With summer fast approaching, it makes us think of all of the cool activities we've discovered while hanging out with our grandchildren every summer. One of the coolest was rock climbing on the Sunset Boulders at Goat Rock State Beach along the Sonoma Coast. Our oldest grandson, Gabriel, got into rock climbing a couple of years ago and even inspired his Grandpa Clay to join a rock climbing gym here in Santa Rosa. Sunset Boulders provided a beautiful, outdoor spot for all of us to act like mountain goats.
You can climb two ways on Sunset Boulders: You can top rope, which involves harnesses and ropes to keep you safe on longer climbs, or you can boulder, which are shorter climbs that do not require harnesses. Climbers who are bouldering still use pads and even helmets to keep them safe. You'll notice in our pictures we're not using any safety equipment because we didn't have any. But none of us ventured more than a few feet off the ground. Have fun but please don't act like daredevils without the proper training and equipment!
The Sunset Boulders are house-sized rocks jutting up from a beautiful, grass-filled plateau that curves around the Pacific Ocean, south of Jenner on Highway 1. There's a steep, 4-minute hike to the rocks and once there, you can hear the crash of the ocean against the beach and rocks below. Rub marks on the rocks are thought to have been created by mammoths that roamed the area 40,000 years ago.
It was a beautiful August day when we went climbing, and while there were other climbers present with their ropes and pads, there was plenty of room for everyone and no one seemed to care that we were novices. The inexperienced in our group got to clamber five feet up easy-to-scale rocks and hang our feet over the edge, feeling very accomplished. Gabriel, with more experience, taught us how to properly protect him from a fall and succeeded at more intricate climbs. The book, "Bay Area Rock" by Jim Thornburg has an excellent guide to specific climbing routes on the rocks.
Don't underestimate the walk back up to the car. It's a steep one! But the lure of the crab sandwiches and clam chowder from the Spud Point Crab Company in Bodega Bay got us up the hill. It was a delicious end to a great day, and we can't wait until our grandchildren return so we can enjoy it again this summer!
How to get to Sunset Boulders at Goat Rock State Beach: From the turnoff into Goat Rock State Park, drive a quarter mile to a large pullout on the left. There are several of these pullouts, and almost all will get you to the rocks. If the road goes up the hill and bends to the right, you've gone a little too far, and should turn around. From the parking pullout, hike downhill into the meadow, where the rocks are a can't miss.