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Five of Mendocino County's Best Hikes

jug handle preserve
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Located along the Golden State's famed "Lost Coast" (the largest roadless coastal area in the continental U.S.), Mendocino County attracts visitors from around the country to its remote shores, towering redwood groves and, of course, outstanding crop of wineries. If you go, make sure to bring your hiking shoes along as this northern realm offers some of the most refreshing hikes in the state. Find an exciting excursion for you and your family by checking out some of Mendocino County's best hikes below.

1. Fern Canyon, Van Damme State Park

fern canyon
Van Damme State Park, Mendocino County, CA. Hiking along Fern Canyon Trail.  |  mlhradio/Flickr/CreativeCommons

8.3 miles, Moderate

Do you ever dream of crossing 10 wooden bridges along the way to a lush Pygmy Forest? That dream is a reality in Van Damme State Park, where you’ll walk a relatively flat trail that ambles besides Little River and an army of sprawling ferns. After a few miles you’ll encounter the Pygmy Forest Self-Guided Trail, which takes hikers onto elevated walkways through this rare ecosystem. If you plan to go, check ahead to ensure the trail is open; late winter rains caused the park to close for repairs. Visit here for more information.

2. Shakota Trail 

lake mendocino
Lake Mendocino |  Brenda Carpenter/Flickr/CreativeCommons

3 Miles, Moderate

Want to head away from the coast but still want to saddle up next to a gorgeous body of water? The Shakota Trail should be your top choice, given its lakeside grip of western Lake Mendocino. Start at the Pomo Cultural Center. Bonus: Visit the relics of the Grazini Winery located between the north and south ends of the trail. Visit here for more information.

3. Peter Douglas Trail

peter douglas coastal trail
Peter Douglas Coastal Trail | Still from markimatang/Youtube

2.3 miles 

Need a front row seat to the dazzling candelabra redwoods on the southern end of California’s alluring "Lost Coast"? Look no further than the newly opened section of the California Coastal Trail, the Peter Douglas Trail, named after the coauthor of the landmark 1976 Coastal Act and former executive director of the California Coastal Commission. The land that the trail was built on was private property until Save the Redwoods League purchased it in 2011, offering this gorgeous parcel of coastline to the public for the first time in decades. Follow the path to disappear into groves of redwoods and Douglas fir before emerging into verdant bluffs overlooking the Pacific. Visit here for more information.

4. Ecological Staircase Trail

jug handle preserve
Jug Handle State Natural Reserve |  Miguel Vieir/Flickr/CreativeCommons

2.5 Miles, Moderate

There are few hikes that offer a stunning demonstration of how time, climate, and geology have transformed a landscape into terraces of diverging plant communities. In Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, the Ecological Staircase Trail weaves through three wave-cut terraces that present transitions from Bishop pine to a rare pygmy forest. Visit here for more information.

5. Montgomery Trail

montgomery woods
Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve  |  David Eppstein/CC BY-SA 4.0

2.1 miles, Easy

Descriptions of this trail through old redwood groves commonly mention the stunning silence to be found in this slice of Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve. Silence reigns supreme here largely because it is far from the noise of developments, highways and the coast. The reserve is also home to the unmarked Mendocino Tree, which at 366 feet, was once considered the tallest tree in the world (taller specimens were found in Humboldt County). Visit here for more information.

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