Bowling ball beach
Bowling Ball Beach is one of the more famous geological landmarks in Mendocino County, and is featured in many photographs and publications about the area.
It gets its name from the dozens of large, round sandstone boulders [the "bowling balls"] which lay in rows down the beach. They are concretions that formed inside the sandstone beds of this formation, and as the softer surrounding stone was worn away by the sea, they became exposed.
Bowling Ball Beach is located three miles south of Point Arena on the Mendocino South Coast, where Schooner Gulch Road intersects Highway 1.
There is a small parking area with two trailheads on the west side of the highway -- the south trail leads to Schooner Gulch, and the north trail to Bowling Ball Beach. Be prepared for a bit of a scramble to get from the path onto the beach - last time I was here, the trail had not been well-maintained at all.
If you look at the cliffs, you will notice the sandstone layers show some rather extreme uplift, with the formerly flat layers now standing almost on their ends. If you keep your eyes open, you may spot the odd piece of fossilized bone in the cliff face. Like the sandstone it is embedded in, it tends to crumble easily.
Sometimes harder pieces wash up on the shore, along with the occasional piece of beach agate. On one trip, I even spotted a very nicely preserved fossilized shark tooth.
There is a great deal of animal life, if you know where to look - from hermit crabs and snails lurking in between rocks, to the colorful red and green sea anemones and small rockfish in the tidal pools at low tide.
Sandpipers hop along the water's edge, and ospreys soar overhead, looking for fish amongst the waves - it's a good place to play around with a camera for a while.
Be careful not to stray too close to the cliffs. Rocks can come tumbling down with no warning, and there are frequent small landslides. Fortunately, the beach is quite wide enough to give the rocks a wide berth.
Happy hiking, and enjoy your visit!