Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.
Laguna Point is among the most popular destinations for visitors to MacKerricher State Park. A boardwalk leads out to a Seal Viewing Station and two viewpoints with information panels. Steps lead down from the boardwalk to a tide pool area.
From the point visitors often see harbor seals, sea lions, and in the winter months, migrating whales. Shore birds include pelicans, gulls, and cormorants.
The 1,300 acres of the Inglenook Fen - Ten Mile Dunes Natural Preserve form the northern half of MacKerricher State Park. The Preserve extends from Ward Avenue north to the Ten Mile River. The Inglenook Fen is an area in the Preserve that is midway between a marsh and a bog, the only such coastal fen in California. While sand is found on the dune side, inland are areas that are nearly peat. The fen is home to a rich variety of plants and animals.
Work is underway to remove invasive European beach grass and restore other features of the Preserve. MacKerricher State Park naturalists note that, "when the project is under way, the beach will become broader with more gently sloped fore dunes, native plants will re-vegetate these dunes, and the restoration of two streams will begin."
The MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area extends along the coast of MacKerricher State Park. Special regulations govern marine conservation areas. In the MacKerricher area the taking of bull kelp and giant kelp is prohibited. All other commercial and recreational take is allowed in accordance with current regulations.
Farther up the coast in the park are three more marine conservation areas: Ten Mile Estuary State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), Ten Mile Beach State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA), and Ten Mile State Marine Reserve (SMR). The taking of most marine resources in these areas is prohibited. Check the specific regulations in the link above.
MacKerricher State Park's coast stretches about 9 miles north from Fort Bragg. The southern half of the park has rocky points mixed with small pocket beaches. The northern half, known as the Inglenook Fen - Ten Mile Dunes Natural Preserve, has a gently sloping beach.
The dark sand Main Beach close to the campgrounds and just north of Laguna Point extends for nearly a mile. Cold water and dangerous waves make it unfavorable for casual water play, but visitors still enjoy the sight of the waves and the crunch of wet sand underfoot.
South of the main campground area in the park is a quiet expanse of sand at the mouth of Virgin Creek. The beach is popular with surfers who find a good shore break. It's also a favorite destination for families to spread their blankets and let the children build sand castles and romp across the sand. Nearby tide pools are filled with interesting marine creatures. Parking is in an informal dirt lot off Highway 1. There are no facilities at the beach.
Old Haul Road Beach is located just north of Pudding Creek Beach. A parking lot along Highway 1 between two motels is the trailhead for a short path that leads to the beach. Restrooms are located at the parking lot. The white sand beach has many small alcoves along the foot of the bluff. As with all the beaches here, the water is cold and rip currents are dangerous.
Pudding Creek Beach is easily found tucked beneath the famous trestle along the Old Haul Road. A little side-road cuts off the west side of Highway 1 just north of Pudding Creek Road. There is space for a number of cars down by the beach and along the road. Restrooms are available here.
At the southern end of the park is Glass Beach, a popular attraction. The beach was once a local dump where residents tossed all kinds of trash, including countless bottles. The practice of tossing garbage into the sea was halted nearly 50 years ago. Today the only remnants of the practice are millions of tiny pieces of glass, ground into smooth shapes by the pounding waves.
Since Glass Beach is part of MacKerricher State Park, everything is protected, including the shards of glass. Visitors should enjoy the beach, but leave it as it is for future generations to appreciate.
In 2014 the access trail to Glass Beach was improved. Meanwhile, immediately to the south, the city of Fort Bragg is in the process of constructing a 93-acre coastal park on what used to be un-used industrial land. The new park will open up 3½ miles of coastline for recreational use. The multi-use trail (known as the old Haul Road) will be extended 4½ miles south to Noyo Bridge. The new park will include parking lots, plazas, and restrooms.
Ten Mile River and its accompanying beach is found at the north end of MacKerricher State Park. A parking area is located along Highway 1 just south of the bridge.
The Haul Road is a multi-use trail that runs along the coast in MacKerricher State Park. It was originally used to transport timber from Ten Mile River to Fort Bragg sawmills. The trail begins at a small parking lot at the south end of the landmark Pudding Creek Trestle. The bridge was constructed by the Union Lumber Company in 1915-1916.
The trail once extended to Ten Mile Creek, but portions of it in the Inglenook Fen - Ten Mile Dunes Natural Preserve at the north end of the park have eroded. Park officials determined that the remaining sections of the haul road "interrupt natural dune processes" in the preserve. As a result, the remainder of the haul road north of Ward Avenue was removed.
The remaining 3½ miles of the Haul Road Multi-use Trail are a wonderful way for cyclists, joggers, hikers, equestrians, and others to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Mendocino coast. Restrooms are available to Lake Cleone about 2½ miles up the trail.
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