12 miles north of Jenner
Park grounds open sunrise to sunset
Fort compound and visitor center open Friday-Monday and most holidays, hours vary by season
Day-use fee: $8
Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.
The two most popular beaches at Fort Ross are Sandy Cove Beach and North Cove Beach. The beaches are nice places to stroll and enjoy the scenery, but they are not safe for swimming or wading. No lifeguards are on duty.
Sandy Cove is almost directly below the fort. The beach is a pleasant place for a picnic. North Cove Beach is a mixture of rock and sand. Both beaches have small tide pool areas available for viewing when tides are low. Visitors should always keep a lookout for unexpected, large waves. Another rocky beach is located near the Reef Campground.
The main attraction of the beaches and coast at Fort Ross are their historical sites both along the shore and underwater.
The San Andreas Fault runs beneath Fort Ross State Historic Park. When the 1906 earthquake struck the land at Fort Ross shifted more than 12 feet. Many of the old Russian buildings at Fort Ross were damaged. The results of the land shift can be seen at various places around the park. On Fort Ross Road a red marker indicates the place where the fault line crosses the road. The fault line itself is visible there. Other signs of the quake are sag ponds and damaged redwood tree-tops.
The old, Russian orchard is located ¾- mile up Fort Ross Road. At one time the Russians had planted as many as 260 trees. Later ranchers expanded the orchard. Among the trees were peaches, apples, cherries, and pears. Today volunteers help to maintain the orchard. It is open to the public during daylight hours.
Fort Ross Cove
The Underwater Park at Fort Ross extends around the Northwest Cape to Clam Beach and around the southern headland into the next cove. According to the State of California, the "underwater parks offer scenic diving and related activities, such as underwater photography and spear fishing. The parks are designed for divers and non-divers, with interpretation for both in visitor centers, kiosks and exhibit boards. In California, divers can dive anyplace you have legal access to the water."
The steamship Pomona was a single-screw, steel-hulled passenger and freighter that ran between San Francisco and Vancouver. In 1908 during heavy seas the ship struck Monterey Rock and was so severely damaged that her captain attempted to ground the vessel at Fort Ross Cove. There the freighter struck rocks and was stranded. Much was salvaged from the ship before the wreckage was dynamited to remove it as a hazard.
SCUBA divers rediscovered the wreck in the late 1950s. The remains of the Pomona lie in waters from 27 to 40 feet deep, where divers can easily explore them.
Sandy Cove Beach
Around the South Cove are remnants of the early shipping that connected Fort Ross with Russia, Bodega Bay, and points south. At the North Cove are the remnants of iron pins where a lumber chute and wharf once stood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the same area are fragments of light rail from a railway that once connected the surrounding cliffs with the wharf. All artifacts in the park. of course, are protected.
There are no food services at Fort Ross State Historic Park, so visitors planning on picnicking there should come prepared. The town of Jenner is located 12 miles to the south. Various supplies can be picked up there at the Jenner Sea Store, a small, country grocery. Five miles north on Highway 1 is the Ocean Cove General Store. Besides groceries, they carry ice and dive gear along with fishing and camping supplies.
California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety