Ecological Staircase Trail

Jackson Demonstration State Forest, California

Elevation Gain32ft
Trailhead Elevation276ft
Elevation Min/Max276/295ft
Elevation Start/End276/276ft

Ecological Staircase Trail

Ecological Staircase Trail is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Mendocino County, California. It is within Jackson Demonstration State Forest. It is 0.2 miles long and begins at 276 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 0.3 miles with a total elevation gain of 32 feet.

Ecological Staircase Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

"This easily overlooked park packs a lot into a relatively small package, with four distinct vegetation zones ranging from wind-sculpted coastal cypress groves to a rare pygmy forest at the upper end of the reserve. The Ecological Staircase Trail is named for the natural terraces in the landscape, formed by a combination of geological uplifting and wave action." Read more
Top Trails Northern California’s Redwood Coast (Wilderness Press)
Mike White
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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." Read more
100 Classic Hikes in Northern California (The Mountaineers Books)
John R. Soares & Marc J. Soares
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"Enjoy spectacular views of seastacks attacked by the pulsing waves of the Pacific Ocean, then climb past a series of different ecological communities, each with a diverse array of plants. Be sure to invest in the immensely informative brochure for this self-guided nature trail. It explains the 500,000-year interaction of land, ocean, and biological processes that created the five different terraces and the plant communities that now grow upon them. The nature trail describes the interaction of land, ocean, and biological processes that created the area’s different terraces and plant communities." Read more

Ecological Staircase Trail Reviews

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Truly the most interesting nature trail hike I have ever been on. It trail starts at coastal bluffs, climbs through beautify evergreen & redwood forests, & ends in an intriguing Pygmy Forest. Coast Rhododendron & wildflower blooms are astounding. Please watch my video of this hike at

Ecological Staircase Trail Photos

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Trail Information

Jackson Demonstration State Forest
Nearby City
Jackson Demonstration State Forest
Mendocino National Forest
Local Contacts
USGS Fort Bragg, Mendocino
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Dec 2018