There is something magical about the hike through the lush green Fern Canyon to the Russian Gulch waterfall. Sunlight filters through the redwoods and firs, and the clean air is scented with the trees and the salt air from the nearby Pacific. Namesake ferns and velvety moss surround fallen trees and create a plush carpet beneath the mighty trees still standing tall. The world seems far away in this peaceful place.
The first part of the Fern Canyon trail was once a logging road. It grows steeper as it approaches the waterfall, but is only a moderately difficult hike, even on the steeper parts of the trail. The fairytale waterfall splashes 36 feet down the dark rocks to the burbling creek below. You can go back the way you came, or take the loop path down the other side of the waterfall, depending on how much time you have to soak in the forest splendor.
A shorter route to the waterfall is accessed from the North Boundary Trail. This trail is reached by turning east off Highway 1 onto Road 409. Just past the 3.26 mile marker, you’ll see a sign for the North Boundary Trail. Walk past the gate and follow the signs for the Fern Canyon Trail.
Russian Gulch State Park is off Highway 1, about 2 miles north of the village of Mendocino. There is an entry fee of $8 per car for the park. The park is open daily. Parts of the trails can be used by cyclists as well as pedestrians. Dogs are not allowed on the trails, though they are allowed on leash at the nearby beach within the park. Family friendly, but be careful with children near the waterfall and on the footbridge, since those areas can be slippery if wet. Parts of the trails may be muddy during the rainy winter months. For more information, call (707) 937-5804.