Coastal Trail Guide

Mendocino Land Trust

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Russian Gulch State Park

Parking iconRestrooms iconBeach Access iconWildlife Viewing iconWetlands / Stream iconSea Mammals iconWhale Watching iconWild Flowers iconCliff Edge iconFishing iconHorses iconBiking iconKayaking iconEasy Trail iconModerate Trail icon

Russian Gulch State Park is a beautiful park used by locals and visiting nature-lovers alike. This park offers the best of the Mendocino coast - a beach with a towering bridge spanning over soft sands, a blowhole on the grassy headlands, pristine camping sites, 15 miles of trail, pygmy and redwood forests, a waterfall, a historical recreation hall, electric car charging station, and educational events in the summers.

Russian Gulch State Park is well known for the “Waterfall Loop Trail”. This trail starts at the east end of the campground at the “Fern Canyon Trail” and leads you 2.5 miles through a sword fern lined canyon, along a river, and through towering redwoods to a gorgeous 36-foot waterfall in the woods. There is a small bridge over the base of the waterfall, great for family hiking photos. There are also two benches at the waterfall for a serene picnic lunch or moment of reflection. If the 2.5 miles out and 2.5 miles back are a bit daunting, visitors that wish to hike to the waterfall on a shorter trail can also park at the Russian Gulch Horse Camp on Road 409. Accessing the trails from Horse Camp shortens the hike to 1.5 miles round trip to the Waterfall.  No dogs are allowed on any trails in the park, except for service animals.

Russian Gulch also offers a fantastic diving spot for all ocean lovers. The protected cove is home to the Red Abalone, a variety of sea stars, crabs, mussels, oysters, fish, and is visited frequently by a colony of harbor seals. During whale migration, visitors can take a seat at the day-use picnic tables near the bluffs for whale watching and enjoying the sunset over the ocean.

GEOLOGY: All visitors should take a glance at the “Devil’s Punchbowl” on the headlands of Russian Gulch. This geological curiosity is a blowhole carved by millions of years of crashing waves. The blowhole originated as a small cave extending inland with the mouth on the ocean cliff. Decade after decade of waves crashing in the cave caused the ceiling of the cave to erode away and eventually collapse, leaving the seemingly random hole in the headlands we know today as the “Devil’s Punchbowl”. Take a moment to lean over the fence and watch the waves pull in and out of the ancient cave.

CAMPING: Russian Gulch State Park has a small campground that fills quickly during the summer, so if you are looking to stay in the campground, it’s best to make a reservation. Visit to book your site. All campsites in Russian Gulch offer parking spaces and room for tent camping. There are no hook-ups for trailers, and trailers over 24 feet are not permitted. Make sure to call or visit the website if you are looking to visit in the winter, as this park closes during poor weather conditions.

    SPECIAL ACTIVITIES: If you find yourself in Russian Gulch during the summer, keep an eye out for any special event schedules posted on bulletin boards through the park. During the summer the park offers Junior Rangers programs, night hikes, informational booths, and is a great way to involve the whole family in learning about the coast. All park hosted activities are free, Junior Rangers programs are for children 7-12 years old.



Russian Gulch State Park trail map

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Trail Length: 15 miles