Peak 860ft P300
Jackson State Forest PP P500
Observatory Hill
Peak 891ft P300
Peak 820ft P300

Mar 7, 2020
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile

My buddy Marty had relocated to Ft. Bragg on the Mendocino Coast five months ago after retiring. He moved into a home in the redwoods on a large parcel with a good-sized house and garage, both needing some work. He's a pretty handy guy and likes to do stuff that most people would call in a contractor to deal with. I offered to come up and help him do some work, things that a second set of hands can help speed up. On my way there, I stopped off in Jackson State Forest and Mendocino Woods State Park to explore the area and tag a few summits. I noticed that Karl and Mason had both visited a few summits here on separate occasions and was curious to see what drew them there (short answer, I think - they are pretty easy summits). The whole area is second and even third growth redwood forest, and though the old giants have been gone for 80yrs now, I still enjoy wandering about these forests, immersed among these towering trees that have so well adapted themselves to the northern coast areas of the state.

Peak 860ft

This summit is found just off SR20 on the north side. I used the exit road for the state prison that is found in the forest. The signage suggested I wasn't welcome there, but I figured since I was parking just off the highway, no one would care that much. There is a transmission line and pipeline running across the hill with utility roads providing relatively easy access. There had been some work to clear the transmission line's path (no doubt in response to the renewed interest PG&E has taken to be more careful about starting fires) that has left slash all over the road, but it wasn't hard to work through it. Like all the summits I visited today, there are no views to be had from the top, really it's just the process of wandering through the forest that I enjoy anyway. When I got back after about 30min, a prison truck stopped to see what I was up to. I explained that I was just hiking up to the unnamed hill above which just seemed to baffle him. "We have lots of hiking trails you can use," he offered, but when I insisted I wanted to visit the particular summit here, he just gave me a look like I was a moron. Couldn't argue with him on that.

Jackson State Forest PP

This is the most prominent summit in Jackson State Forest, not all that impressive. There is a well-graded dirt road that runs from SR20 south through the forest, joining up with Mendocino Woodlands State Park. The summit is found a few hundred feet off this road through moderately dense forest. Again, nothing to see at the top, but it only takes a few minutes.

Observatory Hill

One of the few named summits in the state forest, it doesn't have much prominence, and despite the name, there's nothing to observe here. I suspect it was a different story when the Coast Surveyors visited to place the benchmark - the old growth had probably been relatively recently removed and they probably kept the top clear for at least a few years to use for the purpose of surveying and observations. Nicely, there's a good trail that runs the quarter mile from the well-graded road to the summit. It looks like surveyors had visited to reestablish the benchmark, using flagging to mark the benchmark and two accompanying reference mark locations.

Peak 891ft

Continuing south on the graded dirt road, I was surprised to find the road become paved, evidently another entrance starting from the south in Mendocino. To reach Peak 891ft, I used a gated spur road from the pavement, that combined with a biking trail to reach the summit more easily that I would have expected, about 15min each way. It wasn't until I'd returned to the car that I discovered this was part of a whole network of trails in the adjacent Mendocino Headlands and Mendocino Woodlands State Parks.

Peak 820ft

A nearby paved spur road leads down to Big River and Mendocino Woodlands State Park. The park is surprisingly old, dating to the Great Depression when federal dollars and CCC folks built recreational facilities here that were eventually turned over to the state in 1947. The park is pretty low-key, staffed by an all-volunteer organization. There is camping (though that part was closed for the season) with miles of biking and hiking trails. There are no day use fees in the park. Though the park itself has no summits, its trail network allows access to Peak 820ft to the east and possibly other summits as well. I stopped at the entrance station to pick up a map and ask a few questions about the trails. Unfortunately the guy manning it was an administrative fellow who told me he knew almost nothing about the trails. The map would suffice, and frankly I'd have easily found the peak I was after without it. I had only enough time for the one summit, a pleasant 5mi outing that took me across Big River on an old log bridge (there are other ways across, but this condemned one looked kinda fun) and then up the Ridge Trail (also called Steam Donkey on the park map). The Ridge Trail intersects the Big Tree Trail about halfway up, and I stopped to make the short diversion to visit this lone old growth redwood that was left uncut by the loggers. It may have been the largest one in the area, and perhaps in a measure of guilt or tradition that they left this one standing. After a few pictures, I returned to the ridge and continued up to the top. The trail (really an old logging road) goes just below the summit, with easy cross-country for maybe 100ft. I believe this route can be used to access Peak 1,235ft, a summit with nearly 900ft of prominence, a few more miles to the east. Whether this would take me onto private property I could not discern - that will wait for more research and a future visit. I returned back via the Big Tree Trail, a nice alternative, finishing up well before noon. It was time to get myself to Ft. Bragg so I called it a day, but this whole area is well worth a few more visits, at least.

Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Mon Mar 9 09:09:51 2020
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: