Glass Beach is one of the most unique beaches in northern California. It is famously known for its layers of colorful sea glass that have covered the beach since the late 1990s. As years have passed, the beach has evolved and changed over time. So many wonder, is there still glass on Glass Beach, and is Glass Beach worth the trip?
I have visited Glass Beach on two different occasions a couple of years apart and had two very different experiences. Follow this guide, and I will share with you everything you need to know before you visit Glass Beach, the hidden spot to find the glass, things to do nearby, and ultimately if Glass Beach is worth the trip.
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What is Special About Glass Beach
There are many reasons why Glass Beach is so special. One is the uniqueness. Glass Beach is famously known as one of the top beaches to find sea glass in the world.
Also, Glass Beach is much more than just a beach to find sea glass treasure. There are many other beautiful beaches and small coves there that you can explore. On low tide days, you can do tide-pooling and search for sea anemones, crabs, and more.
Another thing to do at Glass Beach is to go hiking. You will find numerous paved trails along the coastal bluffs that showcase stunning views of the pacific ocean.
Is Glass Beach Worth the Trip
Glass Beach is definitely worth the trip! The beach and surrounding area are absolutely worth exploring. Glass Beach features stunning coastal views, miles of hiking trails, and a one-of-a-kind beach.
Many of the negative reviews about Glass Beach are that the pictures and reputation are misleading. Instead of finding sea glass treasure, the beaches are only left with gravel and sand.
The expectation may be that the glass has disappeared or has been picked through by visiting tourists. However, that is not the case.
Is There Still Glass on Glass Beach
Yes, there is still glass on Glass Bach. You just have to look for it in the right place. During our first time at Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, we were disappointed because we barely found any sea glass. We still enjoyed our time there, but I was absolutely one of those people who felt a little misled by the beach’s famous reputation.
Fast forward a couple of years, I was talking to a friend at work who recently had visited Glass Beach and talked about all of the incredible colors and the abundance of sea glass they found. Turns out there is more than one beach to find sea glass. And we were looking in the wrong place.
There is a hidden trail off the main pathway that leads down to a little cove, and from there, you have reached the beautiful Glass Beach. The entire beach is covered in vibrant sea-smoothed glass. The reason we did not find it last time was that the trail doesn’t have many signs leading to it. There is just one small sign at the top of the trail that easily could be missed.
When it comes the time for your visit to Glass Beach, I want you to have the best experience. So follow along for all of my tips on finding the secret spot to find sea glass.
How to Get to Glass Beach
Glass Beach is located in Fort Bragg along the Mendocino Coast of northern California. The closest major airports to Fort Bragg are San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK), and Sacramento International Airport (SMF).
All three airports are located approximately 180 miles south of Fort Bragg, and depending on traffic, it is about a 3.5 to 4-hour drive.
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Glass Beach is part of the MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg. At Mackerricher State Park, you will see small pieces of sea glass scattered along many of the beaches. However, to find the famous Glass Beach, it is best to access the main beach from Noyo Headlands Park.
The address to Glass Beach is:
W Elm St and Glass Beach Dr
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
How Do You Get To The Secret Glass Beach
To get to Glass Beach, take Highway 1 to Fort Bragg, and turn onto W Elm Street, which is near Denny’s Restaurant on the corner. Drive towards the ocean, where you will find a decent-sized parking lot. It is free to park in the parking lot. Recently, we visited on a Saturday in the summer around 4 pm and had no issues finding a spot.
From the parking lot, you will want to walk on the path toward the ocean. Follow the paved path to the left along the edge of the bluffs. Keep walking the trail. It is a short walk, approximately .25 miles from the parking lot, until you see a dirt trail on your right that leads down to the ocean. Keep your eyes peeled! You will see this sign at the entrance of the trail.
Many have described it as a walking path to the sea glass beach. However, that is not exactly true anymore. Over the years, the path and stairs have deteriorated. What is left of them are steep dirt stairs that are a little difficult to get up and down.
At the time, I was 6 months pregnant and capable to climb up and down the path to Glass Beach. However, we were not able to bring our two dogs because some of the stairs were too steep for them to climb.
Getting back up to the path seemed like the more challenging fete. I did notice a separate exit that people were using. There is a path through protected wildflowers that is a lot easier to walk up. However, it is illegal, and you could be fined for trespassing. I do not recommend it, but it does exist, and many people seem to use it.
Can I Take Glass From Glass Beach
The unique and radiant pieces of sea glass are tempting to take home with you. However, it is illegal to remove sea glass from Glass Beach, and you could be fined up to $500 in doing so. Also, it is just a pure human courtesy to leave the glass behind so others can enjoy this magical beach in the future.
How Glass Beach Was Formed
Glass Beach has a very interesting history, for it is not a natural phenomenon, but it was actually man-made. It is the true definition as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Glass Beach started out as a city dump. Many decades ago in the twentieth century, the residents of Fort Bragg threw their garbage of glass bottles, parts of vehicles, household items, and other debris over the cliffs into the ocean.
The California State Water Resources Control Board put a stop to this in 1967, and many efforts were made to clean up the beach and help repair the damage. However, of course, there were some things that were left behind.
After several decades, the pounding waves of the ocean and rocky shoreline broke down the old glass and pottery into smaller pieces that have washed up onto the shore and formed what we know today as Glass Beach. The glass pieces have been smoothed and have a frosted appearance after the many years of erosion and tumbling around the ocean.
When is The Best Time to Visit Glass Beach in Fort Bragg
You can visit Glass Beach in Fort Bragg any time of the year. However, the busiest months for tourism and the warmest time to visit Fort Bragg are in the summer months of June, July, and August. If you plan on visiting this time of year, I suggest going to Glass Beach early in the morning or late afternoon after 4 pm.
Some tips for visiting Glass Beach would be to pick a day with low tide. The best time to see as much sea glass as possible is by going a couple of hours before or during low tide.
Another tip or a great thing to know is to expect morning fog during the summer months. Since Mendocino is on the coast, the coastal fog is created when the cold ocean air meets the warm land. The fog will typically dissipate by the afternoon.
Is Glass Beach Dog Friendly
Dogs that are on leash are allowed on the trails and beaches at Glass Beach. However, I would not recommend bringing your dog to the main Glass Beach because of the very steep path to access the beach.
I am sure they would have tried, but my two Golden Retrievers would not have been able to make it up or down the dirt stairs. I also wouldn’t suggest carrying a dog down to the beach either. You will need two hands to keep your balance and climb up and down the dirt path.
Even though the main beach at Glass Beach may not be the most dog friendly, there are plenty of other paths and beaches that you can enjoy with your dog.
Sea Glass Museum
After glass beach, you can make a pit stop at the Sea Glass Museum, where you will find the world’s largest permanent sea glass display. The Sea Glass Museum is located a short 4-minute drive from Glass Beach along the main street in Fort Bragg.
This small museum has a huge display of handcrafted jewelry made from sea glass from the local beaches and a collection of other marine artifacts.
Where to Stay Near Glass Beach
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One of our favorite places to stay in Mendocino is the Little River Inn, a charming and historic hotel located on the northern California coast. The best part about the inn is its unbelievable views overlooking the Pacific coast.
“What a great little gem. some of the most scenic views I’ve ever seen at a hotel. restaurant on the property was also wonderful.” – Sarah (read more reviews)
The Little River Inn also features an onsite restaurant, a cozy bar, and a relaxing spa. Enjoy numerous activities such as hiking, biking, and exploring the nearby beaches and redwood forests.
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Where to Visit Near Glass Beach in Fort Bragg
Fort Bragg and Mendocino showcase the absolute best of northern California. It’s known for its unbelievable natural beauty of soaring redwood trees, stunning coastal views, and rolling hills of vineyards.
This slice of California is a true hidden gem. I suggest you spend at least a weekend exploring all of the cliffside trails and the lovely small town of Mendocino.
Top Things to do Near Glass Beach
Walk Along the Historic Downtown Fort Bragg: Only a 4-minute drive from Glass Beach, you will be at Fort Bragg’s downtown. It’s very small, only one street along N Main Street, but you will find a couple of restaurants, shops, the Sea Glass Museum, an ice cream shop, and a brewery.
MacKerricher State Park: The state park offers tons of hiking trails, camping, and a dog-friendly boardwalk along the rugged coast. It is known for its variety of habitats of beach, bluff, headland, dune, forest, and wetland. During certain months of the year, MacKerricher State Park is also a popular location for whale watching.
Fort Bragg Coastal Trail: Located in the Noyo Headlands Park, the Fort Bragg Coastal Trail is a popular walking and biking trail that stretches along the California coastline.
The Skunk Train: Ride a historic train for a scenic and relaxing journey through a lush redwood forest and Noyo River Canyon.
In Conclusion: Is Glass Beach Worth The Trip
Now that you have reached the end of this post, I hope I have answered the question for you: Is Glass Beach worth the trip? In my personal opinion, I think yes Glass Beach is absolutely worth it! It is a unique and one-of-a-kind beach that is home to an abundance of beautiful sea glass.
After searching for sea glass, you can enjoy walking along the coastline bluffs or dipping your toes in the chilly pacific. Also, you will find plenty of others things to do nearby in Fort Bragg or Mendocino.
Looking for more unique locations to visit in the Bay Area?
Explore the famous redwood forest at Muir Woods, walk along the purple sand beach at Pfeiffer Beach, and soak in a natural hot spring in Mono Lake. For more California Travel itineraries, you can find all of my guides here.