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Jug Handle State Natural Reserve

Home to a rare and fascinating natural wonder

Photo by Save the Redwoods League
Photo by Save the Redwoods League

Park Information

HIGHLIGHTS: Jug Handle State Natural Reserve on the Mendocino coast is home to a rare natural wonder known as The Ecological Staircase: natural terraces formed by glacier, sea and tectonic activity.

ACTIVITIES: Picnicking and walking. Walk the 2.5-mile self-guided nature trail called The Ecological Staircase to explore the wave-cut terraces. Each terrace indicates what the next-lower and younger terrace may look like in another 100,000 years. The trail begins near the parking area, along the first terrace, and winds inland and upward.

VISITOR CENTER: There is no visitor center. There are picnic tables and a portable toilet.

CAMPGROUNDS: There are no campgrounds; the park is for daytime use only. Limited RV parking.

TRAILS: 5 miles of trails. The Ecological Staircase trail is the only trail through the park, and it allows visitors to ascend the terraces and return the same way. Part of the trail goes out along the bluffs, and there are steps leading to the beach from The Ecological Staircase trail.

MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: In addition to The Ecological Staircase described above, Park Interpreter Fred Andrews says not to miss Jug Handle’s spectacular ocean views. In the winter, you can see the gray whales on their migration route.

HIDDEN GEM: Interpreter Fred Andrews says that the pygmy forest, on the third terrace is the hidden gem of the park.


DOGS: Allowed on bluff and beach, but not on Ecological Staircase Trail.


MORE INFORMATION: Visit the park’s website (external link) or call 707-937-5804 for more information.

Trip Ideas from Our Staff and Friends

EAT: Jug Handle is halfway between Fort Bragg and Mendocino. In Fort Bragg, try Maria’s Kitchen (external link) for good Mexican food.

In Mendocino, Christine Aralia, Land Project Manager, likes the restaurant in the Stanford Inn (external link), which offers great vegan meals. She also suggests the Mendocino Cafe (external link) for Thai food and other organic menu items.

FAVORITE HIKE: The Ecological Staircase trail offers a wide range of scenery as it ascends the terraces.

Fred Andrews, Jug Handle Park Interpreter, enjoys the walk under the Highway 1 bridge at Jug Handle Creek, which was built in the late 1930s as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps and Work Projects Administration.

FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: Fred’s favorite attraction is the dramatic change in habitat (described above in Highlights) from the coastal prairie through the riparian creek habitat into the coniferous forest and then to the Mendocino Pygmy Forest.

Tell us your favorite stops, hikes, places to eat, and more when visiting this park!

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