There’s an enchanted place in Russian Gulch State Park. A fairytale waterfall nestles among lush ferns, plush moss, and majestic redwoods in a secluded forest. Golden beams of sunlight slant through the canopy of trees, and birds and butterflies flutter through the foliage. There are wild mushrooms in the winter months and colorful wildflowers in the spring. Clean, fresh water spills over dark, rugged rocks into the sparkling creek rippling below. Beautiful at any time of year, this tranquil spot weaves a spell when the silvery coastal fog drifts through the forest or a gentle winter rain is falling through the ancient trees. In this tranquil, timeless spot, you would not be surprised to see a dinosaur peeking past one of the giant ferns. It’s just one of the places that make Mendocino so special.
Wondering how to get to this Jurassic Park wonderland? The best-known way is to start at the trailhead in Russian Gulch State Park, off Highway 1. From there, you hike the aptly named Fern Canyon trail from Russian Gulch State Park, a loop which encompasses the waterfall about midway through the loop. You can either retrace your steps or continue on the loop, crossing the waterfall on a rustic wooden bridge and taking the trail on the other side back to the entrance. The “secret” way is to take Road 409 east from Highway 1 and park where the pavement ends, about 3.25 miles in. Then walk past the gates and follow the signposts. This way, you will approach the falls from the top, and it is a shorter walk than the Fern Canyon hike.