An excellent reason to visit Mendocino County - the Tallest Living Plants on Earth are in Mendocino County!
Three species of trees are commonly referred to as redwoods: California’s coast redwood and giant sequoia, and China’s dawn redwood.
For those who have had the chance to stand in a redwood grove, there are few life experiences that match it. Even if you have only ever seen a photo of the few ancient redwood forests left, it’s hard to imagine life on our planet without these awesome and majestic places. We can all agree that there are some places on Earth that are so special that they are worth saving. That’s why there is such strong support for protecting redwood lands.
About Coast Redwoods
The Tallest Trees In The World
Standing at the base of Earth’s tallest tree, the coast redwood, is one of life’s most humbling and amazing experiences. These California trees can reach higher than a 30-floor skyscraper (more than 320 feet), so high that the tops are out of sight.
Their trunks can grow 26 feet wide, about eight paces by an average adult person! Even more incredible: These trees can live for more than 2,000 years.
Redwoods once grew throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The first redwood fossils date back more than 200 million years to the Jurassic period. Before commercial logging and clearing began in the 1850s, coast redwoods naturally occurred in an estimated 2 million acres (the size of three Rhode Islands) along California’s coast from south of Big Sur to just over the Oregon border. When gold was discovered in 1849, hundreds of thousands of people came to California, and redwoods werelogged extensively to satisfy the explosive demand for lumber and resources. Today, only 5 percent of the original old-growth coast redwood forest remains, along a 450-mile coastal strip. Most of the coast redwood forest is now young. The largest surviving stands of ancient coast redwoods are found in Redwood National and State Parks and Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
The native people of California did not typically cut down coast redwoods, but used fallen trees to make planks for houses and hollowed out logs for canoes. The natives also regularly used common redwood forest plants
Located in Willits in Brooktrails Township, their are several former logging trails that have been restored into great hiking trails. One of our favorites is Thimbleberry (pictured above) because it runs along a small babbling creek, is located in a ravine so always cool even in our hot summer months, and between the sound of water, the Redwoods and the ferns - it is a beautiful place to enjoy nature and get a good work out!
Several trails connect to Thimbleberry - Robie - which is a pretty steep uphill climb and Gooseberry -another uphill trail. At the end of Thimbleberry - you can continue on Last Chance - which narrows and adds a incline to your workout.
A couple of creek along the way you will cross - summer they are usually easily doable, in the winter you need some rubber boots.
This course is great for families with children, for pet owners and those that want to do a little exercise along the way. Their is a small playground at the beginning with tire swing and slide and merry go round and a few picnic tables. Further on there is a baseball field, continue over a small wooden bridge. Along the path there are different exercise stations you can stop and work out. A gorgeous Redwood Grove complete with bridge is located about half way around.
A complete loop is about 30 minutes around, there are benches to stop and soak in the scenery and rest!
At the heart of this exceptional reserve is a small alluvial flat that's hidden away in a remote, steep-sided valley, where you'll find one of the most scenic redwood groves in existance.
This serene little grove is isolated in more than one sense. It's unusually far from the ocean, at the eastern edge of the redwood band and surrounded by relatively dry environments. It's also well off the beaten track, a half-hour from the nearest freeway or town on steep and winding roads, and, unusually for a redwood park, the old growth grove is well away from roads and other development.
Although it wouldn't seem like people would drive all this way for only two miles of trails, the reserve is a fairly popular destination that gets maybe 3–6 cars per hour on summer weekends. Its popularity may be partly due to the fact that, at one time, Montgomery Flat contained the tallest measured tree in the world. While its location is secret, and taller trees have since been found in other parks, that distinction still gives the grove a certain cachet.
Like many redwood groves, the best time to visit Montgomery Woods is late in the afternoon. There are fewer visitors at this time so it's easier to appreciate the serenity of the park, and the valley is oriented such that late-afternoon summer sunshine reaches the valley floor, providing a softer, more scenic light than the harsh midday sun.
The old growth grove at Montgomery Woods was one of many places burned after summer thunderstorms in June 2008 ignited forest fires throughout Northern California. As of 2011, the grove has mostly recovered, although some dead tanoaks and small dead redwoods remain throughout the grove, and the woods aren't quite as dense and overwhelmingly lush as they used to be. However, the overall impression of the grove is more or less the same as was before the fire, and it's actually hard to tell the difference without looking at old pictures
The reserve can be reached by taking Orr Springs Road west from the town of Ukiah. It's about a 30 minute drive from Highway 101. Orr Springs Road starts just north of exit 549 and soon begins a steep and twisty climb, which is then followed by an even steeper and twistier descent through scenic oak chaparral. Redwoods line the creekbeds below. Once it reaches the valley floor, the road levels out and passes Orr's Hot Springs, then enters a redwood forest. Look for a large wooden sign on your left.
The reserve can also be reached by taking Comptche - Ukiah Road and Orr Springs Road from the coast. This route is less scenic and winds its way along a wooded ridge before dropping into the valley. After passing Comptche, simply follow the only paved road — there are no turns to make.
The reserve is marshy, so if it's summer and you don't have mosquito repellent, you'll be surrounded by an impressive cloud of mosquitos the moment you stop to take a picture or admire a view. Poison oak is also common although it doesn't usually encroach on the trail.
The reserve is not staffed and there's no entrance fee.
Another favorite - located halfway between Willits and Fort Bragg off Hwy 20. A little harder to find - but our written directions will help you out!
A little steep as you descend down, so make sure you are able to handle the descent and have good shoes. The trail leads out to a beautiful waterfall - quite thunderous in the rainy season, smaller of course in the summer.
You can meander out past the waterfall and there are several smaller trails shooting off - all very quiet and amazing!
From Van Damme State Park Campground to Fern Canyon is 5 miles round trip with 200-foot gain; to Pygmy Forest is 7 miles round trip with 400-foot gain
Five-ﬁnger and bird’s-foot, lady and licorice, stamp, sword and deer— these are some of the colorful names of the ferns growing in well-named Fern Canyon. This lush canyon, the heart of Van Damme State Park, is also rich with young redwoods, red alder, big leaf maple and Douglas ﬁr, as well as a tangled understory of wild cucumber and berry bushes.
Little River meanders through Fern Canyon, as does a lovely trail which crosses the river nine times. Fern Canyon Trail, paved along its lower stretch, follows the route of an old logging skid road. For three decades, beginning in 1864, ox teams hauled timber through the canyon.
A lumber mill once stood at the mouth of Little River. During the late nineteenth century, schooners, used for shipping logs and lumber, were constructed at a boatworks located at the river mouth. Lumberman and San Francisco businessman Charles F. Van Damme was born in the hamlet of Little River. He purchased land on the site of the former sawmill and bequeathed the river mouth and canyon to the state park system.
In Van Damme State Park, another very special environment awaits the walker: the Pygmy Forest. A nutrient-poor, highly acidic topsoil, combined with a dense hardpan located beneath the surface that resists root penetration, has severely restricted the growth of trees in certain areas of the coastal shelf between Salt Point and Fort Bragg.
The Pygmy Forest in Van Damme State Park is truly Lilliputian. Sixty-year-old cypress trees are but a few feet tall and measure a half-inch in diameter. The walker has a choice of two trails that lead to the Pygmy Forest. One route loops 3.5 miles through Fern Canyon; another, the one mile
long Logging Road Trail leads more directly to the forest. A self-guided nature trail, built upon an elevated wooden walkway, loops through the Pygmy Forest.
Directions to trailhead: Van Damme State Park is located off Highway 1, three miles south of Mendocino. Turn inland on the main park road, and follow it through the canyon to a parking area at the beginning of signed Fern Canyon Trail.
The hike: The ﬁrst and second crossings of Little River give you an inkling of what lies ahead. During summer, the river is easily forded; in winter, expect to get your feet wet.
The wide path brings you close to elderberry, salmonberry and a multitude of ferns. Two miles and eight river crossings later, you’ll pass the state park’s environmental campsites—reserved for walkers and bicyclists.
The road splits into a short loop and the two forks rejoin at the end of the paved road. Both trails lead to Pygmy Forest. To the left, the longer loop continues east through Fern Canyon before joining the old logging road and traveling to Pygmy Forest. For a shorter walk to Pygmy Forest, cross Little River and follow the Old Logging Road Trail a mile.