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2012 Updates: Hiker's hip pocket Guide to the Mendocino Coast


The most exciting news is that Big River State Park, 7334 acres, has been acquired and dedicated, now open to hikers and cyclists. See inside back cover.

State Park fees are up and remain in flux due to the state’s budget crisis. We can only estimate future fees due to this chaos. Call before you visit a state park to make sure it is open since services have been cut.

Updates by trail (T), page (P), & paragraph (p):

P32, Sinkyone Directions: Briceland Road has been permanently closed just beyond the Needle Rock Visitor Center due to a slip-out not far beyond. This adds 2.5 miles one way (5 miles round trip) to both Trails 5 and 6. Also add 2.5 miles each way to reach Orchard Creek Camp, Railroad Gulch Camp, and Bear Harbor Camp.

P32, Sinkyone Fees: $5/vehicle, day use. Primitive campsites: $20-25/night. Needle Rock Barn Camp: $30/night. Lost Coast Trail Camps: $5/person/night. Same on pages 34, 37, 39, 43, 54, 58.

T10, P62, OTHER SUGGESTIONS: In downtown Westport, Headlands access, south of Omega Drive, has 8 acres and about 3/8 mile of trails to bluffs, plus a new beach stairway.

T11, P64, HOW TO GET THERE: Wilderness Lodge Rd. is 9.8 miles from Highway 1 (12.9 miles is incorrect). Now called Angelo Reserve.

T12, P70, p5: No more 19 steps at start. Just head west.

T18,P93, #2: Guest House Museum now open Wednesday-Sunday from 10-4. From November to May: Thursday-Sunday only 11-2.

T19, P97, p3: Gardens Grill gone, now enlarged Gardens Store and Gardens Entrance.

T19, P98: Dogs OK on leash. New OTHER SUGGESTIONS: Pomo Bluffs Park on headlands south and west of Noyo Bridge has paved trails and restrooms, dogs OK on leash. South of Gardens on Ocean Drive at 0.8 mile: new Belinda Point Coastal Access Trail 1/2 mile round trip.

T20, P103, HOW TO GET THERE: Roads 360, 361, and 330 now once again generally open to vehicles in dry season, then closed in wet season. Call 964-5674 for current info.

T20, P104, p2: See note above re: status of Road 361.

T20, P108, p1: Road 330 generally open to vehicles in dry season, so watch for traffic.

T20, P108, p2: Upper Bob Woods Trailhead on Road 330 has been moved about 200 feet west of its previous location.

T24, P122, p3: Acquisition of Caspar Headlands State Park now allows blufftop and seasonal beach access in the sleepy but vibrant town of Caspar. The 55 acres of headlands are part of 142 acres of new public lands here. For a pleasant walk over open headlands to a dramatic and historic shoreline, turn off Highway 1 onto Caspar Road and proceed slowly to road’s end. Head west from the southernmost of two gates onto Caspar Headlands. In 300 feet you encounter remnant pavement from Caspar’s old railroad and lumber yards, part of the booming town until the mill closed in 1955. Follow the double track winding west to a fork at 1/8 mile. You can turn right to explore the north headlands or continue straight, route of CA Coastal Trail, to near bluff’s edge at 1/4 mile, the site of the old ship loading chute. The path forks here. A right turn explores the north end of this jagged shore. CCT route turns left to head south briefly, then veers left toward Caspar Beach. At another fork at 3/8 mile, a left turn quickly returns to starting point. To descend to Caspar Beach, veer right and descend the old tramway incline. Pass through a gate and before a grove of eucalyptus, turn right on the rough path down to Caspar Creek. Use caution if you ford the creek to the beach—don’t interfere with fish or wildlife. Distance: 1/2 mile to 1 1/4 miles, easy.

T32, P157, p2: See new Big River State Park at end of updates.

T33, P161, OTHER SUGGESTION: Old Mill Farm no longer open for lodging.

T35, P170: Montgomery Woods main grove and area burned in July 2008, but still gorgeous, now with scars that will heal. No more brochures or numbered posts, new boardwalk through part of grove.

T40, P186: Start of trail overgrown, unmaintained. Use CCT route: Only .35 mile from Highway 1, follow old pavement climbing south-southwest behind old house to join original route at 5/8 mile. New OTHER SUGGESTION: Navarro Point Access north on Highway One at MP.41.83 has about 1 1/2 miles of trails with spectacular coastal views.

T46, P206: Lighthouse open daily 10-4:30 in summer, until 3:30 in off season. FEES: $7.50/adult, $1 for children under 12, or $25/vehicle, whichever is less. New OTHER SUGGESTION: Stornetta Public Lands (BLM) provide access to 1132 acres surrounding the lighthouse. You can park there (fee) or at the turnout on south side of Lighthouse Road and walk south to explore a rugged coast. Dogs OK on leash, but no bikes or camping allowed.

T47, P207: New Moat Creek Trail heads east, then climbs south from parking lot, joining old trail at 1/8 mile. Other improvements too, especially stairs descending to Ross Creek.

T50, P217: Day Use now $6/vehicle. Car Camping now $22/night, Walk-in/hike/bike sites $6/person/night.

continued from inside cover

Big River State Park, 7334 acres, is now open to hikers and cyclists. You’ll find a basic map at the bottom of page 240. We suggest you get the Jackson State Forest map, the most detailed yet available. We recognize four main access points, the most important one at Big River Beach east of Highway 1, two on Little Lake Road, and one on Comptche-Ukiah Road.

1. Big River Haul Road. Turn east off Highway 1 just north of Big River Bridge onto North Big River Road. Go .3 mile and park near the gate. The old Haul Road, nearly level, follows the river and is now closed to all motor vehicles except service vehicles. Mileage counts from the yellow gate .1 mile beyond parking area. Beyond a second gate at .8 mile, the forest cover thickens. Graveled spurs fork left at 3.35 miles and 4.1 miles (both climb to Woodlands Fire Station on Little Lake Road). At 4.35 miles a broad spur heads east up Dry Dock Gulch (1.4 miles to upper Hi Chute Ridge). At 4.45 miles a short spur on left overlooks wetlands on Dry Dock Gulch. At 4.85 miles a graveled spur climbs east to lower Hi Chute Ridge. At 6.5 miles a wheel-less railroad flatcar marks a trail on right to river access. At 6.6 miles the Haul Road forks at the “7-mile Y.” Take the right fork to stay near the river. At 7.75 miles a narrow spur forks left. In 300 feet the main road comes to a wet ford, impassable in wet season. If you can ford, you soon reach Big River Laguna, a very large marsh around 8 miles, and the east boundary of Big River public lands by 9.5 miles. Returning to the fork at 7.75 miles, you can prolong explorations by heading north on the narrow track .5 mile to its end at the base of Hi Chute Ridge. Turn left to return to main parking (1.5 miles to 7-mile Y). A right turn heads north following a much smaller, not tidal river to Lily’s Beach in 2.2 miles, Mendocino Woodlands just beyond.

2. Woodlands Fire Station: Connector Trail to Haul Road, 1 7/8 miles round trip. At MP.3.25 on Little Lake Road, 3 miles east of Highway 1, an obvious path heads south from directly opposite the fire station driveway. Before 5/8 mile it merges with a power line path. Veer left to continue south into forest, soon descending old logging road. Beyond one mile it joins a gravel track. Go straight to reach Haul Road at MP.4.1 in 1 7/8 miles, a 3 3/4-mile round trip (500 feet elevation change).

3. Jackson State Forest Road 720 to Hi Chute Ridge to upper Haul Road, 2.15 or 3.25 or 4 miles to Haul Road, depending on route. From Highway 1, go 4.3 miles up Little Lake Road. Park near, but not blocking, the yellow gate on right marked “720” (may be open to vehicles in dry season). Hike or ride .5 mile on Road 720, then find a path that forks right to descend south. In 100 feet the path is marked by a large chunk of gnarled redwood. Descend this path to a junction with a logging road at .75 mile. (A left turn wanders out Hi Chute Ridge 3.25 miles to meet the north fork of Haul Road where it turns north to head for Woodlands.) For shortest route to Big River, turn right and descend 1.4 miles to main Haul Road 4.4 miles from its first gate. To loop back to your trailhead, turn left and go .5 mile, then bear left on the gravel track climbing east. It reaches Hi Chute Ridge in 1.6 miles. Stay left to ascend ridge, returning to first junction in 1.6 miles. Turn right and climb to Road 720, retracing your steps to trailhead, a 6.6-mile loop (elevation change 990 feet).

4. South side access. Up Comptche-Ukiah Road .25 mile, parking for 3-4 cars near logging road on left, just above Stanford Inn. Do not block gate! If you only have one hour to explore Big River and you’re hiking, this is best choice. Road heads east beyond gate passing large redwoods in first 1/8 mile, then continues generally east with filtered river and town views. A recent washout around 3/8 mile makes it difficult to continue. If you do, pass seven seeps from 1/2 mile to 1 1/8 miles, with your contour route interspersed with short descents. The best of the scenic tour ends at 1 1/8 miles. Some say the only reason to continue is to see the huge clear cut ahead, others like it for being the aerobic part of this hike. The road climbs steeply, entering the clear cut by 1 1/4 miles, and reaching a fork at 1 3/4 miles, then another at 1 7/8 miles. You can descend to where several trees block the main fork at 2 miles. Beyond there, it’s a bushwhacker’s delight. (Elevation change 160 feet to 1 1/8 miles, 630 feet to 2 miles).

Please note:

Other than the main Haul Road, none of these paths are maintained or official. They were open and passable in 2012 when the author explored them.