Sunset Beach


Rating: C

A county park, with a $6 per vehicle parking lot, picnic tables, and a chemical toilet, also features Sonoma's most popular swimming hole, which formerly attracted hundreds of nudists.  Those days are gone, but the site is still an excellent spot for birding, viewing river wildlife, picnicking, seasonal fishing, swimming, and, on occasion, nude sunbathing.  But it's been visited so many times by deputies that nudists have practically vanished from sight.  They're still there, especially in late spring, but they mostly hide out near the bushes at the top of the sloping beach, which is also called Hacienda Beach.  In the early morning, check for butterflies that often gather together by the dozens along the water's edge.  Dogs are allowed on leashes no longer than six feet in length.  The park is open from sunrise to sunset.

Legal status:

Part of the county-owned Sonoma Beach River Park.  For enforcement policy, see Lower Wohler Bridge.

How to find it:

From San Francisco, go north on Highway 101, passing Santa Rosa, to River Road. Take River Road west to its intersection with Sunset Avenue in the Hacienda District, which is east of Guerneville and 2.1 miles east of the Korbel Winery.  Continue driving on River Road .75 miles west of Sunset and park in the county park's lot at 11060 River Road, which can hold 40 vehicles in the paved area and 40 more in its adjacent unpaved parking spaces. Follow a path from the parking lot to the lower end of Sunset Beach.

The beach:

Sunset is a beautiful, hilly beach with clean, deep water. It's a great place to take a dip and cool off. Visitors love to bring their dogs to the beach. The walk to the quarter mile long site will take you through trees and greenery.

The crowd:

We counted 15 people, including families and children, plus a few dogs, on the beach or in the water on a sunny weekend. Most users are suited.


Proximity of canoeists; rocks in river (wear shoes); area subject to visits by deputies; parking on Sunset Avenue prohibited; nude use usually limited to bushes at top of beach.

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