Located three miles north of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County, MacKerricher State Park is an excellent place to step out and enjoy the North Coast of California. At the center of the park is Lake Cleone, a small freshwater lake within crawling distance of the Pacific. In addition to the 1.3-mile trail around that lake, there is a short enjoyable boardwalk to Laguna Point Seal Watching Station. This easy hike is 0.6-miles round trip with less than 25 feet of elevation change and plenty of ocean views.
There is a loop built into the boardwalk, but all of the attractions are found along the ocean-side of the walk, so feel free to convert the loop into an out and back, favoring ocean views over less dramatic grasslands. En route to the Seal Watching Station, where a panoramic viewing platform has been built, you will pass two more informative overlooks, and a tide pool area, where steps allow access to the gravely coast.
The first overlook provides northward views and is accompanied by panels explaining how earthquakes, wind, and waves carved the area’s coast. You will also receive a short history lesson on Laguna Point’s past as a port for lumber schooners transporting material to San Francisco. Posts from the railway used to convey lumber from a nearby mill to Laguna Point are still visible on the beach to the north.
There are more informative panels at the Laguna Point Seal Watching Station. These describe the birds and aquatic mammals visible from this location. After finishing your reading, linger with an eye on the water and sky. If you time your visit during the spring or fall, you may witness gray and humpback whales making their great migration past Laguna Point.
Dogs are allowed on leash for this short easy hike with less than 25 feet of elevation gain. On your way in or out of the park, be sure to take a look at the whale skeletons next to the entrance station. There is an $8 day use fee to enter MacKerricher State Park, but no permit is required to hike the Laguna Point Boardwalk.
To get to the trailhead: From Hoghway One, three miles north of Fort Bragg and 40 miles south of Legett at the junction with the 101, turn west at the MacKerricher State Park entrance sign on to MacKerricher State Park Road. Pass the entrance station and turn left, taking Mill Creek Road a short distance to the trailhead at road’s end.
Trailhead address: MacKerricher State Park Road, MacKerricher State Park, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Trailhead coordinates: 39.489089, -123.799623 (39° 29′ 20.72″N 123° 47′ 58.64″W)
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