Glass Beach in Fort Bragg: How to See this Unique Beach

Glass Beach is a popular attraction in Fort Bragg, California where the beach is covered in small pieces of smoothed glass. The glass comes from the fact that this area was a dump site for trash in the early to mid-1900’s and over the years the ocean smoothed and broke down the glass to what it is today. The area is continuously changing with people taking from it every day, so it is hard to say what it will look like when you go, but this is what it looked like the last time we went in late 2018.

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Details

  • .25 mile walk to the beach
  • Free to park
  • Go at sunrise to avoid the weekend rush.

Getting There

To get to Glass Beach turn on Elm St, right near the Dennys on the north side of Fort Bragg. From here you will drive to the intersection with Glass Beach Road, and you can follow signs into the new parking lot that was developed in 2017. There are two dozen or so spots here, and it is much closer then it used to be.

History

In the early 20th century, Fort Bragg residents threw their household garbage over cliffs owned by the Union Lumber Company onto what is now Glass Beach, discarding glass, appliances, and even vehicles. It was referred to it as “The Dumps” by local residents.

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The California State Water Resources Control Board and city leaders closed the area in 1967. Various cleanup programs were undertaken through the years to correct the damage. Over the next several decades the pounding waves cleaned the beach, by breaking down everything but glass and pottery and tumbling those into the small, smooth, colored pieces that cover Glass Beach.

Glass Beach

After heading down the trail, I was greeted with a beautiful beach right at sunrise. Just being here at this time was a perfect way to experience the beach without the typical crowds searching through the glass. 

There are now signs that direct you to Glass Beach and while there used to be stairs down the beach they were washed out in the 2017 rains. You can still get down to the beach though by going down the small dirt trail.

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Once you get there, you will see all of the small pieces of glass that are strewn all over the sand. The colorful pieces are taken the most so much of what you see now are the clear/white pieces.

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All along the beach are small tide pools as well that house everything from crabs to sea anemone.

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I found it especially interesting to see the juxtaposition of nature with the glass from human trash. In this picture, you can see glass resting next to a sea anemone.

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I had my wife grab a handful of the sand/glass so that you can see what it is made up of in the below picture (don’t worry I put it back).

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We explored for a good 20 minutes just admiring the way nature repurposed the trash into something unusual. 

As I was leaving, I saw a bucket sitting in the sand, and it reminded me why we need not take things from places like this so that others can enjoy it for generations to come. 

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Here is a short video of my time there as well.

All in all, this is a beautiful beach and a unique place to visit on Pacific Coast Highway. I have to imagine it was more beautiful a decade ago, but I did enjoy being able to check it off my California bucket list.

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About JoshMc

Thanks for checking out the blog, I am happy to be sharing my adventures with you! You can get to know me by reading my about me, which includes a video and additional information on the site, myself and my full disclosure. Also, follow along on Twitter here or read all of my posts on this blog here.