Van Damme State Park


What? : 

Park that offer both beach and ocean activity as well as some hiking in the little river redwoods and the unique Pygmy Forest.


Where? : 

The park is located 3 miles south of Mendocino on hwy 1.

Google Map Link


My thoughts

During our summer visit we did not visit the main coastal section of the park but rather went to the Pygmy Forest Discovery Trail area. It was nice and short visit; not sure it is a must place to see.


The visit:

Three miles south of Mendocino on Highway One, Van Damme State Park offers a scenic beach, a lush fern-filled forest, and year-round camping.

Highway 1 runs through the park, separating the campground and the Fern Canyon to the east from the beach and day-use parking lot to the west.

The free day-use beach is next to a protected cove, making it popular with kayakers and snorkelers.

Hike in Pygmy Forest Discovery Trail:

The entrance to this trailhead is located 2.8 miles out of hwy 1 on Little River Airport road. Pass the local airport on your right and the park entrance will be on your left at the next junction.

This is an interesting area in terms of the soil and the forest, 6-foot tall trees that are hundreds of years old. There are explanations and interpretive signs along the trail.

Because of the geological conditions the soil here is very poor in minerals, thing that causes its forest vegetation to be "dwarf". This is a short and easy boardwalk trail starting from the parking lot, A short, no more than 30 min, visit in this place can be enough, not mandatory but nice.

Longer hike options that will take you through shaded redwoods and a green canyon:

A medium hike option (4.2 miles, I did not hike this trail):

Pygmy Forest and Fern Canyon Loop, start at the Pygmy Forest, use the forest road, take Old Logging Road Trail (the left fork) downhill for 1.2 miles to a junction with the Fern Canyon Trail, Turn right and uphill onto the single-track portion of Fern Canyon Trail. After 2.3 miles you’ll start to switchback up through a drier forest.


Fern Canyon (5 miles out and back):

This is considered the main park trail, it starts at the end of the campground and includes the finest parts of Fern Canyon on an easy (stroller- and bike-friendly) trail along Little River canyon. The trail is mostly flat and wide going through a dense, green forest of Redwoods, Cypress, Pines, and giant ferns. The trail is paved but typically carpeted in soft pine needles.


There is a much longer hike option (9 miles, I did not hike this trail):

Hike the Fern Canyon Scenic Trail and the pygmy forest loop starting from the end of the drive-in campground, this is an 9-mile trek.