Jughandle State Reserve
Your trail run awaits
Enjoy a run up to 8 miles from the coast to the pygmy forest. Dart through the woods on soft pine needles on this exciting path. Strollers not recommended, but possible if hiking/walking.
Treat yo'self, and enjoy a chafe-free run, with wicking socks from Pippi's Longstockings!
Directions and Parking: From Fort Bragg, drive south toward Cleone. (From Mendocino, drive north.) Pull into the Jughandle State Reserve parking area on the west side of the highway. There is ample parking. Currently, the only facility is a port-a-potty in the parking area.
Popularity: The trail and beach are among the most popular spots in the area. While I have only encountered two other runners over the numerous runs I've done on this road, I almost always pass by hikers, birders, and walkers; sometimes even a nature camp! This is definitely my personal favorite. The trail is well-maintained and recently refurbished. In the winter, some downed trees may present an occasional obstacle.
Remember trail courtesy: Alert people to your location, thank them for stepping aside, wait patiently if they don't, and share a nice greeting. And smile: Isn't it fun to run past people walking a trail???
Run Profile: Begin your run with a half-mile warm up along the Jughandle Beach headlands. Enjoy boundless ocean views and energize with sea air. When you return to the parking area, take the Pygmy Forest trail through a tree tunnel, under the Jughandle Creek Bridge, and up a series of stairs that will bring you to--
These 92 stairs descend to a bridge and boardwalk over Jughandle Creek. The dark, lush surroundings have a prehistorical feel. You will next begin an ascent up into the woods as you embark on the heart of your run.
Proceed through the woods along the pine needle, dirt, and gravel path. At approximately 1.5 miles (if you warmed up with the coastal loop), you will see the Gibney Lane 1 offshoot to your left, and continue right toward the pygmy forest. If you start with the headlands, the pygmy forest is three enchanted miles from the beginning of your run. Most of this portion will leave you shaded by trees. When you reach the pygmys, you will be completely exposed until you return to the woods.
You have the option to continue along the trail and traverse the pygmy forest boardwalk, and then head back to the coast for your 5-6 mile run, or continue all the way up to Mitchell Creek for a 7-8 mile run! If you exit the boardwalk and continue left instead of returning to the right, you will run over clay (pygmy soil) and sand all the way to the Mitchell Creek gate. You will have complete sun exposure, and the light reflecting off the sand will make you feel signficantly hotter than you did in the woods. Parts of the terrain here, cut by rainwater and rivulets, might bring to mind a space walk on Mars. You may run past somone on horseback up here--make sure to alert the rider to your approach.
Into the Woods
Sunny Forest Trail
Over some trees and under some others make for a fun trail run
a section of trail marked by a downed tree
Sunny Day, Pygmy Forest
92 daunting stairs at the end of your run
Personal Connection: My husband proposed to me on this very run! He had spelled out "Will you marry me" by gluing (with non-toxic glue, of course!) paper circles to beach rocks. We started out over the headlands, he started waxing poetic, and the next thing I knew, I was engaged!
Your return run will feel like it's downhill the entire way. Enjoy zipping and leaping through the trees and over roots. Who will you pretend to be? A deer running through the woods? A spy chasing a target? An elfin hero returning home? Cruise through the woods at twice your pace until your reach those 92 steps again. They look much more duanting now! Climb them and return to the headlands loop for a .5 mile cooldown--or go relax on the beach!