Van Damme State Park

A Scenic and Unusual Mendocino Beach

Van Damme State Park features a sheltered sandy beach, a lush fern canyon, a unique pygmy forest, and wetlands. It's a popular spot for abalone diving, fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and bicycling. The sandy beach is located at the mouth of the Little River. This Mendocino beach features paved parking, outdoor showers, fire rings, and restrooms. An offshore underwater park provides a good place for divers to explore, and a private concession offers kayak tours.

Photo © Suzi Rosenberg /

The 1,831 acre park extends inland, with 10 miles of trails. The Fern Canyon Trail is a paved trail that winds along the Little River valley, lush with ferns, Bishop pines and coast redwoods. It's popular with bicyclists and joggers, and extends for a little over 2 miles.

The Pygmy Forest is a unique feature of the park. Here, you'll find mature cypress and pine trees growing only from 6 inches to eight feet tall. Their stunted growth is due to the hardpan soil they grow on. There's a wheelchair-accessible self-guided nature trail that winds through the forest, and a parking area near the pygmy forest provides easy access.

Close to the campground, you'll find the Bog Trail, which leads to the Cabbage Patch, a wetlands area named for the skunk cabbage that grows here in abundance.

The visitor center offers exhibits and programs and is open year round. Van Damme State Park features 74 campsites, including 10 environmental sites and 1 group site that can accommodate up to 75 people. Restrooms are wheelchair-accessible. Reservations are highly recommended during the summer months. Fees are charged for camping and day use for the park, but there's no day use charge for the beach.

The park is located 3 miles south of Mendocino, California. Highway 1 runs though the park, separating the beach area from the campground and canyon trails.

For official information and to download a park brochure with a map, see California State Parks: Van Damme State Park.

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