Ecological Staircase Trail

Caspar, California

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At first glance, the landscape of Jug Handle State Natural Reserve appears fairly ordinary. However, the area is one of the best examples of defined plant communities and corresponding soil types in the Northern Hemisphere, with an “ecological staircase” that comprises five distinct, uplifted terraces. The 2.5-mile Ecological Staircase Trail visits some of the five communities, the highlight of which is the pygmy forest. Occupying a flat terrace, plants of the pygmy forest are stunted by highly acidic soils overlaying a layer of hardpan. A free brochure keyed to 40 numbered posts provides insight into the area’s geology and flora. The trail also allows access to the broad beach of Jug Handle Cove via a short side trail.
Top Trails Northern California’s Redwood Coast

DESCRIPTION FROM:

Top Trails Northern California’s Redwood Coast

by Mike White (Wilderness Press)

At first glance, the landscape of Jug Handle State Natural Reserve appears fairly ordinary. However, the area is one of the best examples of defined plant communities and corresponding soil types in the Northern Hemisphere, with an “ecological staircase” that comprises five distinct, uplifted terraces. The 2.5-mile Ecological Staircase Trail visits some of the five communities, the highlight of which is the pygmy forest. Occupying a flat terrace, plants of the pygmy forest are stunted by highly acidic soils overlaying a layer of hardpan. A free brochure keyed to 40 numbered posts provides insight into the area’s geology and flora. The trail also allows access to the broad beach of Jug Handle Cove via a short side trail.

©  Mike White/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Hiking, Trail Running
Nearby City: Caspar
Length: 4.7
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Moderate
Duration: 2–4 hours
Season: The area is open year-round. Portions of the trail can be muddy following rainy periods. Springtime offers the added bonus of wildflowers.
Local Contacts: Mendocino National Forest
Topo Map: Ecological Staircase Trail Topographic Map
Guide Book: Top Trails Northern California’s Redwood Coast Guide Book
Driving Directions: View Directions
Trail Directions: View Guide

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