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.
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.
day-use beach is next to a protected cove, making it popular with kayakers and
Hike in Pygmy Forest Discovery
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
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.
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):
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
Fern Canyon (5 miles out and
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.