Note: Fort Bragg Coastal Trail, opened in 2016, brings you closer to the Glass Beaches and is a great ocean walk.
Glass Beach is one of the most popular tourist spots on the Mendocino Coast, especially among “treasure” hunters searching for bits of colored glass and pottery worn smooth by the tides. Many come to collect a few, a handful or a bucketful of the glass. Don’t. It’s now State Parks property and against the law. Marilyn Murphy, district supervisor for the Mendocino Area State Parks, wrote this when I queried her about collecting glass from glass beach:
“It has never been legal to remove the glass from Glass Beach since it became California State Park property. It is an object of historical interest and is protected under California Code of Regulations 4308. We plan on putting up signs to inform the public in the near future. So much glass has already been taken that if it continues there will be no more glass on Glass Beach. I would appreciate it if you could help us pass the word on. We do want people to enjoy the beach.”
The message is: go, check it out, pick up and touch the glass, but don’t take it. I’m sure park officials would prefer you just look. As in backpacking, the motto is “Leave No Trace” of having been there.
Adjoining Glass Beach is Pudding Creek Headlands. You can wander along the trails, which in spring and early summer are covered with flowers.
Access: go to the north end of Ft. Bragg, and turn west onto Elm St at the traffic light by Denny’s. Drive 3 blocks, and park where the road turns around to the right.
From the parking area, walk straight out the ¼-mile path to a beach. Trash was dumped here until the early 1970s, and bits of glass and are detritus from those dumps. It’s best to visit Glass Beach on a sunny day, so that the glass lights up nicely. Make sure you go around low tide. As a nice bonus, the path out to the beach is lined with huge blackberry bushes, which are covered with berries in late summer.
Time & Distance: 1 hour; ½ mi, plus 1 ¼ mi headlands loop.