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Glass Beach California – 5 Things to Know Before You go

The Glass Beach in California (specifically in Fort Bragg) is a very popular coastal spot to explore but after having been there several times, I discovered that much of what I heard about it vs what I actually saw wasn’t the same (both in good and bad ways) and in this post I want to share 5 of the most important things to know before you visit this spot.

Quick info:

  • Name: Glass Beach California (also known as Glass Pebble Beach and Glass Pedal Beach).
  • Location: Fort Bragg Mendocino County, California area (3 hours north of San Francisco).
  • Things to do: Sea glass collecting, hiking, sunset views and more.
  • Family friendly place? Yes.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
  • Recommended spot to visit? Yes. Although it’s OK place, there’s much more fun things near Glass Beach to explore and I’ll show you what they are).

5 things to know:

1) There’s actually 3 glass beaches and on all of them there’s more sand/dirt than sea glass: With regards to the 3 glass beaches, the main one is in Fort Bragg, California (which everyone hears about and visits) and is very easy to access. The other 2 are close by it, all within the MacKerricher Park area but I have heard sources that at least one of them is inaccessible.

Most of the pictures you see of glass beach (in Fort Bragg at least) make it seem like it’s nothing but that sea glass there, but in reality it isn’t. It’s mixed together with the beach sand there (but the truth is there is a lot of it). There are also a few seashells too.

2) You’re not allowed to take the sea glass: I’ve seen this from multiple sources and a sign when there. Although I have also seen many people ignore that.

3) Glass beach CA isn’t as scenic as many photos make it look (here’s an example):

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Again, the marketing of this spot makes it seem like a “gem” on the California coast but in reality, this place looks more like a barren beach with sharp cliffs but depending on the time of day, it can look nice there (around sunset for sure).

4) There are several other glass beaches across in the US besides the Glass Beach in Fort Bragg: 7 by my count and I’ll detail the others you can find across the US (below).

5) There are way better activities in my opinion to check out near Glass Beach Mendocino: Besides the town, there are several other spots very close to it I would recommend exploring over Glass Beach and I’ll share the ones I learned about below, which will give you way more to see around the area when you go.

My experiences from visiting the Glass Beach in California (3 times):

The first time was while traveling up California’s northern coast. Glass Beach CA was one of the many destinations I had wanted to see while driving up the Pacific Coast Highway. After checking it out, I found most of the information on it to be pretty vague, so I decided to just explore it blind and get my own info out on it. I enjoyed my first visit there and came back 2 more times in later years discovering that there are other attractions near Glass Beach which I think are more interesting to check out (and I’ll talk about them below).

Glass Pebble Beach location:

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Glass Beach (aka Glass Peddle Beach or Glass Pebble Beach) is on the California coast, specifically the town of Fort Bragg (Mendocino County, California) which is about 2-3 hours north of San Francisco off road 1. Glass Beach CA is very easy to find. Before you get to the beach with the sea glass, you’ll cross a nice town (Fort Bragg) and see signs for it there. The signs will take you into a spacey parking lot.

There is no entry fee to that parking lot or the “park” and every time I’ve been there, it’s never been full. From the park, you’ll walk across a very small trail before getting to the coast and it’s there that you’ll have to walk down a little bit to get to the actual beach.

Once you walk down to the Glass Pedal Beach, here’s what you’ll see:

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The sea glass is scattered everywhere and the closer to the water you get the more of it you’ll see, but like I said before, it’s mixed in with the sand and if you’re looking to gather the sea glass, you’d have to pick it out individually (but remember, you aren’t allowed to take it with you).

Like I said before, I actually expected the entire beach to have nothing but sea glass based on the images I saw prior, but now I know better (and so do you). I won’t lie though, the sea glass is quite beautiful and there are many different colors of it you’ll find there (see more photos of Glass Beach California).

Here are the types of glass you’ll find on the colorful pebble beach:

  • White (most common).
  • Emerald green (second most common).
  • Yellow (pretty rare).
  • Dark orange (about as rare as the yellow glass).
  • Red (also as rare as the orange and yellow glass).
  • Blue (extremely rare).

These sea glass pieces are also in different sizes, but checking them out is actually a fun activity that I enjoyed doing as did the other tourists who were there, including families with kids.

How is the sea glass formed?

There is a sign right by the beach which explains it, but the story is that this sea glass is washed into this beach from a factory and the sea water erodes it.

Is it dangerous to collect sea glass? Isn’t it sharp?

Of the 3 times I’ve been to the Glass Beach (Fort Bragg, California), I’ve never seen or picked up sea glass that was sharp. Most of them were very smooth.

I did pick out a few which weren’t eroded completely, but their tips weren’t sharp either, so you shouldn’t have issues with that. If you want to be very safe, just wear some sort of protective gloves (even though I don’t think you’ll need it).

Is Glass Pebble Beach in California worth visiting?

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Yes and in addition to checking it out, don’t forget about the many beautiful spots to explore right by it and obviously plan the road trip out in a way where you see these spots in order so you don’t need to backtrack.

Glass Beach is a good family spot to explore, but for hiking and sightseeing, there are way better spots to check out and fortunately, most of them are nearby (Laguna Beach, Sunset Cove and Pudding Bridge).

Common questions:

Is there still sea glass at Fort Bragg?

Yes, everytime I visit Fort Bragg, there is always a lot of sea glass on the beach.

Is Glass Beach Fort Bragg worth it?

In my opinion it is. It’s rare to see a place like Glass Beach so if you can check it out, do it.

Do people swim at Glass Beach?

No, there are too many sharp rocks. The good news is that there are other spots near Glass beach where you can go swimming.

Where is glass pebble beach located?

There’s many glass pebble beaches in the states but the most popular one is located in Fort Bragg California.

And that concludes everything I wanted to share with you about the Glass Beach in Fort Bragg and if you have questions about this spot in California or in general, just ask below!

More places to see nearby:

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While the Glass Pebble Beach is a good spot to check out once, if you’re planning a trip there just know that there’s way more to see than just that spot. In fact, here’s a bunch of nearby places to explore to make your trip to Fort Bragg even better:

1) Pudding Creek Trestle (famous bridge and boardwalk):

This is probably the best sight you’ll find in Fort Bragg, especially around sunset. It’s a boardwalk/trestle area. Right by it you will also find Pudding Beach.

2) Sunset Cove:

Great beach area for seeing the sunset. It’s about a 10 minute walk north from the trestle spot.

3) Laguna Point:

Great boardwalk to a scenic overlook area (cliff area with great views of the Pacific ocean). Another awesome sunset spot.

4) Noyo Headlands Park:

It’s a short 10 minute drive from Glass Beach and it is a small park with great a little bit of hiking.

5) Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens:

It’s right outside Fort Bragg (south) and is a highly rated botanical garden walk that is also right on the coast as well so you get amazing views of the ocean, botanical gardens and mixing that together with the sunset would likely make this spot the most scenic you’ll find by Fort Bragg.

6) Russian Gulch State Park:

Russian Gulch State Park is the most scenic spot to check out south of Fort Bragg (20 minute drive from it). It’s a really beautiful park with sea caves, beaches, hikes, camping and more to check out.

7) Van Damme State Park:

Further south of Russian Gulch State Park. It’s a beautiful park with Redwood trees and you can also kayak around the coastal area (it has sea caves too).

8) Redwoods State and National Park:

Further north of Fort Bragg (about 1-2 hours) you will run into this area which is an awesome places to see Redwoods in California as well as many beautiful beaches and awesome hiking trails like Fern Canyon. I would add this to your list to check out if you’re headed into that area. There also many places to see Redwoods in California besides this spot.

9) The Skunk Train and rail rides:

This is another awesome attraction right inside Fort Bragg Mendocino where you can take a tourist train ride through the Redwoods that are close to Fort Bragg. In my opinion it’s probably an even more fun activity to do with family than checking out the colorful pebble beach. I’ve created an article on the Skunk train ride on my other site that has all the info on it.

The bottom line is that while you can see glass at Glass Beach Mendocino and it’s a nice experience, there are just way more fun things to do right in Fort Bragg and near it and those 9 other things will make your trip to this area even better!

10) More awesome places in California overall (bonus): 

Besides the California coastline spots above, there are also a lot of amazing national parks here, some of which aren’t far from Glass Beach (the closest would be Redwoods National and State Parks which is 2 hours north). But the different variety of nature scenery in each park is what makes this so amazing. For example, you have desert type national parks such as Death Valley National Park and more greener type parks such as Yosemite National Park too (all within a few hours of one another).

More glass beaches to explore:

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  1. 25 years ago, we went to glass beach all the time and it DID look like the picture on the left. That many years of people picking up the glass and it.looks like you see on the right. Shame really. It was beautiful once.

  2. I’ve been going to Glass Beach for over 30 years. There is significantly less glass than there used to be- I would say in part due to people going down with garbage cans and taking away tons of it. One thing you also need to keep in mind is the tide. Also, the time of year can make a big difference as beaches up here change a lot during the year due to storms. Anchor Bay Beach, for instance, loses almost all of it’s sand during the winter storms, and then gets covered back up with sand in the spring and summer. So that can also affect how much actual glass you see there. And yes- the glass is from decades of using it as a garbage dump – you can also find things like old dishes (parts of them), silverware, antique spark plugs, old leather soles from shoes, etc.

  3. Glass beach in fort bragg california was formed because the city dumped trash directly into the ocean at the location of glass beach. Glass beach was the city of fort braggs dumpsite from the early 1900s through 1967. The glass did not come from a factory.

    1. Hi Gary thanks for sharing this info. Personally I read it came from a factory dumping the glass into the water but I’ll take a further look to be sure.

  4. You clearly missed the best spot at glass beach. It’s super hard to get to. I measured the depth of glass before you see any sand – 4” deep. It was truly amazing. But maybe you are trying to steer people away from the real gem. Thank you! I get it.

    1. Hi Monica I’ll be honest I’m not trying to steer people away from the other spots in Fort Bragg. I know there’s more than one Glass Beach here but the other 2 (not the main one) are more difficult to reach and one of them might not even be legal to go to so I just pointed out the main ways to explore this area.

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