MacKerricher State Park
Ten Mile Beach Trail
From Laguna Point to Ten Mile River is 10 miles round trip;
shorter hikes possible
Ten Mile Dunes and lnglenook Fen, Laguna Point and Cleone Lake. These are some of the intriguing names on an intriguing land— MacKerricher State Park. Extending from just north of the Fort Bragg city limits to Ten Mile River, this park offers the walker a chance to explore headlands and wetlands, sand dunes, forest and meadowland.
In 1868, Scottish immigrant Duncan MacKerricher paid $1.25 an acre for a former Indian reservation, El Rancho de la Laguna. MacKerricher and his heirs worked the land until 1949 when they gift-deeded it to the state. The vast redwood forests of the coast range in the areas bordering Ten Mile River were heavily logged. An early coast railroad connected the mills of the town of Cleone with a landing at Laguna Point. Lumber was loaded onto ﬂatcars which rolled by gravity to waiting schooners; horses hauled the cars back to the mill. At the point, anchor pins and other signs of the old landing can be seen.
A more obvious reminder of this coast’s logging history is the old haul road that crosses the park. In 1949, the road replaced a railway, which for three decades carried timber from the Ten Mile River Area to the Union Lumber Company in Fort Bragg. In 1982, winter storms washed out sections of the road, closing the ﬁve mile stretch from Cleone Lake to Ten Mile River. The road is closed to motor vehicles and is a superb path for walkers.
The old haul road travels the length of Ten Mile Beach to the mouth of Ten Mile River, so named because it’s ten miles north of Noyo River. The beach is backed by one of the California coast’s longest dune systems.
Directions to trailhead: From Highway 1, three miles north of Fort Bragg, turn west into the main entrance of MacKerricher State Park. Follow the signs to the Laguna Point Parking area.
The hike: Immediately west of the underpass, a short gravel road leads up to the paved ex-logging road. Walk north on the high embankment. You’ll soon observe Cleone Lake, a tidal lagoon cut off from the sea by the road. Many shore and water birds visit the lake. Mill Creek, which feeds the lake, is a winter stopover for ducks and geese. Bird-watchers will enjoy the mile-long walk around the lake.
Soon you’ll pass some squat shore pines—a coastal form of the much better-known lodgepole pine. You’ll also walk past a side trail leading to the state park campground. A quarter mile later another side trail beckons; this one leads over the dunes, which are covered with grasses, sand verbena and beach morning glory.
About a 1.5 miles north of the trailhead, you’ll encounter a washed-out section of road and, a few hundred yards farther, another bad section.
Two miles north of Laguna Point, tucked in the dunes, lies Inglenook Fen; it’s a sensitive area and not open to the public. A botanist studying this unique ecosystem gave it the Old English word fen—meaning something like a bog or marsh. Sandhill Lake and the marshy area around it support many rare plants such as marsh pennywort and rein orchid, as well as many endemic varieties of spiders and insects.
After walking three miles, you’ll pass a couple of small creeks and begin crossing the widest part of the sand dunes, which at this point are about a mile wide and measure more than one hundred feet high. About 4.5 miles from the trailhead, the road turns inland with Ten Mile River. You can continue walking north a short distance if you wish down to the mouth of Ten Mile River. The marsh area is inhabited by lots of waterfowl.
The main route travels inland above the east bank of Ten Mile River. A side trail leads southeast to a parking area beside Highway 1, while the paved road continues under the highway bridge.
© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author. To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.