Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, CA is a great place to visit. There are many trails to walk and get in touch with nature, as well as a beach to play at, and the main attraction, beautiful sea glass to look at.
Note: It’s illegal to remove the glass because it’s part of the California state park system now, so hopefully the glass will stay there for years to come so people can continue to enjoy it.
When we visited, it was also a great place to social distance from others.
Getting to Glass Beach
Get to Glass Beach by taking Fort Bragg’s Main Street (CA Highway 1) and head west on Elm Street.
There’s a parking lot at the end of Elm Street where Elm meets up with Glass Beach Drive, and it’s free to park there.
From the parking lot, there’s a path that leads to the beach.
I recommend wearing closed toed hiking shoes at Glass Beach. (In fact, we had to go back to the car for me to change my shoes because we were walking around so much.)
There’s some steep hills you’ll want to climb down to get to the coves where the glass has deposited. And, there are lots of trails to walk on while you’re there. So good shoes are a must!
There are trails that go south from the Glass Beach entry path to other glassy beaches that are outside of the state park boundary.
What’s the best time to go?
I recommend going when tide is going out. The beach and the glass will be wet, and will look really pretty when it’s wet.
Low tide will have some fun surprises for you, as there are tide pools in the area, and you may see some ocean life in the tide pools.
High tide will have less beach, and less glass for you to see. And, although the area is lovely, you may leave not seeing the glass.
Be careful while you’re there
The waves can be dangerous along the Fort Bragg coast.
Kids should be watched. Dogs should be on their leashes.
Make sure to stay on the marked trails. And be careful as you climb up or down some of those steep cliffs, the footing under you can slip away.
How did all that glass get here?
For over 60 years Fort Bragg used this beach as dumping ground for its trash. People actually used to think it was ok to use the beach as a place to leave their trash!
After much of Fort Bragg was destroyed during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, tons of garbage, including destroyed buildings and cars, were bulldozed into this beach.
The dump remained until the 1960’s, when it was closed and left as a forgotten area.
In the late 1990’s a massive clean-up of the beach began. Even after the clean up, much of the broken glass was left behind. That glass had tumbled in the waves and on the rocky beach, having been worn smooth into colorful bits of sea glass.
There are actually three Glass Beach sites in Fort Bragg where trash was dumped into the ocean between 1906 and 1967.
Site One (1906–43) is ¼ mile south of Site Two, and has become accessible by foot as of 2015, when the northern section of the new Coastal Trail in Fort Bragg opened.
Site Two (1943-1949) and Three (1949–1967 – “Glass Beach”) are located at the end of the path from the parking lot that begins on the corner of Elm Street and Glass Beach Drive. These two sites are accessible by foot and by a short climb down the cliffs surrounding the beach.
There are a several different beaches in the area with sea glass, and even beaches outside of the State Park are worth taking the time to visit.
How is sea glass made?
Sea glass is physically weathered by being tumbled against rocks and other hard materials and ground until the sharp edges are smoothed and rounded. It’s also chemically weathered when the lime and soda used in making glass leaches out in a process called hydration.
These weathering processes produce natural frosted glass.
Sea glass can take about 20 to 40 years to acquire its beautiful texture and shape.
I loved visiting Glass Beach
We loved visiting Glass Beach. It was beautiful. Peaceful. Calm. The waves were stunning. The Beach Glass was amazing.
The trails were lovely. And it was a great stop along the California Coast.
I have seen some reviews online that said that people didn’t see much, if any glass.
I would say, don’t give up. There are some hidden coves that once you find them, they reveal their treasures. But, it may take a little bit of looking. And make sure to plan your visit for when tide is going out, and not at high tide.
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I love the beach, the ocean, traveling to cool and unusual places. And I love to share those experiences with you.