It would be quite remarkable if one could pass through five separate habitats on a single five mile round trip trek, yet at Jug Handle State Natural Reserve perched aside the side of the Pacific this is entirely possible. Made by thousands of years of geologic uplift resulting in terrace building, each elevation level of this preserve offers a differing and unique ecosystem to explore. Starting the in the coastal headland habitat of grasses and cypress, the trail then passes through riparian area before crossing into a mixed forest of bishop pine and Douglas Fir. Finally, the trip culminates in a Redwood Grove away from the drying salty winds of the sea, and a pygmy forest of miniature pines, pressed to their small size because of extreme acidic levels in the soil. In all any hiker interested in geology and environmental adaptation, or anyone in search of natural diversity, would do well to walk the trail.
Elevation Gain: 350'
Location: Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, Jackson State Forest
The Trail: From the parking lot, pick up a trail guide interpreting the various plants and animals found on the trip. The path begins by swinging westward toward the sea and then back towards the highway into a cypress grove. After crossing underneath Highway 1, the trail drops on a fine collection of wooden stairs into the stream-side riparian habitat, covered by various mosses, ferns, lichens and canopies of Red Alders. From here the path climbs up a small hill to the bishop, and then Douglas Fir forests, which also house various other Northwest tree species such as the Western Hemlock and Sitka Spruce. After passing though stands of wild raspberries, the Redwood forest is then reached with its bold under-story of ferns. Finally after 2.5 miles, the acidic pygmy forest is reached on a small boardwalk to protect the fragile habitat. After exploring around and thoroughly reading the brochure, return the way you came.
Hiked 7/14/2017, Mendocino County, CA
|Jug Handle Creek meets the Pacific|
|Douglas Fir Forest|
|Large elk north of Ft. Bragg off HWY 1|