Van Damme Beach State Park consists of beach and upland on the Mendocino Coast. Of all the park system's units along the Mendocino coast, Van Damme is perhaps the richest in terms of historical resources connected with the redwood lumber industry. Its story is a prime example of the struggles and eventual failures of a small, independent lumber operation. Van Damme State Park was named for Charles Van Damme who was born at Little River in 1881, son of John and Louise Van Damme, early settlers of the region. John Van Damme and his wife were a Flemish couple. The patriarch of the family was born in Ostend, Belgium on May 22, 1832. "Following the sea" for some years, Van Damme, upon his arrival in Mendocino County, later worked in the lumber mill at Little River. In this settlement all of his children were born, including Charles, whose love for the area prompted his acquiring, after some years as a successful operator of the Richmond-San Rafael ferry line, a plot of ground along the redwood coast. Upon his demise this area became a part of the State Park System in 1934. In those early days lumbering was a major economic factor in the development of the northern coastline. Little River was built as a mill town in 1864 by Ruel Stickney, Silas Coombs and Tapping Reeves after the property, formally called Kents Cove, was purchased from W. H. Kent in 1862. Before long it had attained fame, not only as a lumber port, but as a shipyard as well. Alas, a stand of timber, if logged, does not last forever and by the end of the century, even though logging was periodically moved back into the headwaters of Little River, the mill was forced to close in 1893. What was left of Little River soon deteriorated; the shipyard, the wharf, the town, several chutes for loading lumber and the lumber mill itself. Activity at the port declined. Little River's school, once attended by nearly 100 students, closed; its weekly steamship service ended, and a shipyard where, in 1874, Captain Thomas Peterson turned out full-size lumber schooners for the coast wide trade, phased out. Only the schooner Little River returned, to be wrecked on the very beach from which it originally departed. Plagued by a lack of sufficient timber reserves, fires, substantial loss of business and trade, deterioration of the port's chutes and wharf, the end of coast wide shipping and the attendant decline in population, Little River reverted to a natural state. Its acquisition by the State Park System in 1934, and the subsequent addition of peripheral lands has preserved some of California's most interesting natural resources.

Loved the trail. Quite easy though. I preferred the north trail next to it.

Short loop that starts from the Pygmy Forest parking. Brings you down into the "canyon" and gives you some nice views of the forest and canyon. There is a river crossing that doesn't have a bridge, but a downed tree seems to have become a part of the trail/crossing.

such a pretty hike with lots of colorful mushrooms :)

trail running
3 months ago

Ran the trail from the Little River Inn on Friday, February 17 at 7am. Wow, amazing foliage that includes towering Redwoods and the gateway to possibly fern heaven. I have never seen so many ferns of all shapes and sizes. But wait there’s more. A gorgeous creek with boulders accompanies you the entire journey as you meander through the canyon. Finally, you will encounter at least eight bridges each individually numbered as the trail crosses over the creek numerous occasions adding to the experience.
I will definitely return and highly recommend this trail. A botanist’s delight.

backpacking
6 months ago

Very cool trail, I'd rate it above the Russian Gulch fern canyon and below the Prairie Creek fern canyon, though it has the advantage of the pygmy forest and the backcountry campsites out there. If you're planning on staying at the park I'd recommend checking those out if you have the backpacking gear - two miles out from the trailhead, $25/night (compared to $40/night at the campground), trash cans, picnic tables and fire rings, questionable pit toilets...

on Fern Canyon Trail

hiking
9 months ago

This is a great trail

Love the Fern trail beautiful and a good incline to get the blood pumping

Thursday, June 01, 2017

trailhead and back took 3.5 hours with lunch at the waterfall included. great hike with an awesome campground!

nature trips
Sunday, February 26, 2017

Very short but informative trail. Really interesting that some of those small trees are a couple hundred years ol but the soil restricts their growth.

hiking
Saturday, December 10, 2016

I've taken this exceptional walk many times. One more important than all the others combined. Many years ago when I fell in Love with the most wonderful person I've ever met in my life, Vickie! Unfortunately I managed to screw things up a few years later and lost this person. The moment will always be one of my most precious memories. The beauty, atmosphere and wonder all set a magical moment.

hiking
Tuesday, December 06, 2016

It was a really fun hike on a trail with a ton of great views. We decided to walk the entire trail, and it was a lot of fun. We ate lunch on the trail, but at a nice pace it still took us a little over 4 hours to walk. Keep that in mind if you get there late. Bathrooms are also located throughout the trail, which was nice. All in all, it was tons of fun, and I'd love to go back and walk it again.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Amazing hike through an ancient forest. Very thick and lush, was a little creepy at times :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I parked just outside the gate and walked in so I didn't have to pay the 6 bucks to park. I had a great day and took my time.

hiking
Saturday, August 20, 2016

We walked along the boardwalk through the Pygmy Forest and then hiked along Fern Canyon trail (2.3 miles) & then back by way of the Old Logging Road trail (1.2 miles) = 3.5 miles total. There is free parking at the Pygmy Forest trailhead off of Little River Rd. The Fern Canyon trail is a beautiful walk through an old forest. There were so many old massive trees that had been burnt down. It was amazing to see how big they once were and how old they are. There are a few bridges along the trail and a small waterfall - that would probably be pretty nice in the spring.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Nicely shaded complete with gurgling brook. Not very trafficked, though the height of the season. Would love to do this again in a light rain with the ferns glistening...

hiking
Monday, August 01, 2016

It was a beautiful, peaceful 3+ hour hike. Got there about 9:30am on a Sunday and there was hardly anyone else on the trail. It was lovely.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

This hike was everything I expected. Beautiful. The weather was perfect with this shaded hike. The trail crosses over the creek many times and has many well maintained and quaint bridges. The trees are stunning with the ground covered in ferns and green shrubbery. The hike is actually 8.5 miles if you do the whole loop and worth every inch of mile.

hiking
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Beautifully built and maintained trail with steps, bridges and wayside markings. Walk along the Little River with plenty of ferns, old and new growth trees, wildflowers and small waterfalls. We loved this trail.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Beautiful hike. It gets muddy in places, but the creek is amazing, and the trail is in decent shape with an occasional fallen tree to get around. Further up in the trail near the pigmy forest is a spot you may have to ford a shallow creek depending on the time of year.

hiking
Sunday, April 17, 2016

Great hike. The hike is purported to be 7.7 miles on this site... the map at the trailhead has it at 8.5, and my Delorme GPS tracked us at 9.2 miles today. You choose. Either way, gorgeous. Beware of mosquitos... as long as you keep moving, they leave you alone, but once you stop, you get swarmed. Lots of Poison Oak as well, but its well worth it. Just cover those legs up. Camp site is great.

on Fern Canyon Trail

hiking
Sunday, August 23, 2015

We did the Fern Canyon loop from the trail head located near the pygmy forest boardwalk & parking area.
We liked it a lot - as we saw trees and plants that we never see in the Midwest : ) This loop, combined with the pygmy forest shows trees of all sizes in one hike! Very cool...

on Fern Canyon Trail

hiking
Monday, July 27, 2015

Breathtaking scenery, very nice hike

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mountain bikes about 10 miles out and back. Mosquitoes were bad every time we slowed down or stopped. The views of the river were awesome. Our 9 & 11 year olds kept up fine but got bored quickly.

hiking
Sunday, April 05, 2015

completed this trail many times. well maintained and marked trail.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

These trails are equally beautiful......both are well maintained and marked however we did have a slight oopsy! We did this trail on bikes when we got to top we were confused as trail did not specify no bikes on it.....needless to say we did it and we had to do a lot of carrying and walking of the bikes...lol oh well it was a twofer...2 work outs for the price of one.......I would highly recommend this trail for either hiking and or biking just remember that the one side is no bikes....Happy Hiking and Biking ;-)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

One of my favorite hikes. There are two trails one is very easy the other has a lot of climbing.

hiking
Friday, March 08, 2013

I started at Van Damme park and did the whole loop which I logged at 9 miles total hike on my GPS. Its a nice hike and when I went on a cloudy March weekday I only came across a couple of people. I do a lot of hiking and did not feel this place was exceptional but glad I went anyway. Also it does not allow dogs but would make a great trail to take your dog on. I'm boggled why you can't so I did anyway and had no issue. 3 out of 5 for me.

hiking
Saturday, September 08, 2012

This was a great hike! Take the longer route first, the whole loop is around 6.5 miles. More traffic than I"ve met up with at other locations. There is a small, but pretty waterfall that is serene.

on Fern Canyon Trail

hiking
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Not my all time favorite, but very beautiful. We had a rough camping trip and we're exhausted with kids so we ended up turning back earlier than originally planned but we enjoyed it all the same. We'll return sometime and do the whole loop. One bridge was in need of repair but was cross-able.

hiking
Saturday, July 07, 2012

This trail is absolutely beautiful! The Fern Valley s so green and plush. Bring good hiking shoes because some parts of the trail can be a little muddy, and make sure you bring bug spray. This is an easy hike though.

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