Trails of the Month:
Big River State Park

Every month, we'll feature a sample hike from one of our hiking guide books. These sample trail listings are updates to:

The Hiker's hip pocket Guide to the Mendocino Coast

Archived Trails of the Month:

View map of these trails

Big River South Side
New Big River State Park

2-¼ miles round trip or more.


Gain 160 feet for distance above, 630 feet for 4-mile round trip.


One or two hours.


Do not block gate at trailhead. No smoking or fires. No dogs allowed.


From Highway 1, turn east just south of Mendocino onto Comptche-Ukiah Road. Go ¼ mile and park near old logging road on left (room for three or four cars).

If you only have one hour to explore Big River on a hike,this easy hike provides the most rewarding short exploration. Pass the gate and follow the old logging road east, passing large redwoods in the first 1/8 mile. Continue generally east, periodically enjoying dramatic, filtered river and town views. Pass seven seeps and abundant ferns from ½ mile to 1-1/8, with your contour route interspersed with short descents.

The best of the scenic tour and the easy hike ends at 1-1/8 miles. Some say the only reason to continue is to see the huge clearcut ahead, others like it for being the most aerobic part of this hike. Follow the road as it climbs steeply, entering the clearcut by 1-¼ miles. Continue ascending, with occasional bird's-eye views of Big River and its canyon, to a fork at 1-¾ miles, then another at 1-7/8 miles, where the route reaches its summit. You can descend to where several trees block the main fork at 2 miles. Beyond there, it's a bushwhacker's delight. Return the way you came.

Mendocino Woodlands Fire Station Connector Trail to Big River Haul Road
Jackson State Forest and new Big River State Park

1-7/8 miles round trip or more. Elevation Gain 250 feet.


One hour or more.


This trail starts on Jackson State Forest land and ends in new Big River State Park— it is not an official trail, But the author found it open and passable on his last visit in February 2003. No smoking or fires. No dogs allowed beyond first 7/8 mile.


From Highway 1 at Mendocino, turn right onto Little Lake Road and head east 3 miles. Park on shoulder near the CDF woodlands Fire Station. Trail starts opposite the fire station driveway.



Take the obvious but unmarked path directly opposite the fire station driveway. Contour south through transitional pygmy forest. Before 5/8 mile the trail merges with a power line path. Veer left to continue southeast into tall forest, soon entering Big River State Park where you descend an old logging road onto cut-over timber lands with views of Big River's canyon on your right.

Beyond one mile it joins a gravel track. Go straight to reach the Big River Haul Road at Mile.4.1 (4.1 miles from east end of Big River Beach) in 1-7/8 miles, a 3-¾-mile round trip. You can go left or right to explore the canyon of Big River. If you do, however, be sure you take the same gravel road to return to the trailhead. Big River State Park is a huge place, 7334 acres, where it's easy to get lost.

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