Three miles south of Mendocino, this sprawling 1831-acre park draws beachcombers, divers and kayakers to its easy-access beach, and hikers to its pygmy forest. The latter is a unique and precious place, where acidic soil and an impenetrable layer of hardpan have created a miniature forest of decades-old trees. The visitor center has nature exhibits and programs.
You can reach the forest on the moderate 2.5-mile Fern Canyon Scenic Trail, which crosses back and forth over Little River and past the Cabbage Patch, a bog of skunk cabbage that’s rich with wildlife. Return 2.5 miles to where you started, or continue for another 3 miles on a loop into the pygmy forest. A separate park entrance down Little River Airport Rd leads you to the quarter-mile Pygmy Forest Boardwalk Loop.
Two pretty campgrounds are excellent for family car camping. They both have hot showers: one is just off Hwy 1, the other is in a highland meadow, which has lots of space for kids to run around.
For sea-cave kayaking tours contact Kayak Mendocino.