This is a gem of a park, offering over a mile of ocean frontage with great beaches and tide pools, plus more than 10 miles of lush, forested hiking trails and plenty of horseback riding trails. You’ll find a beautiful picnic area perched on a cliff overlooking a dramatic cove; spacious, well-laid out campgrounds with bathrooms and hot showers; a 3-mile long paved bicycle trail; and a 36-foot high waterfall that’s one of the park’s star attractions. Another highlight is the Devil’s Punchbowl, sometimes referred to as “the blowhole,” a partially collapsed sea cave that offers a stunning view of churning, surging water 60 feet below you.
The beach offers swimming, tide pool exploring, kayaking, abalone diving and rock fishing. Each of Russian Gulch State Park’s 1,305 acres offers more natural beauty than you can shake a walking stick at. two miles north of Mendocino, Russian Gulch State Park combines a three-mile leafy canyon with windswept headlands and pristine beaches along the park’s rocky coastline. Inland, a 36-foot waterfall plunges down into a bower of redwoods, mosses, and ferns. Along the coast, waves crash into a collapsed sea cave called Devil’s Punchbowl, and the photogenic Frederick W. Panhorst Bridge rises gracefully 100 feet from the bottom of the gulch.
In the spring, the park’s foggy headlands bloom with acres of wildflowers. With nearly a mile and a half of ocean frontage, the park is often compared to Point Lobos on the Big Sur Coast. Visitors come to camp, hike, bike, fish, dive, kayak, ride their horses, or just marvel at the park’s beauty.
The climate in the park is temperate year-round. Winter rainclouds and cool summer fogs that usually burn off by mid-morning provide the moisture necessary for the thriving coast redwoods. Prepare for changeable weather.
• All features of the parks are protected by state law and may not be disturbed or collected.
• Anglers age 16 and over must carry a valid fishing license.
• Dead and downed wood may not be gathered or removed. Firewood is available for purchase at the campground.
• Pets must be on a leash no longer than six feet. They are allowed at the picnic area, beach, in the campground, and on paved park roads and the Headlands Trail. Except for service animals, dogs are not allowed on any other trails in the park. At night, pets must be in a tent or vehicle.
• Horse are allowed on designated roads and trails only.
• Driving off of designated roads is not permitted.
• State law requires that all bicycle riders under the age of 18 wear bicycle helmets.
THINGS TO DO
Russian Gulch State Park has 15 miles of trails, with a satisfying mix of shady forest and open coastal hikes. About 5 miles of those trails are open to bicycles. The park’s beaches, coves, and tide pools are great for a variety of water activities.
If you have an hour, check out the Headlands Trail, where you can gaze at the Pacific Ocean from various vantage points and investigate the park’s notorious sinkhole, Devil’s Punchbowl. Picnic at nearby tables overlooking Panhorst Bridge.
If you have half a day, head up to the park’s sparkling waterfall on the Fern Canyon Trail.
If you have a full day, hike the Fern Canyon Loop in the morning and one or more of the headlands trails in the afternoon. Catch the last rays of sun on the beach at the mouth of Russian Gulch Creek.
Max. Trailer Lengths
Trailer: 24 Feet
Camper/Motorhome: 24 Feet
Several accessible facilities at Russian Gulch include a group recreation hall, 0.9 miles of the Fern Canyon Trail, and one campsite. Assistance may be needed with restroom, shower, and other facilities. A beach wheelchair is available for use by calling (707) 937-5721 to reserve it at least seven days in advance. Accessibility at the park is continually improving. For updates on accessibility in any California state park, click the Accessible Features link at the top of this page.
A beach wheelchair, free of charge, is available upon request for use at California State Park beaches in the Mendocino coast area. Call (707) 937-5721 at least 7 days in advance to reserve the beach wheelchair. Please note the wheelchair does not fold up and you will need a truck or SUV to transport the wheelchair from the kiosk or Visitor Center to the beach.
Bikes are allowed on designated roads and trails only, including 2 miles of the Fern Canyon Trail and 2.8 miles of the North Boundary Trail.
Russian Gulch has 26 standard campsites, four equestrian campsites with corrals, and one group site. Reservations are strongly recommended in the summer. Campsites are available up to six months in advance by calling 1-800-444-7275 or by clicking the reservations link at the top of this page. Sites are first-come, first-served from Labor Day through late March.
HORSE CAMPING AND RIDING
Russian Gulch’s horse camp is on the northeast edge of the park, off Casper–Little Lake Road. The fee for each of four sites covers staging areas, corrals, and water troughs. Make reservations by calling 707-937-5804 (District Office). Horses are allowed on designated roads and trails only. No horse rental stables are available nearby.
Fishing is not permitted in the creek, but ocean fishing is allowed for children and licensed adults 16 and older. However, be aware that the ocean here is treacherous.
0.75 miles long, minimal elevation change
Starting at the picnic area overlooking Panhorst Bridge, walk southwest along the bluff edge past lichen-laced pines and jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean. Stay close to the craggy shoreline as you round the corner at the southern end of the trail. Head north for a couple of minutes, then veer 200 feet inland to the sinkhole overlook, Devil’s Punchbowl. This 100-foot by 60-foot basin was created when a tunnel penetrating inland from the ocean collapsed. At high tide, it’s a roiling cauldron of water.
Hike or Bike Campsites