Spectacular coast, canyon and waterfall
HIGHLIGHTS: This magnificent 1,300 acre state park combines the North Coast’s signature redwood-forested canyons with wind-swept headlands and sheltered inlets, unspoiled beaches, and meadows ablaze with wildflowers. It is extravagantly rich in scenery, wildlife and recreational opportunities. Visitors come to hike, bike, fish, dive, kayak, or simply enjoy the incomparable beauty of the coastline. With 7,630 feet of stunning ocean frontage, the park is often compared with Point Lobos on the Big Sur coast.
ACTIVITIES: The hiking — whether it’s through redwood-cloaked Russian Gulch or along the headlands and meadows — is unforgettable. Campsites and picnic sites offer views of the countryside, and bicyclists can enjoy a 2-mile paved bike trail. Mountain biking and horseback riding is allowed on designated roads and trails. The park is a favorite destination for SCUBA divers, free divers and kayakers, and the shore-side angling for rockfish is superb.
VISITOR CENTER: None.
CAMPGROUNDS: The park has a campground with showers, 27 standard sites and one group site. RVs and trailers up to 24 feet.
TRAILS: With 15 miles of trails, there are plenty of options to keep hikers occupied. The Falls Loop/Fern Canyon Trails are the premier hikes, taking visitors through the Devil’s Gulch, a deep canyon forested with large redwoods. A highlight of these hikes is a 36-foot waterfall.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: The waterfall on the Russian Gulch trails is particularly impressive in winter and spring, when water levels are relatively high. Also not to be missed is the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a spectacular blowhole created when a 200-foot tunnel that had penetrated inland from the ocean collapsed. High tides still intrude into a 100-foot-wide, 60-foot-deep basin, creating a roiling cauldron of seawater.
HIDDEN GEM: In the spring, look for blooming rhododendrons on the way to the waterfall; the displays can be spectacular.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: A group recreation hall, 0.9 miles of the Fern Canyon Trail and one campsite are accessible. Assistance may be required with restrooms, shower, and other facilities. A beach wheelchair may be reserved by calling the park seven days in advance: (707) 937-5804.
DOGS: Dogs are not allowed on trails or unpaved roads. They’re allowed on leash elsewhere, and in tents and vehicles at night.
ENTRANCE FEE: $8 per vehicle for day use.
PLACES TO EAT AND STAY: Russian Gulch is near the towns of Mendocino and Fort Bragg; both have numerous motels, bed and breakfast inns and restaurants. The Mendocino Hotel and the Little River Inn are sound choices; both have well-reviewed restaurants. Mendocino and Fort Bragg support numerous bed and breakfast inns, and Fort Bragg also has several moderately-priced motels. In Fort Bragg, the Sea Valley Café is a favorite with food-savvy locals.
EAT: Russian Gulch is 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.
STOP: For a place to rest your head, Jen likes to stay at the cozy and modern Cottage at Little River Cove (external link) overlooking the ocean.
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