Start off the New Year right with a hike!

Planned hikes, and a list of places to get outdoors.


No matter what you may think about how 2016 went, well, it’s an old tradition to start New Year’s Day by turning a new leaf, and doing activities you hope will kick off the year off to a good start. This year, there are a variety of hikes scheduled around the county to help kick off the new year and enjoy some of the beautiful outdoors that Mendocino has to offer. Hikes will be taking place in Ukiah, the annual hike organized by the Ukiah Valley Trails Group, as well as at California State Parks around the county as part of a “First Day Hikes” national event. The Trail Group is also planning a work day for the Historic Railroad Parkway project on January 19, see below. 

Here’s more details. We’ve also included some links to other hiking areas in the county at the end, for those of you who prefer to set off on your own:

Ukiah Valley Trails Group:

The Ukiah Valley Trails Group’s annual New Year’s Day hike will take place at “the Scorpion Trail at Mill Creek Park. We’ll meet at 10 AM (for those of you who emerge from the goo a little more slowly on the first day of the year). We encourage you to bring a snack or lunch item to share on the trail ( again, for those hikers who emerge slowly – you might want to bring extra). Hope to see you there!”

Detailed directions are available at

The Trails Group will also be holding a “Historic Railroad Parkway” work day on January 21, beginning the landscaping ready to create a Railroad Parkway, thanks to assistance from the Ukiah Valley Medical Center, Jay Epstein, and State Farm Insurance, which recently awarded the group a Neighborhood Assist grant to support their trail-building work. Here’s a note from the group:

Thanks to Ukiah Valley Medical Center, and Jay Epstein and State Farm Insurance for sponsoring the day – their generosity is providing our lunch and basic materials for the day!  We’ll once again team up with our great partners from the Sanhedrin Chapter of the CA Native Plant Society to nurture the natives along the trail!

Please RSVP to [email protected] so we’re sure to have enough food and arrive a few minutes early so we can get off to a prompt start. At lunch time we’ll be doing a check presentation ceremony celebrating our successful State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant application.  

State Parks “First Day Hikes” in Mendocino County:

Hikes around the county include whale watching, old-growth redwoods, birding, a naturalist hike, and more! For out-of-county hikes, see here, more than 80 events are happening at 50 different parks with a wide range of different activities scheduled.

Hendy Woods State Park:

Discovery Trail: Stroll through ancient old-growth redwoods this New Years. This is an easy 1.75-mile hike. Meet at the day use picnic area at 11 a.m. Children 6 and older are welcome. No dogs are not allowed. Dress in layers and be prepared for rain.  Heavy rain might cancel. For cancellation information call (707) 961-0471.

MacKerricher State Park:

Laguna Point Boardwalk: Meet naturalist and interpreter Fred Andrews at the visitor center at 11:00 a.m. for this ¾-mile hike to Laguna Point for whale watching. Learn about the annual gray whale migration and about other marine mammals seen along the Mendocino coast. Binoculars will be available to help visitors study whales and other fascinating wildlife found near MacKerricher’s shores. This is a wheelchair accessible hike. Wear layered clothing and rain gear light rain is not a problem. Drive about three-miles north of Fort Bragg on Highway 1 and turn left at the MacKerricher State Park sign. After meeting at the MacKerricher visitor center, the group drives to Laguna Point, where you walk out to look for whales. Young children are welcome on this program. Heavy rain will cancel this hike. For more information please call (707) 961-0471.

Mendocino Headlands State Park:

Headlands Trail: Meet the docent at the Ford House Visitor Center in Mendocino at 1:00 p.m. Walk out to the Mendocino Headlands to look for gray whales. Learn about the annual migration of gray whales.This is an easy 1-mile. Age 3 years old is the minimum age for children on this walk. Dogs permitted on leash. Rain will cancel this event. Wear layered clothing. Bring binoculars, water and a camera. For more information call (707) 937-5397.

Russian Gulch State Park:

Fern Canyon to Falls Loop trails: Meet naturalist Dave Jensen in front of the recreation hall at 12:00 p.m. The park entrance road is located on the west side of Highway 1, three miles north of Mendocino, California. This will be a moderate to strenuous 5.5-mile out and back hike (2.75 miles each way) to the beautiful waterfall. You will learn about the park’s natural history from Dave Jensen, renowned birder and naturalist. This hike is suggested for children 10 years and older, and adults. Bring water, snacks, hat and binoculars with you. No dogs allowed on the trail for this hike. For more information call (707) 961-0471.

Van Damme State Park

Spring Ranch Bluff trails: Meet the docent at Highway 1 and Gordon Lane at 10:00 a.m. The parking lot is about two miles north of Little River, California, on Highway 1. This 3-mile hike goes downhill through the Spring Ranch property to bluffs overlooking the ocean to look for migrating gray whales. Learn about the annual migration of gray whales between Alaska and Baja. After looking for whales, you will retrace your path uphill to the dirt parking lot. One section of the dirt path is very steep. Children should be age five or older. Dogs must be on a leash. Bring binoculars, water and a snack. Wear layered clothing and hiking shoes. Be prepared for rain as this hike takes places rain or shine. For more information call (707) 961-0471.

Additional Mendocino County hiking resources:

You can find a bunch of additional county walks and hikes at the MendoWalks website, as well as the Mendocino Land Trust’s guide to coastal trails, here, here, here, and here. All county-owned parks can be found here.

Mendocino National Forest – biking, hiking, camping, and more! Watch out for snow and ice at higher elevations, check with the rangers for current conditions.

Jackson State Forest – the largest state-owned forest in California, there are plenty of trails here to explore. You can also go mushroom picking but get a permit first! Here’s a few of the trails to check out.

Lake Mendocino – aside from camping, lake activities, and BBQ areas, there’s a lot to explore at Lake Mendocino, including day-use hikes and the Pomo Cultural Center.

Brooktrails hiking – there’s a variety of hiking trails around Brooktrails, and the Willits Area Cyclists have been building new mountain biking trails and a new map as well. You can also look at the older, large pdf map of the trails, and some additional hiking information here.

Little Darby – a BLM-managed area outside Willits, the park features a new environmental education area and trails with signage designed by HSU students and students at the Willits Charter School. If the above link doesn’t work you can get more information here.

Cahto Peak – You can take a hike up to the unused lookout station on Cahto Peak north of Laytonville. The lookout station, opened in 1934 on the highest point along the 101, has not been staffed since 1990.

Hopland Research Extension Center – There are a variety of planned walks and educational programs coming up at the extension center. Call ahead to see if it is possible to walk through the grounds

Angelo Coast Range Reserve – 7,660 acres along the south fork of the Eel River set aside for preservation and research by the University of Berkeley. Public access is allowed for day use but please follow the instructions listed here; maps and other details are also on that page.

Cow Mountain Recreation Area – a popular off-roading spot, there’s plenty of places to hike around Cow Mountain, just east of the Talmage exit outside Ukiah.

Low Gap Park – formerly a garbage dump on Low Gap Road in Ukiah, Low Gap park has a variety of activities for humans and dogs alike. the Ukiah Valley Trails Group has put together a great map. The City View trail gets great views but requires some more moderate climbs.

California Coastal Trail – Pick a part and start hiking!

Pygmy Forest Discover Trail in Van Damme State Park – hike through a natural wonder: pygmy trees! More information and trail maps here.

Sinkyone State Park and Usal Beach – You can hike along old-growth at the southern end of the Lost Coast and visit Usal Beach. More California State Parks in Mendocino County, including the Standish-Hickey State Park outside Leggett, can be found here to get a county-wide search.


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