing. One of the fun features of the Kortum Trail is that there’s a different garden mix at each creek. January is not exactly the high season for wildflowers but a few nettles bloomed in purple spears.

The rest of the walk we saw single flowers of a seaside daisy and a coastal buckwheat. We’ll come back in May to see a great floral display.

The return walk was just as wet, but the sun glistened on the water and the boardwalks. The ocean is still my favorite place to be.

See you on the trail!

Words by Lynn Millar, Photos by Mike Millar

For our other walks on the Kortum trail, see it in spring Walking Sonoma Coast; or January 1, 2010 Shell Beach North. My crude and slightly amusing map or the trail, click Kortum Trail Map.


Steep stairs to Shell Beach.

North, as we did. 2.3 mi to Goat Rock with 2 creek crossings and a climb after  1.5 mi. Just past the first fence to the right (inland) is a labyrinth. Walk the path and pay homage to the ocean.

South, creek crossing right away, new higher bridge, trail graveled but eroding. Recent cave-in serves as reminder that coast is also fragile. Another creek to cross at Furlong Gulch. Less than 2 mi to Wright’s Beach.

East, across road from Shell Beach lot is trail to either Red Hill or Pomo Canyon.


Best view for any bathroom. Pit toilet, no water.

Wheelchair: not really, until there are more boardwalks.

No dogs on the State Sonoma Coast clifftops. People take their dogs to Furlong Gulch. Dogs okay at Doran Beach, south of this area.

Lynn Millar a writer and walker who leads nature walks twice a month - and is leading a walking 'class' for Seniors. Every 3rd Saturday of the month, she leads a walk for the Sonoma County Y. You can sign up for her Blog on her website where you find lots of information about mostly fald talks, group walks, maps and more. If you enjoy walking, you'll love Lynn's blog.