Ward Ave. & Mackerricher State Park (Fort Bragg Haul Road)
Choose your distance--flat and fast--5K to 1/2 marathon if you're game! Convenient toilets, epic views of the ocean, and seasonal seals and whales to those who keep their eyes on the waves. Everyone's happy on this road!
Run Profile: From Ward Avenue, begin your warm up by walking to the edge of the road (north), and then turn around and start toward the "meat" of your journey (south). You will see mazing views of a truly azure sea. In the fog, it looks like ghost pirate ships might overtake you at any moment. In the sun, you may be blinded by the light's reflection on the foamy and crystaline water. The beaches on this stretch are pale and soft and sandy, and you can always cut off and run on the headlands or down onto the sand if you feel like it.
About 1 to 1 1/2 mile into your run, you'll hit Lake Cleone and the Mackerricher area. When not closed for repairs, the "Lake" Cleone loop is an exceptionally fun add-on to this run. It starts with bouncy boardwalk and winds around to a dirt path through lovely trees. You are likely to see some ducks or perhaps even a heron resting on the water.
Once you reach Mackerricher, if you choose to jog along the boardwalk, you may have to dodge around a few walkers. Everyone's in such a good mood, it is usually just fine. Watch for seals sunbathing on the rocks. The views are picturesque and inspiring, and remind me why I run. Stay on the headlands trails for a while and you'll be well rewarded with festive zips among the tress and a general feeling of being one with nature before a patch of mud might drive you back up to Haul Road (or not).
The rest of Haul Road from Mackerricher to the Haul Road parking lot is not exceptional, in that it is par for the course in epic beauty and faubulousness. You will find a batchroom at the Haul Road parking area. If you're doing a 10K turn around now. If you are up for more, keep going over the bridge to the Coastal Trail add-on, and have a great run!