Russian Gulch State Park – Fern Waterfall Hike


What? :

Russian Gulch State Park offer ocean cliffs with large sinkhole, sandy beach below the picturesque road bridge and lush forest canyon and waterfall.


In this blog I will provide information on my hike to Furan Waterfall. This waterfall is one of the most beautiful waterfalls I saw along the northern California coast, and it is highly recommended hike.


This is a 6.5-mile loop trail considered a moderately and it takes an average of 2.5 hours to complete.

I did a longer version of the hike with total of 8.7 miles with total of 1,030 ft of elevation gain.


Where? :

Located only two miles north of Mendocino town and 7 miles south of Fort Bragg., just off highway 1.

Google Map Link


When? :

The park is open year-round, if you are planning on staying at the campground check winter closing.

This is a very popular park and not large in its size, or with number of trails, at summer month and weekends it maybe overcrowded.



Due note 1: This is one of the most popular parks in Mendocino area, when we tried to enter the park during summer weekend at around noon the park was close for cars entries, after few hours, late at the afternoon we came back and manage to get inside.


Due note 2: The fee is $8 per car and the pass allows you to get into any other state parks you visit that day.


Due note 3: you need to find parking spot in one of the park small parking lots, preferred when you drive down below the bridge, just before the campground entrance.


Due note 4: The Furan Waterfall Hike is very popular hike, but it stand to it reputation.


Due note 5: There is an alternate shorter hike to the waterfall, see details below.


Due note 6: The first 2 miles of the creek trail are open for bicycles, but you need to hike the last section leading to the waterfall.


Due note 7: The creek trail had a major improvement and reconstruction work over the last year, and as of early 2023 the work is still on going.


My thoughts:

I visit this park several times and only now I manage to hike the trail to the waterfall.

This is probably the most rewording hikes I did when visiting Mendocino County.

The hike combine deep creek where all the surrounding hills are covered with forest, secondary growth redwoods trees and picturesque waterfall at the end.

When I was here (late January 2023) the park was not overcrowded and at the afternoon most of the other hikers where on their way out from the trail, so I only saw few people during my hike. During the summer month this can be completely different experience, this is a very popular hike.



The visit:


No matter where you park your car you will need to cross the campground area to it far east side.

The new renovated trail progressing east parallel to the creek on it left bank.

Everything is green and the hills on both sides are covered with forest.

It is a fun flat easy hike down this trail and after hiking for 2 miles you will reach a trail junction.

Do not confuse and keep hiking on the Fern Canyon Trail, slight left.

Do not cross the bright on the right trail (you will come from here if you will do the loop trail) and do not climb left on North trail.

This is the last point people can ride their bikes.


After additional 0.7 miles hiking and some slight climbing you will reach the Fern Waterfall. 

Overall, the waterfall is around 2.7 miles away from the trail starting point (or 3 miles if you parked before the campground).


What a rewording view of the waterfall.


The waterfall is 36-foot tall that plunges down over few large fallen redwood’s trunks, mosses, and ferns.

When I visit here after few weeks of heavy rain the water flow was high and it covered the waterfall widening.


There is a small bench in front of the waterfall and just below it the small bridge cross the creek.


Now you can turn around and hike back the same way you came here or you can extend the hike with the longer loop trail.


If you decided to extend your hike, from the bridge waterfall the trail climb to the top of the waterfall and after short walk you will reach a trail junction.

Here you need to turn right and up the waterfall loop trail, the other trail (east trail) climb up to the north park boundary (see the short hike option below).


The fall loop trail is 1.6 mile long, it start by climbing the ridge, this is around 250ft climb and after 0.4 mile you will reach the top of your climb and from here the trail cross the forest landscape until it start to descend and loop back into the main Russian Gulch Creek trail. 

After 1.6 mile you will cross the bridge and reconnect back to the main trail.


Now you have tow options, the first and most popular and shorter option is to hike back on the same trail you arrive, take the creek all the way to the campground and your car.

There is another option to hike back, somehow longer and involved with additional climb, and this is what I did.

From Fern Canyon Trail take the north Trail that climb up the mountains north of the creek. After 0.5-mike of hiking up the hill the trail flatten and following the ridgeline parallel above the creek.

On you way you will pass 2 other trails connecting from the north, keep hiking on north trail, always sticking to the left. 

In this 1.5-mile section the trail gradually descending so this section this is easy hike.

After 2.4 miles hiking the north trail, you will descend back down to the Russian Gulch Creek and reconnect to the main trail, just at the end of the campground. From here walk to your car.




Another 2.2-mile-long hiking option to the waterfall:

I describe above the hike that start at the main park entrance and follow the Russian Gulch Creek; this is the recommended hike.

There is another, shorter, option to hike to the waterfall from the Russian Gulch State Park North Boundary parking on Caspar Little Lake Rd.

I did not hike this trail but this short 2.2 miles out and back hike start at the north park boundary parking lot. The trail will lead you down the creek almost directly to the waterfall (1.1-mile one way). You can combine this hike to the waterfall loop trail to overall 3.9-mile hike.

From the waterfall you need to climb back to the trailhead, this will be 300 ft elevation gain.








Additional Pictures: