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Van Damme State Park

Three miles south of Mendocino, 2,000-acre Van Damme State Park has a variety of habitats: marine, coastal bluff terraces, and pygmy, redwood, and riparian forests. Coast Highway One divides the park; west of the highway is a small, sheltered, sandy beach, one of the few with level access on the Mendocino Coast. East of the highway, nearly...
Three miles south of Mendocino, 2,000-acre Van Damme State Park has a variety of habitats: marine, coastal bluff terraces, and pygmy, redwood, and riparian forests. Coast Highway One divides the park; west of the highway is a small, sheltered, sandy beach, one of the few with level access on the Mendocino Coast. East of the highway, nearly three square miles of park extend inland along Little River and north along the coast. Here you'll find group and individual campgrounds, a small visitor center, a pygmy forest, and 10 miles of trails, at least two of which offer some access.

Trail/Pathway Details

Pygmy Forest

Trailhead: Parking lot off Airport Road

Length: Less than .5 mile

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Level

Terrain: Hard

Obstacles: A fresh layer of large rocks at the Trail Fire Service Road trailhead by the parking lot may be challenging for those in manual wheelchairs.

Description

This short 300-yard loop boardwalk is at Van Damme's eastern end, some two miles inland from Highway One. What at first glance may not seem impressive—skinny, dwarfed trees, washed-out and dull-looking against the ever-present fog—soon inspires awe. Interpretive panels throughout tell how the forces of nature (poor acidic topsoil and hardpan ) have stunted trees over the...
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Fern Canyon

Trailhead: Foot of park entry road

Length: Over 4 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Mostly level or gentle

Several of the bridges have a two- to three-inch transition that may be problematic for some wheelchairs.

Terrain: Firm

Although I visited in summer, there were several muddy stretches created by runoff from the canyon walls; I needed assistance at one stretch to avoid getting stuck. In wet weather it will likely be impassable. Some patches of broken asphalt made for a bumpy ride, and for the last mile or so a fine layer of redwood duff covered the trail but was easy to negotiate in my power chair.

Obstacles: At most bridge thresholds, erosion has left two- to three-inch transitions at both ends. The worst is at the ninth bridge where the path at the threshold has narrowed to less than 30 inches. After that bridge, a fallen tree narrows the trail and requires careful navigation. There are no restrooms at either trail.

Description

Fern Canyon Trail is an abandoned logging skid once used to haul timber by ox team to a lumber mill at the mouth of Little River. The lush trail extends along Little River through Fern Canyon, named for the abundant ferns thriving here: five-finger, bird’s-foot, lady, licorice, stamp, sword, and deer. At times you can see the river,...
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Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

The small visitor center at the campground has limited hours and was closed on my visit.

Beach Wheelchair: Yes

Request 48 hours in advance; call (707) 937-5804 At visitor center, by accessible restroom at campground, Pygmy Forest, and beach; may be covered in sand. There is no designated accessible space at Fern Canyon trailhead, but the small lot is paved.

Accessible Restroom: Yes

The only accessible restroom is in the campground, adjacent to campsite 11

Other Things of Interest

Kayak Mendocino rents kayaks at Van Damme's beach, where they can be launched from a level spot.

A few miles north of Van Damme is Big River Beach (part of Mendocino Headlands State Park), which extends along the north bank of Big River on both sides of Highway One. Here you’ll find level access to a broad sandy beach on the east side of the highway. The large parking lot has no designated accessible parking, but I had no problem parking. At the west end is an accessible portable restroom, although the sandy path to it may be problematic for some wheelchairs.
Fern Canyon Trail
Fern Canyon Trail (Rae Blum)

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Features icon key

  • Beach Wheelchairs Available
  • camping
  • hiking

Additional Information

View Map  
Website: www.parks.ca.gov
Managing Agency: California State Parks
Address: Three miles south of Mendocino
Nearest City: Mendocino
Phone: (707) 937-5804
Hours: Beach: 5 am-10 pm. Visitor center: Generally open weekends, 10 am-2 pm.
Fees: Entrance
Dogs: In restricted areas
Allowed on leash in campgrounds and on beach, but not on trails.
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, September 14, 2010
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

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Accessible Wheelchair Icon looks like a wheelchair with balloon wheelsBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
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