Mendocino Campground Reviews

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Van Damme

MacKerricher Campground

Navarro River Redwoods State Park, Pual Dimmick Campground

About the Mendocino Coast

California Campgrounds

California Highway 88

Pacific Coast Highway

Van Damme State Park


Rafting at Little River Beach Van Damme Campsite

Van Damme State Park
Van Damme State Park is four miles south of Mendocino on the northern California Coast. Half of the campsites sit along Little River Creek in a lush fern canyon and the other half are on the top of a hill, circling a large grassy meadow. Just across Highway One is Little River beach. This beach is very protected from the wind and high surf, which makes it a great place to take small children.

Van Damme State Park California Campsite

The setting at Van Damme is beautiful. The canyon is lush and green year round. You can hear the sound of Little River creek in all of the lower campsites. The redwood trees tower all around you. Kids can ride their bikes or walk up Fern Canyon. You can walk to the beach. There are ranger led campfires on the weekends during the summer and a nice little visitor's center. The Little River store is just up the hill and Mendocino is just a few miles away.

Each campsite has a picnic table and fire pit. The fire pits are round and have a steel grate that flips on and off of the fire ring. There are also a few fire rings on the beach. The restrooms on the hill are new and the ones in the canyon are the same ones I used as a kid. They do have running water, lights, outlets and showers (bring quarters).

Van Damme is a California State Park and Beach, so campsites can be reserved starting on January 2nd through Little River beach is a very popular spot to snorkel for abalone. As a result, reservations for the campground fill up first around the low tides in the summer. Weekends are most popular, assume the campground will be completely reserved from May through September.

Russian Gulch Coast

Russian Gulch Campground

Russian Gulch Campground is just north of Mendocino Village along Highway One in Northern California. It will fill up just as fast as the other campgrounds in on the Mendocino Coast. The campsites are in a redwood canyon along a small creek that leads out to the ocean and a very small, protected beach. The sites are not crowded together and the location is very quiet. This campground gets less sun than Van Damme.

Russian Gulch WildflowersThe Russian Gulch Headlands is a wonderful place to walk along the ocean edge. When the ocean is rough, the waves crash dramatically on the rocks and can blow up, through a blowhole. In the summer the meadow is rich with wildflowers and berries It is also rich with poison oak, so where protective clothing, watch small children and don't go if you are very allergic.

MacKerricher Campground

MacKerricher Campground

MacKerricher State Park is just north of Fort Bragg along Highway One in Northern California. We visit MacKerricher for the tide pools. The ocean is too rough for small kids, or even big kids much of the time. The tide pools are the best in the area.

Orange Star Fish

I must confess I have not ever camped at MacKerricher campground. We always stay at Van Damme. MacKerricher is much larger, flatter and sunnier. All good qualities. The group site is shown here. There was a very large group there when we visited.

The sites are similar to the other coastal state park campgrounds. Each has a picnic table, fire pit and wooden cupboard. There is always a "flat" space to place a tent.

Dimmick Campground California

Navarro River Redwoods State Park, Pual Dimmick Campground

Navarro River Redwoods State Park is on highway 128 between the Anderson Valley and the Pacific coast. Highway 128 is the reason more people do not visit the Mendocino Coast. It is a somewhat curvy, two lane road with sections that require you to follow RV's with no where to pass. Over the years it has improved dramatically. Probably the best improvement is the number of winery's that have opened along the way.

As you drive from Highway 101 to Highway 1 the scenery changes from rolling oak covered hills, to wine grape vineyards to towering redwoods. The Navarro River runs near the road most of the way. During the summer, floating down the river is a great way to escape the heat.

The sites in the Dimmick campground are dwarfed by the monstrous redwood trees. In most cases there is plenty of space between you and your neighbor. The park is right along the river, so it is easy to walk to the beach.This park is only two miles to the east of Highway 1 junction, so most of the time it is warm in the summer, but sometimes the fog comes inland and makes it as cold as the coast.

Botanical Gardens Mendocino Coast

About the Mendocino Coast

Poison OakWildlife: The only wildlife in the canyon are some pesky chipmunks and Jay birds. At the beach, if you look at low tide, you will find all kinds of marine life.

Hazards: We always come home with a few mosquito bites, but not too many. The biggest hazards are the stinging nettles because people are not familiar with them. Most kids learn to avoid the nettles after getting stung just once. Watch out for poison oak in sunny areas. It may be red or green and the leaves are shinny.

Stinging NettlesWeather: On the northern California Coast, expect costal fog all summer, rain in the spring and and clear, cool days in the early fall. The water is cold. Wetsuits are necessary if you plan to boogie board and are available to rent south of Fort Bragg. Kids will be able to play in the water, but only a few teenagers will last long.

Jug Handle BeachEvery year we get sun burned. It is easy to remember the sun screen when it is sunny, but you can get just as burned when it is foggy. To learn more about fog on the coast see the Kids page . Why on the kids page? It is hard to deal with a car load of kids that are expecting a "Bay Watch" vacation of sunny sky's and warm water, and get foggy days and freezing water.

California's Pacific Coast Highway - Google Map

Link to see a custom Google Map of our pictures along the California's Pacific Coast Highway

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