Van Damme State Park
This 1,831-acre park offers a variety of attractions for hikers, divers, and campers. The free day-use beach offers a stunning spot for whale watching, picnics, kayaking, and diving. Van Damme Beach is next to a protected cove, making it popular with kayakers, snorkelers and divers. Here you can find kelp forests, red abalone, sea stars, sea urchins, and nearshore fish. Or you can set up a beach chair and watch for harbor seals or gray whales. RV camping is allowed in the beach parking lot, but there is no overnight camping permitted on the beach.
If you are looking for a hike through shaded redwoods and a green canyon, Van Damme’s Fern Canyon Trail is the perfect day hike. This 9-mile round trip trail follows Little River and climbs the hill to the unusual Van Damme pygmy forest boardwalk trail. The pygmy forest features 6-foot tall trees that are hundreds of years old. The limited nutrients in the soil, paired with a hardpan layer only a foot under the surface, has stunted the growth of these ancient trees.
Van Damme State Park has one of the largest campgrounds on the Northern California Coast. Camping in this park is popular in summer and reservations should be made in advance. Visit ReserveCalifornia.com to book a campsite.
During the summer, this state park offers a variety of free public activities. Each Saturday night between Memorial Day and Labor Day there is a Campfire program in the campfire center- complete with marshmallows and campfire songs. There are also hikes, tours, a Junior Rangers program, and educational booths available without any charge.