hiking

nature trips

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On the Mendocino coast, the air smells of salt, and the crashing waves create a continuous resonance. The tall bluffs at this spot north of San Francisco resemble the rugged shores of the east coast, but with an unmistakable California flair. Two miles north of Mendocino, Russian Gulch State Park’s collapsed sea cave cuts 200 feet into the heavily forested Russian Gulch Creek Canyon, a headland that features the Devil's Punch Bowl (a large, collapsed sea cave with churning water), and a beach that offers swimming, tide pool exploring, skin diving and rock fishing. Inland, there is a 36-foot high waterfall. Hikers enjoy miles of hiking trails. The park also has a paved three-mile bicycle trail. Devil’s Punchbowl formed when pounding waves forged an inland tunnel and left a hole 100 feet across and 60 feet deep. At high tide, boiling waves crash around the cave’s interior, producing a reverberant echo. The photogenic Frederick W. Panhorst Bridge rises gracefully 100 feet from the bottom of the gulch. The park has nearly a mile and a half of ocean frontage; its craggy beauty rivals any point along California’s coast. In the spring, the park’s foggy headlands bloom with acres of wildflowers. The climate here is temperate year-round. Winter rains and cool summer fogs that usually burn off by mid-morning provide the moisture necessary for the thriving coastal redwoods. Prepare for changeable weather by dressing in light layers.

Great trail! Well maintained

GO IN TO THE PARK! The GPS directions will take you to a private road.

Super quick walk to the sinkhole, and beautiful views from the cliffs.

Great views and nice trail!

Trail/Time of Year: Fern Canyon to Falls Loop during February 2018 and July 2018

Parking: Pay for parking (less than $10). Parking at the trailhead is very competitive every time we go. Many people walk in from further parking options (.25-.5 miles).

Terrain: Flat near the beginning. Entire trail is shaded. Most of the trail fits three people side-by-side comfortably. Approaching the waterfall the trail does thin and you will have to practice trail sharing etiquette. We seem to run into some mud at the start no matter what time of year we go. Short up and down changes in elevation as you near the waterfall. Left fork has maybe 3 short sets of stairs and is .7 miles. Right fork is 1.6 miles (we haven’t taken the right fork yet).

Child friendly: We believe so – although we take our kids hiking often and they know what to expect. We took our 3, 5, and 9-year-old and all walked the entire trail with some breaks. There was some complaining near the end and they fell asleep 5 minutes later on the drive home. No steep cliffs and the water is very shallow - do not let kids play at the top of the waterfall where it is slippery and a dangerous fall. Bring lots of waters and snacks and ensure the kids do not litter.

Modern Conveniences: Benches near mid-trail with bike rack. Bathroom at start of trail.

Humidity/Temperature: Temperate. Mid 50s during winter. Low 60s to 70s during other months.

Water Consumption: Bring lots of water. The trail isn’t dry or hot but it is long. If you have LifeStraw or similar product you will have constant access to water.

Trail Traffic: We typically run into people every 20-30 minutes depending on the day of the week. Everyone is very friendly and all just seem happy to be enjoying nature. You will typically find pairs or small groups of people at the waterfall. People tend to stop and eat here.

Cleanliness/maintenance: Occasional napkin on the side of the trail. We have never seen plastic bottles or cans which always gives us hope that people are decent. We have seen cigarette butts at the waterfall. If you are a smoker, wait until you leave the park to smoke. Trail is well-maintained by park staff.

Wildlife: Birds. Frogs. Lizards. We found one Gartner snake out of three separate hikes. Found a banana slug, lots of butterflies, mosquitoes, etc. Bring bug spray.

Plantlife: They call this trail Fern Canyon for a reason. Wild raspberry plants along the first half of the trail. Remember that the wildlife depends on these for food. Also remember that lots of berries + no toilets = unpleasant hike. TONS of mushrooms of several types during the rainy months – on the trail, trees, stumps, etc. Very few mushrooms during the drier months.

Landmarks: Russian Gulch Waterfall which is 36ft tall and nearly as wide. We have noticed that the waterfall has a stronger flow during the rainy season but is always flowing regardless of season. Small pool of water at base of waterfall that is too shallow to swim. Russian Gulch creek which runs along the entire trail. Trees growing out of stumps of other trees. Fallen redwoods that you can walk across (lead nowhere and not required).

Trail/Time of Year: Fern Canyon to Falls Loop during February 2018 and July 2018

Parking: Pay for parking (less than $10). Parking at the trailhead is very competitive every time we go. Many people walk in from further parking options (.25-.5 miles).

Terrain: Flat near the beginning. Entire trail is shaded. Most of the trail fits three people side-by-side comfortably. Approaching the waterfall the trail does thin and you will have to practice trail sharing etiquette. We seem to run into some mud at the start no matter what time of year we go. Short up and down changes in elevation as you near the waterfall. Left fork has maybe 3 short sets of stairs and is .7 miles. Right fork is 1.6 miles (we haven’t taken the right fork yet).

Child friendly: We believe so – although we take our kids hiking often and they know what to expect. We took our 3, 5, and 9-year-old and all walked the entire trail with some breaks. There was some complaining near the end and they fell asleep 5 minutes later on the drive home. No steep cliffs and the water is very shallow - do not let kids play at the top of the waterfall where it is slippery and a dangerous fall. Bring lots of waters and snacks and ensure the kids do not litter.

Modern Conveniences: Benches near mid-trail with bike rack. Bathroom at start of trail.

Humidity/Temperature: Temperate. Mid 50s during winter. Low 60s to 70s during other months.

Water Consumption: Bring lots of water. The trail isn’t dry or hot but it is long. If you have LifeStraw or similar product you will have constant access to water.

Trail Traffic: We typically run into people every 20-30 minutes depending on the day of the week. Everyone is very friendly and all just seem happy to be enjoying nature. You will typically find pairs or small groups of people at the waterfall. People tend to stop and eat here.

Cleanliness/maintenance: Occasional napkin on the side of the trail. We have never seen plastic bottles or cans which always gives us hope that people are decent. We have seen cigarette butts at the waterfall. If you are a smoker, wait until you leave the park to smoke. Trail is well-maintained by park staff.

Wildlife: Birds. Frogs. Lizards. We found one Gartner snake out of three separate hikes. Found a banana slug, lots of butterflies, mosquitoes, etc. Bring bug spray.

Plantlife: They call this trail Fern Canyon for a reason. Wild raspberry plants along the first half of the trail. Remember that the wildlife depends on these for food. Also remember that lots of berries + no toilets = unpleasant hike. TONS of mushrooms of several types during the rainy months – on the trail, trees, stumps, etc. Very few mushrooms during the drier months.

Landmarks: Russian Gulch Waterfall which is 36ft tall and nearly as wide. We have noticed that the waterfall has a stronger flow during the rainy season but is always flowing regardless of season. Small pool of water at base of waterfall that is too shallow to swim. Russian Gulch creek which runs along the entire trail. Trees growing out of stumps of other trees. Fallen redwoods that you can walk across (lead nowhere and not required).

1 month ago

Serene redwood-lined trail; very easy to hike with just a bit of an uphill climb at the start. Highly recommended!

Fern canon is as beautiful as it gets. We were the only people on the hike until near the end but we did go early on a Thursday. The falls were beautiful. Moderate hike as it says.

hiking
2 months ago

We did the Fern trail going in ad returned on the North trail. The water fall is amazing and worth the hike. The North trail is challenging at first but then is pretty flat and down hill after all the up parts. Very green and we had a great time

Great little hike. I didn't feel it was quite moderate and I'm not a super fit person so that was a pleasant suprise because I was a little hesitant. took us an hour and 50 minutes to complete. we went early so not any traffic on the way but after leaving the fall more people were coming so I recommend an early hike. Such a beautiful trail and scenery. There had been a bear sighting only 1 month prior so I was freaked out a bit because of the posted signs but we were prepared.

3 months ago

Great trail. lots of elevation changes. Wet in the winter but that only makes it more interesting

hiking
3 months ago

Great hike!

Breathtaking views at every turn. We saw a family of otters swimming and taking shelter in a cave. Go, just go!

Hiked mid-May 2018. Arrived after 2pm and got a spot by trail head for free but that is lucky. Mostly flat for first two miles and very pretty.

Signage is decent but a number of people we came upon said they were unsure of where they were going. The falls are great and a must-see. The remainder of the loop after the falls leads to a whole different terrain. Overall a good walk but if you are in pretty good shape not too challenging. If in average shape this is a good workout.

Nice hike. Crazy number of rhododendrons in spring.

Completed this on June 11th. So much green! I came at sunrise and there was no one on the trail at all. I paid 8 bucks at the entrance of the park for parking

This trail is awesome! Quick, easy, and beautiful along the way. Don't be scared like the previous commentor lol

on North Trail

hiking
5 months ago

Amazing trail. We took it from the campsite all the way to the beginning of the fall loop -- and after the fall loop we took Fern Canyon Trail (wide, paved) back to the campsite.
North Trail -- not to be confused with North Road, although the two trails intersect up on the ridge -- is a beautifully graded single track, very quiet and peaceful. It climbs the hillside from the campsite area all the way to a ridge, then it follows the ridge on a level course and finally descends on wide switchbacks to a junction with Fern Canyon Trail. Turn L to go towards Fall Loop.

hiking
5 months ago

Beautiful scenery but beware! Parts of trail are inches from the drop off. Russian Gulch has probably not received the memo saying that trails need to be away from the edge of ocean bluffs. Dangerous and as real as tomorrow's headlines.

on Waterfall Loop Trail

hiking
5 months ago

Loop is better taken in clockwise direction. Wear sturdy shoes and hiking pole(s) for added stability. Trail is single track, narrow, high on the canyon wall. Not treacherous but not for very young kids imo. Gorgeous scenery.

hiking
5 months ago

Gorgeous trail and loved the changes in terrain. We followed Nicole Zanni’s advice and took the North Trail, to the North Boundary, to the East Trail, to Fern Canyon. We were moving pretty quick and it took 2.5 hours.

hiking
6 months ago

Beautiful trail. A little elevation at the beginning but you reach the top pretty quickly. I recommend starting out on the North Trail then connect to the North Boundary Trail. You get to see a really crazy looking Pygmy forest. Jump off at the East Trail then connect to Fern Canyon which takes you to the top of the waterfalls. Beautiful! If you finish the hike continuing on Fern Canyon it’ll be a 6.75 mile hike. Really pretty with lots of different vegetation in a short amount of time.

hiking
6 months ago

One of the best trails! #Redwoods

Beautiful, all the fern so green and healthy, the waterfall is breathtaking.

hiking
7 months ago

Not sure but recording on this trail was not running accurate. Entrance to trail appears to be where asphalt ends. Because it rained night before trail was spongey and slippery in spots. Hiking pole(s) would have helped today. Trail is wide and a downhill most of the was to the falls. After falls we returned the way we came. The falls after the rain was roaring and well worth the trip. The stairs down to the falls can be tricky so watch the kids, dogs and yourself

I completed this trail on a Wednesday at the end of March. There were some areas where the trail was muddy, but nothing you couldn’t walk around (or through!) There were some areas with limited coverage but for the most part the trail is covered by beautiful redwoods! It was a little muggy so definitely bring bug spray to fend off mosquitos. I have not done a hike in a while, so halfway through the waterfall loop portion, I was huffing and puffing a bit, but once you make it to the waterfall, it’s smooth sailing back to the campground. There’s plenty of opportunities for breaks to take photos of the wildlife and landscape! It’s absolutely gorgeous!

Relatively easy trail. Was fairly muddy after some rain, but manageable. The waterfall was in full force and a nice touch to the loop. It's interesting getting a number of different forest ecosystems. The beginning is more oaks, then more redwoods when in the canyon, and pines when on the hill.

Blufftop area that has a number of trails so you can explore a bit of the area. Other than the beautiful coastline, the sinkhole is definitely worth the stop. It's connected to the ocean and the resulting effects to the sinkhole are very mesmerising.

on Waterfall Loop Trail

7 months ago

For seventy years, this was a nice trail on a beautiful day in February. Easy.

8 months ago

really pretty waterfall at the half way point in the fern canyon trail. such a nice pit stop

8 months ago

so beautiful! lots of mushrooms, ferns, and redwoods

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