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Sunset Rocks | Mammoth Rub on Kortum Trail at Goat Rock State Beach
Sunset Rocks | Mammoth Rub on Kortum Trail at Goat Rock State Beach © Jerry Dodrill

Fragile Beauty - Sunset Rocks
Mammoth Rub on Kortum Trail
at Goat Rock State Beach

Aug 3, 2019
by Patty Ginochio, Ginochio’s Kitchen & Sonoma Concierge.


Beauty abounds everywhere while hiking the Sonoma Coast Kortum Trail from the ocean vistas, crashing waves, glorious sunsets & scenic hiking trails. Oh yes, there are some famous rocks there too!

Sunset Rocks, also known as the Mammoth Rub, stand tall in the vista. Take a deep breath and feel the peace that settles over you while in their presence. Their striking height and tumbling rocks draw you to them.

Why are they so special?

Why does your heart skip beat when you are there? Do they talk to you? Most of us say yes, they make us feel we are in a very special place on earth.

If the rocks could speak, oh the history we could learn.

Would they tell us about the hypothesis that the Columbian Mammoths 10,000 to 12,000 years ago rested in the cool wallows to bathe nearby then came over for a good rubbing on the rocks that formed a smooth glossy finish? Would we learn of the early inhabitants, how they lived, sheltered and loved the rocks too? Could the rocks tell us today how we should care for them to keep the history and love alive for future generations?

Sunset Rocks in the fog along Kortum Trail

Breck Parkman, Retired Senior State Archeologist California State Parks, who discovered and presented the theory of the Rancholabrean rubbing rocks in 2001 sums up his feelings when visiting the Locus 1 – 4. He recently shared with me “the rocks remind me of an ancient cathedral, fallen into disrepair, but not easily forgotten. The spires all but touch the sky and we are drawn to them, like the ancient mammoth was drawn to them long before us. The rocks are a seductive landmark and they will remain alluring for all who follow. We discover them each in our own way”.

On a recent visit, I came across a professionally guided climbing class with trained instructors & children climbing the rocks. I asked one of the leaders if they were aware of the sensitivity of this area, he said absolutely yes and he had the required permit from California State Parks.

I then met with Jerry Dodrill, an accomplished world climber & local photographer to learn more about climbers on the rocks. He shared how important the rocks are to climbers as many have taken their first climb here.

“The pre-historic nature of climbing here is like stepping back in time. You can literally feel a tactile connection to the past as you grip the stone, flex your muscles, and enjoy the thrill of moving over stone. It’s about as primal as it gets,” Dodrill said. “I believe that recreation is the gateway to conservation. You can’t have such deeply formative experiences without wanting to help preserve the resource for future generations.”

The rocks have inspired stewardship among the climbers.

Handholds on Mammoth Rubs © Jerry DodrillAs I walked further around the rocks that day, I came across two men. As I neared them, I realized they were using tools on the rocks. They said it was to make hand and footholds to climb the rocks. Were they really?

There are plenty of natural holds to climb the rocks so no new ones were needed. Alarms went off in me. I shared my love for the rock, the Mammoth Rub theory and the importance of not damaging the area in any way.

Many are aware of the coastal “Succulent Poachers” who steal succulents from the coastal crags in the rocks and sell them abroad. Discussions ensued regarding making this public.

Would more people now steal more of them or would the coastal visitors now help to police the succulents. All those eyes watching and protecting has been successful.

Can these watchful eyes preserve the Mammoth Rub Rocks?

On another day, I came across a couple closely studying the glossy, mammoth rub area. They shared they had bought some so-called ‘Woolly Mammoth” rubbing rock pieces on the internet and were there trying to determine if they were real. After close examination, they most likely had been scammed. Some say letting everyone know about the theory of the rubbing rocks will cause more damage.

The cat is already out of the bag as the world already knows.

Rocks rubbed smooth by Wooley Mammoths © Jerry Dodrill

How do we educate people & protect the rocks for the future?

Cea Higgins, Executive Director of Coastwalk states “Education is our best opportunity for preserving this amazing archaeological resource. Interpretive panels that explain Mammoth Rocks significance, and list what visitors should do, and not do, would be one step to ensure that the site would be protected for future generations to learn from and enjoy”.

Stewards of the Coast & Redwoods Executive Director, Michele Luna, shared they have worked with the climbing community who are very supportive of helping protect the area. Over the years there have been attempts to educate the public about their significance and encouraged positive stewardship.

Is the current solution to put up interpretive panels (storyboards) along the paths leading to the rocks?

Will educating the visitors help them fall in love and care for the area? 

If you see illegal activity along the coast, please call California State Parks office in Bodega Bay at (707) 875-3483 to report.

If you are interested in helping work on an educational program including approval and development of Interpretive panels or becoming a Docent, please send me an email at

Stewards of the Coast & Redwoods would be happy to again support a docent program at the site if there is interest!

We hope to hear from you!

Kortum Trailhead at Goat Rock State Beach

Kortum Trailhead at Goat Rock State beach:,-123.1128282,14.93z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x80869e7983e4c107:0xc24942d4ab683234!8m2!3d38.4242109!4d-123.1011733

PHOTOS © Jerry Dodrill Photography


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