One of the Mendocino Coast’s best-kept secrets is hiding in plain sight, just north of the Little River Inn – the trails at Spring Ranch.
The trails meander through 300 acres of unspoiled coastal prairie reaching from storied Highway One to the wild, rocky Pacific Coast. Beaches stretch below the cliffs, where you might find seals sunning themselves on the rocks or frolicking in the waves. At low tide, the beach and rock shelf are an excellent spot for tide pooling. This is also a good vantage point for watching migrating whales.
There are benches along the trails where you can relax and enjoy a picnic and the ever-changing spectacle of the mighty Pacific. Dogs are welcome on leash. Stay on trails and be careful of both dogs and humans at the cliff edges, where there can be unseen erosion.
The historic barns built by the Kent family in the 1850s still stand among the wild grasses, green in winter, golden in summer, and dotted with wildflowers in the spring, bearing witness to the property’s ranching past, when sheep and cows roamed here and legend has it that their owners sometimes slept with their livestock in the fields to protect them. Now foxes and deer meander the same grounds where those long-ago domestic animals grazed, and seabirds and ravens wheel overhead.
There is no cell service at Spring Ranch, so bring a map with you. Dress in layers, as it can be windy any time of the year.
Spring Ranch is located in Little River, with trail entrances at Highway One at Gordon Lane (mile marker 49.04) or Highway One at Peterson Lane, (mile marker 48.5) just north of Little River Inn and Van Damme State Beach.