Tucked away in the Northern Coast of California, Mackerricher State Park is a prime destination for RV campers seeking to explore the best of California’s attractions.
Sprawling over 2,299 acres, Mackerricher State Park is a home of diverse habitats, including an inland lake, gorgeous beaches, wetlands, sand dunes, and rock formations. Situated three miles north of Fort Bragg and about a 2.5-hour drive from Santa Rosa, Mackerricher State Park has a wealth of outdoor activities ranging from fishing to water sports.
If you want to catch sight of native animals, you'll love the opportunities for whale watching, birding, and wildlife viewing. Enjoy hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and picnicking. The park is covered with unique plant species such as Mendocino spine flower, Menzies’ wallflower, pine trees, and majestic redwood forests. The multicolored Glass Beach, which was created by years of waste being discarded in the ocean, is a major attraction for guests coming from all over the country.
While there are many coastal camping destinations, Mackerricher State Park stands out as the perfect destination for RV campers due to its unique location, a wide selection of activities, and the beautiful coastal scenery. The park's campground offers 140 campsites without hookups that accommodate tents, RVs, and trailers. Campers will have access to fire rings, picnic tables, food storage lockers, a dump and water station, and restrooms with coin-operated hot showers. Generators may be used during the daytime hours. Dogs are allowed as long as they remain on a leash.
MacKerricher State Park is a coastal park located in the northern section of California. The park is approximately 192 miles northwest of Sacramento, 235 miles southwest of Redding, and 120 miles northwest of Santa Rosa. The three-mile road from the city of Fort Bragg is straightforward, making driving an RV to MacKerricher State Park a breeze.
You can park your RV at the main parking lot near the beach along Highway 1. RV campers can also park at sites within the camping areas. When hauling a wide trailer, be careful since some sections in the park have low hanging branches and tight corners which can limit movement. Occasionally, some sections of the camping grounds and trails flood or become muddy during the rainy season, especially the trail encircling the lake. Also during the winter, some camping loops close temporarily. Call ahead to learn about park road conditions.
MacKerricher State Park features a dog-friendly campground with over 140 campsites to accommodate tents, RVs, and trailers. The campground is split into three loops: East Pinewood, West Pinewood, and Surfwood. You can camp here for a maximum of two weeks. The length limit for trailers and RVs is 35 feet. Campground amenities include restrooms, fire rings, and picnic tables. You'll also have access to food storage lockers, a dump and water station, and coin-operated hot showers. Generator use is allowed during the day. There are no hookups available at this state park. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance. There are designated wheelchair-accessible nature trails and a beach wheelchair, which can be reserved seven days in advance. Pet lovers can take their dog to most areas within the park and at the campsites, provided it remains on a leash at all times. However, pets are restricted from accessing protected areas. Cell service and Wi-Fi connectivity are superb here. From time to time, MacKerricher State Park limits some services, so it is recommended you confirm with the park office before booking. MacKerricher RV campers can shop at Fort Bragg and rent horses from the nearby privately owned ranch.
Glass Beach is a unique area adjacent to MacKerricher State Park. In the early 1900s, residents began dumping their garbage in the water along the beach. The site remained an active dumping ground until the late 1960s. State organizations and locals began to coordinate clean-up efforts in the area, and eventually, they removed all metal and non-biodegradable items. The glass, ceramics, and other pottery that was left behind were broken down over the decades by the waves, leaving behind a collection of small, smooth, and colorful sea glass. Thousands of tourists come to view the glass beaches today. Rangers discourage taking the glass.
Younger guests can stop by the MacKerricher State Park Visitor Center to enroll in the Junior Ranger program. Children ages seven to 12 are eligible to participate. At the Visitor Center, kids will receive a badge and logbook full of activities that educate them on the area, native wildlife, and conservation best practices. Park rangers will hand out a stamp for every completed activity, and Junior Rangers can earn fun rewards. Once enrolled in the Junior Ranger program, kids can complete activities at any of the parks in that state. Plan for each activity to take around an hour to complete.
There is no shortage of attractions and activities at Mackerricher State Park and along its dark, sandy beach. Here you can visit the famous colored Glass Beach, take walk around the park, relax on the benches, or gaze at the rolling waves. For those seeking more adventure, there are a variety of water sports available, including kayaking, diving, snorkeling, and surfing. During the low tidal waves season, you can explore the tidal pools. Lifeguards are not on duty, so swimmers enter the water at their own risk. Never swim alone, and watch out for dangerous rip tides.
Just next to the parking lot, right at the heart of the park, is the 30-acre Lake Cleon, which provides excellent freshwater fishing grounds. If you are interested in angling, pack your fishing gear and crab net in your camper. Cleon Lake boasts a variety of crabs and fish species, including rainbow trout, mosquito fish, brown bullheads, largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and bluegill. Fishing is open year-round and permitted from the shore. A valid California fishing license is mandatory for adult anglers. Motorized boats are not allowed in the lake.
Depending on your point of interest, the scenic trails offer campers an opportunity to immerse themselves fully in the coastal ecosystem. If you love sand dunes, you will enjoy the 10-mile Beach Trail. If you want to explore sea life, you can check out the Boardwalk Trail that leads to the viewing platforms. The good thing about Mackerricher State Park is that most hiking trails are user-friendly, well-connected, level, and easily accessible for wheelchairs, strollers, equestrians, bikers, and joggers. The most popular trail is the multi-use Haul Road Coastal Trail and the Headlands Hiking Trail.
MacKerricher State Park is a scenic location for a meal at any time of the year. In the off-season, guests are advised to dress in layers as the weather can vary from cool and damp to warm and breezy, sometimes even on the same day. Picnic tables are available at each campsite along with food storage lockers. Day-use visitors can take advantage of the Lake Cleone Picnic Area. This area has tables with great views, fresh running water for drinking and cooking, and barbecue grills. Restrooms and parking are nearby. Dogs are allowed in this picnic area as long as they are on a leash that is a maximum of six feet long. Campfires are only allowed in designated fire rings and may not be lit freely on the beach.
MacKerricher State Park has a wealth of history. Just at the park entry near the Visitors Center, you will find the blue whale skeleton. If you are interested in learning about the park’s history, the facility offers historical talks and information about the natural history of migratory whales, protected areas, the formation of Lake Cleon, and the restored Haul Road, which was once a railroad. Park guides can take you around the Lake and Boardwalk Trail while explaining how to spot the whales. Additionally, they offer binoculars for easier viewing of the whales.
MacKerricher State Park is a home for deer, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, and even mountain lions. The park is also a birdwatcher's paradise, featuring over 90 avian species. Both migratory and native birds can be seen encircling the shores of Lake Cleon. Birders can enjoy identifying different birds by either biking or hiking around the lake. Some of the birds you can spot include ospreys, pelicans, gulls, herons, wood ducks, and mallards. Park visitors should be careful not to disturb the birds in their natural habitat.
After parking your camper at the Laguna Point parking lot, you can head over to the Boardwalk Trail along the bluffs, which leads to various overlooks and tidal pools. Visitors can often enjoy the sight of native harbor seals and their pups hanging out on the rocks. From November to May, you can watch for the migration of the gray whales. Occasionally blue whales, minke whales, and humpback whales can be seen from the observatory deck. Apart from whales and California seals, MacKerricher State Park is rich in sea life, including orcas, sea urchins, octopi, crabs, and starfish.