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Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve
As State Parks increases access to the State Park System, it is critical that Californians continue to recreate responsibly in the outdoors as the pandemic is far from over.
Please take the time to read the information contained on this webpage to find out what is open and closed, and the COVID-19 guidelines for this park unit.
What is open now?
- Day use areas.
What is currently closed at this park and throughout the State Park System?
- Some park units and campground sites continue to be temporarily closed due to the pandemic, impacts from wildfires or other issues. Please visit the webpage of your local outdoor destination to find out if it is open.
- High public-use indoor facilities, including museums and visitor centers.
- Special events and tours continue to be canceled until further notice.
Are there any new visitor guidelines?
State Parks has implemented the following guidelines to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the outdoors:
- Stay Local: Stay close to home during this pandemic period. If you or anyone in your household is feeling sick, please remain at home and plan your trip for another time.
- Plan Ahead:
- The ongoing pandemic response continues to be dynamic and fluid. Prior to leaving home, check the webpage of your outdoor destination you plan to visit to find out if it is open, if parking is available, and what visitor guidelines are in effect.
- Learn what safety precautions you should take when exploring the outdoors at parks.ca.gov/SafetyTips.
- SNO-PARKS: Make sure your vehicle is snow ready. A permit is required for each vehicle parked at a SNO-PARK site. Parking is on a first come, first-serve basis at all SNO-PARK sites. The public is advised that parking lots are filling up early in the day. Illegal parking is prohibited. More information can be found at ohv.parks.ca.gov/SNOPARKS.
- Stay Safer at Six Feet: No matter the recreational activity, maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Your guests should only include those within your immediate household. This means no guests or friends, and no gatherings or parties. If there are too many people to maintain the required physical distance, please visit us on a different day.
- Boating: Do not raft up to other boaters or pull up onto a beach next to other recreators.
- Off-highway Vehicle Recreation: Do not ride next to others or pull up next to someone else as it could put you in close proximity to others. Stage 10 feet or more from each other during unloading and loading.
- Keep Clean: Be prepared as not all services may be available. Some restrooms will be temporarily closed to keep up with cleaning schedules. Bring soap/hand sanitizer. Please pack out all trash. Park units are experiencing heavy use and you can help alleviate the impact on park facilities.
- Stay Covered: The state requires you to wear a face covering when you cannot maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Individuals must have a face covering with them at all times.
Although law enforcement entities have the authority to issue citations, the expectation is that the public is responsible for adhering to the advice of public health officials, visitor guidelines and closures.
California State Parks continues to work with local and state officials on a phased and regionally driven approach to increase access to state park units where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved. However, the situation remains fluid and park operations can change at any time. For information on statewide current closures and available services, please visit parks.ca.gov/FlattenTheCurve.
Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve is located adjacent to Salt Point State Park. Edward P. Kruse donated the land to the people of California in 1933 as a living memorial to his father, a founder of San Francisco's German Bank. The land was part of a large ranch established in 1880, on which the Kruse family raised sheep and carried on logging and tanbark harvesting operations.
Today, this pristine reserve contains second-growth redwood, Douglas-fir, grand firs, tanoaks, and a plethora of rhododendrons. Each May these spectacular flowers burst into bloom, coloring the deep green of the forest with brilliant pink blossoms.
More than two miles of hiking trails wind through the quiet forest with a short loop trail that leads through clusters of rhododendrons. Ferns carpet the canyons where seasonal streams abound. In addition to the rhododendrons, other understory plants include salals, pacific wax myrtle, and California Huckleberry. Please remain on the trails so that the young plants may flourish.
The wealth of rhododendrons in this reserve is a direct result of normal plant succession patterns following a severe fire that once occurred here. Today, the regenerating forest is gradually overwhelming the rhododendrons. As forests constantly evolve, plants compete for available sunlight, water and nutrients and the best suited species dominate the environment until they create conditions more conducive to the success of other plant populations. In order to maintain fine displays of rhododendron blooms, the current plant succession must be slowed, which is the goal of in its management of the reserve. To achieve this goal, the tanoak trees have been thinned out and the rhododendrons revived with the renewal pruning practices. This has ensured vigorous new growth and a diversity of blooming heights. When the rejuvenation project began during the fall of 1979, there were few blooms, and those that did appear were all well above eye level. Tanoaks were crowding out the rhododendrons by successfully competing for available sunlight, resulting in rangy growth habits of the rhododendrons. Final major pruning occurred in the fall of 1981. By 1984 a significant increase in the floral displays was evident.
To reach the reserve, travel twenty miles north of the town of Jenner. The reserve is adjacent to Salt Point State Park on the inland side of Highway One. Near milepost 43, turn onto Kruse Ranch Road. It’s paved at first, but in about a hundred yards, the pavement ends with a warning: “One lane road 1,000 feet ahead. No turn next 4 miles.” If you’re in a passenger car, proceed the 1,000 feet or so to the preserve’s parking area. Buses and trailers not recommended.
On California’s north coast, winters are mild and wet, with average temperatures in the low 40s. Cool and foggy summer days average about 64 degrees. Changes in weather are frequent.
The reserve has no restrooms or trash receptacles. Pack it in; pack it out.
Pets and bicycles are not permitted on the trails.
Mushroom gathering is prohibited.
Hikers should remain on trails so that young plants may flourish.
Buses and trailers are not recommended as the narrow road has no turnaround space.
The Salt Point State Park brochure contains valuable information about Kruse Rhododendron’s natural and cultural history as well as tips for planning your visit.
Take a drive or a quiet hike in a second-growth redwood forest. Roughly from mid-April to mid-June enjoy the added bonus of corsage-like clusters of pink rhododendrons on waxy-leaved shrubs. On the Rhododendron Loop, you can get a good look at the thickest stands in less than 10 minutes. You can also hike the Chinese Gulch/Phillips Gulch Loop (2 miles total) to dive deeper into the reserve’s botanical delights.
If you have an hour, walk the Rhododendron Loop and as much of the Chinese Gulch Trail as you can. A wooden fence keeps the trail clear from a dense, sunlit stand of these beautiful shrubs.
If you have half a day, walk the Rhododendron Loop and the Chinese Gulch and Phillips Gulch trails, for a total of 2.12 miles. Enjoy the hushed sounds and serene sights of the forest. Picnic beside one of the seasonal streams.
The packed-dirt parking area is accessible. Some good rhododendron displays may be seen from the road, but it is one-lane and unpaved, with no turnaround for 4 miles after the parking area.
Accessibility in state parks is continually improving. For updates, click the Accessible Features link at the top right of this page.