AAA/Greg Weekes
AAA Editor Notes
Russian Gulch State Park is 2 mi. n.; the signed turnoff is on the ocean side of SR 1. The gulch is a Coastal Range canyon verdant with second-generation redwoods, Douglas fir and California laurel. Growing beneath the trees are ferns, azaleas and rhododendrons, the latter two blooming in April and May. Crisscrossing trails lead to numerous scenic views of the ocean, framed by craggy coastal headlands. Another scenic component is the Frederick W. Panhorst Bridge, which rises 100 feet from the mouth of Russian Gulch.

The park's most unusual geological feature is the Devil's Punchbowl, formed by waves that carved an inland tunnel, leaving a sinkhole some 100 feet across and 60 feet deep. A protective fence surrounds the hole; carefully look over the top and you'll see ocean water below gushing through the cave opening into the bowl before being forcefully sucked out again. At high tide the crashing waves produce a loud rumbling sound.

The Fern Canyon Trail is a wonderful woodland walk, especially lush in the spring (after winter rains) when wild blackberry bushes and horsetail grow along it in an exuberant tangle and delicate blue forget-me-nots are in bloom. The first 1.5 miles run along a stream and are paved and level. A short distance past a picnic area and the signed junction with the North Trail (which leads back to the park campground) is the signed beginning of the Falls Loop Trail. It continues another three-quarters of a mile, ascending via trail, wooden steps and footbridges to a waterfall. Here you can either backtrack to the trailhead or continue on the loop trail; the complete loop is about 5 miles and takes a couple of hours to hike.

Recreational activities are permitted. Camping is permitted. Picnicking is permitted. Time: Allow 2 hours minimum.

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