That magical feeling you get when you reach your destination just in time to witness the best parts of the destination with wine in hand and your love next to you. That feeling is what we were fortunate enough to experience last weekend! We showed up at our campsite at MacKerricher State Park just in time to set up camp and head out to watch the sun go down with wine in hand and cameras snapping away as the waves crazily crashed on the shore. It was breathtaking! The hubs and the bosslady spent the weekend at MacKerricher State Park and absolutely loved it! Sand dunes, whale watching, hiking, wildlife along the shore, and a lake nearby. Who could ask for more?
MacKerricher State Park
MacKerricher State Park is just a few miles north of the lovely town of Fort Bragg and includes 3 of our most important camping requests. Flushing toilets, hot showers, and allowing campfires. The fact that we were just steps away from the ocean and nestled in the trees to protect us from the wind was a huge bonus! It has been far too long since the bosslady and the hubs have slept under the stars! This might be happening more frequently!
The park is part of the ten-mile river watershed with miles of hiking along the bluffs to view whales, harbor seals, birds, bunnies, and the protected Snowy Plover. It has a long past that has changed hands from Native Americans to a lumber company and finally, MacKerricher became part of the California State Park system with one stipulation, day use is always free. Check out more of the history on the MacKerricher State Park website.
Researching ahead of time we found that we could hike along Haul Road all the way to Glass Beach! Huge perk! There’s also a 30-acre lake, Lake Cleone, that is good for fishing and birding. Oh, and did I mention the beach? We didn’t get the opportunity to go very far north to see the rest of the sand dunes but we did get to go over to Laguna Point to hang with the seals and do some whale watching.
Did I mention this is our first time camping in way too many years to mention? We opted to sleep in the back of the Tacoma on a blow-up mattress (don’t judge until you are old enough to understand the need for this! 🙂 ) and our first night we had take out. Our priorities were experiencing the campground and the surrounding areas and we knew we would be cutting it close to get there in time for sunset.
We had our campsite set up in under 30 minutes! The hubs blew up the air mattress, the bosslady organized the cab and cooking equipment and explored the campsite for our path to the restrooms and the beach. Priorities! Once we were relatively set up we poured wine and grabbed our cameras and headed to the beach. No fog, tons of wind, only a few people, and the sounds of the waves crashing and birds soaring overhead. We were off to a good start!
After enjoying the beach just outside the campground we headed back to the campsite and the bosslady built a nice fire. We poured more wine and broke out the take out food and sat by the fire and relaxed. The game plan was to unplug but there was wi-fi at the campground…so we had to be more intentional on the whole unplugging thing. The fire kept us warm as we chatted about what we wanted to do the next day. Thinking we weren’t too far from Glass Beach we opted to head south for the hike and then come back for a nap and then head north. Best laid plans…
The first night was quite chilly with the wind blowing along the treetops and the bosslady’s fear of suffocating if we didn’t open the side window of the truck shell. Seriously though, the temperature dropped to 41 degrees so it was legit cold! Going to the restroom in the middle of the night wasn’t as easy as we had hoped. We took our lanterns but getting in and out of the back of the truck was slightly awkward! We have plans to fix this problem for our next trip.
The hubs and I had planned to get up for sunrise at the beach and then go back to sleep…we woke up at first light and stumbled out of the truck bed and headed for the beach. Jackrabbits were the only other creatures stirring this early. We watched the sunrise lighting up the fog then went back to the truck. Then the sun came out and was shining directly into the truck through the trees. We made a note to make curtains for the side windows. Eventually, we will have this camping thing down. 🙂
Breakfast while camping is somewhat easy. We had a tea kettle to heat the water for tea and coffee and the bosslady’s bone broth. Sausage patties were grilled and hot showers were taken. Then we gathered everything up and headed out for the hike to Glass Beach.
Glass Beach Hike
Backpacks packed and excitement of adventure, that’s all you need right? Add a little ocean, whale watching, seals, sunshine, wildflowers, and a long hike and you have a good day along the coast! We headed toward Laguna Point to check out the boardwalk and do a little whale watching. Of course, they were hiding from me as usual. We did see a bunch of seals frolicking around having a good time in the waves!
After taking the boardwalk loop we hopped on Haul Road and headed south. This is the only time the bosslady can tell north-east-south-west is when we are along the coast! <insert proud face here> The old road was wide and followed the curves of the ocean bluffs. Every chance we had we took the Coastal Trail to get as close to the ocean as we could. Also, the wildflowers were way better along the Coastal Trail! It was as if the yellow ones glowed in daylight. So spectacular!
Both of us kept an eye out for whale spouts and didn’t see any the entire 9-mile roundtrip. There were a ton of super friendly and photogenic squirrels though! Oh my goodness they were everywhere just enjoying life along the coast! Once we started passing businesses and hotels along the trail we knew we were getting close to Glass Beach. Or so we thought. Not sure who planned all of this out but it took way longer than we expected.
Pudding Creek Trestle was very nice to cross! Love that bridge! It used to haul trees on a train slightly downhill. Over time it became part of the state park system. Check out more of the history of this iconic bridge at MendoRailHistory.org. It isn’t just a beautiful structure, it has an interesting history.
We highly recommend taking the Coastal Trail from here to have a better experience getting to Glass Beach. Most of the trail is level but is a single track so walking romanticly hand in hand along the coast is a bit challenging. You know you are close to Glass Beach when you start seeing cars parked along the road and are near a neighborhood.
The Glass Beach restrooms are artistically painted so don’t miss these! It’s one of the few stops you can privately go pee. Super important! Follow the Glass Beach parking lot toward the beach. It was full of people. Tourists. Some screaming kids. Lots of seagulls overhead. Typical beach day. We walked down to the end of the beach and enjoyed fewer people. The way we got down the beach last time was fenced off so we just stayed up above. The last time we were here, we met an old dude named Ed that told us all sorts of fun history of the area! Check it out on our old site, Smiling in Sonoma.
Heading back from here was rather difficult. Walking mostly on hard ground for almost 5 miles in the sun and without my KT Tape, my heel wasn’t feeling great. We joked about hitching a ride back to the campground but opted to tough it out and walk back. It was a gorgeous hike back. Seeing the silly squirrels playing along the trail really kept us going! We took a couple of different trails along the Coastal Trail and got to see a small stream flowing into the ocean and enjoyed more wildflowers along the way. It was worth the hike back if only for the goofy photo the bosslady was able to capture of the hubs on the boardwalk at Laguna Point.
Back at the campsite we rested, showered, and made an early dinner. We were too pooped to hike north from the campground.
Camping and Cooking
The bosslady has a million food allergies so camping and cooking is a bit of an extra challenge. No hotdogs and s’mores for us. Planning ahead, we had frozen salmon in the cooler defrosting and chopped veggies in the bag. The same thing we would have at home except this is on an open flame with pans too big for the propane stove. We made things work and enjoyed our delicious food with some rosé. Then we rested. Sunset wasn’t too far away at this point so we got the kitchen packed up and put out the games and wine to be ready for us to come back and just light the fire and play games. Then we headed to the beach with our blanket, chairs, wine, and cameras to watch the sun try and set behind the fog.
Sandpipers were playing the sand at the shore. Seagulls were hunting for food. Seals were chilling on the rocks. We even got to see a baby seal nursing on her mama! The wind kicked up and we snuggled under the blanket just enjoying the moment. Life at the beach would not be a bad thing!
Since the fog was hiding the sun we opted to head back to the campsite before it got too dark. We had put a little thought into what we would do without technology in the evening. Cards! We played Uno by the fire. Not mentioning any names but someone won by a landslide and it wasn’t as much fun so we put the game away and sat by the fire and watched the stars light up above us.
The second night of truck camping was slightly warmer with the cloud cover and we slept a little better. The campground was so quiet at night. It was mostly full but still so quiet all we could hear were the waves crashing on the shore. So amazing!
Camping Clean Up
Our final morning at the campsite we attempted to sleep in. The fog helped with this! We were probably the first campers up and I thought it was late in the morning. The hubs made the tea and coffee and we relaxed and took our time packing. It’s always so much easier to pack up at the end of a trip. Less stuff.
Showered and packed we headed back to Laguna Point for one last-ditch effort to see some whales, or at least the whale spouts. Laguna Point at MacKerricher SP is one of the best places along this stretch of the coast to watch whales so I thought I would have a good chance. O-M-G!!! We were walking along the boardwalk sort of slowly enjoying having the place mostly to ourselves when the bosslady saw a whale spout! She started walking a lot faster!
By the time we reached the viewing platform, we had spotted more whale spouts and part of a back. So exciting! We stood there scanning the horizon, freezing, for about 30 minutes, and then we saw a spout and a TAIL!!! We both had our cameras ready and were able to capture a few photos of the whale tail before it dove under and refused to come back up for us. Tempted to sit there all day to wait for another chance like this we decided to head back to the truck and get back into the warmth of the cab.
The weekend was now over. We had to head back home to reality.
Do you have a favorite place to camp in California? Tips and tricks for truck camping? Leave them in the comments section below!
Parking is free, pit toilets at Laguna Point and flushing toilets at Glass Beach, 100% sun, 9.3 miles with flat elevation, dogs on leash.
Camping is $45/night, nice private campsites, hot showers and flushing toilets, campfire rings and wood boxes to put items (take your own lock), firewood is sold at the visitor center if you need it. The town of Fort Bragg is just 3 miles south with a Safeway, restaurants, shopping, gas, and even a Starbucks.
Map My Walk Stats (no laughing! No speed hiking here!)
Things We Love:
The hike from MacKerricher campground to Glass Beach was mostly on pavement. We took the side trails along the bluffs as much as possible but we were still on the pavement quite a bit. Dr Scholl’s Heel Cushions are a lifesaver for the bosslady. Heel tendinitis is a bummer to deal with and these really help with providing extra padding on long hikes on hard surfaces! The hubs also likes this so he doesn’t have to do foot rubs for the bosslady after these hikes! 😉
Where else can you find us?
Don’t forget to check out the video of the hike on our Hike Then Wine YouTube channel!