Explore California: Jug Handle State Natural Reserve | Cal Parks

Explore California: Jug Handle State Natural Reserve

Published: May 6, 2020

Jug Handle State Natural Reserve

Like a geological journey through time.

Named after the creek that runs through it, Jug Handle State Natural Reserve is located in Northern California along Highway One between Mendocino and Fort Bragg and could be considered one of the most unique places on earth.

Beaches, Bluffs, Bridges

For a quick stop, you can hang out by the beach down in the cove or check out the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The water can be cold, so you may not want to go swimming! The bridge that Highway One traverses is also a sight to see.

Photo from Sharon Mollerus via Flickr

Ecological Staircase

If you have a day, you can hike the 2.5 mile Ecological Staircase trail—the thing that makes Jug Handle so special. Jug Handle was formed after hundreds of thousands of years of fluctuating sea levels, tectonic shifts, and coastal winds. About every 100,000 years the land would shift upward and create new levels called terraces, each with its own botanical environment.

With five terraces, the trail takes you through a coastal prairie, some forests that include redwood trees, and ends with a unique pygmy forest. The pygmy forest is located on the oldest terrace, and the soil is so acidic that the growth of the trees is stunted.

You can explore this park virtually through Google Trekker. You can also explore others in the area like, Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic ParkRussian Gulch State Park, Van Damme State Park, or MacKerricher State Park.