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Overview Walk at Fort Ross State Historic Park

The Fort, Sandy Cove, and a walk south to the Reef Campground and Day Use Area

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Difficulty: Easy
Length: 4.2 miles
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly

Overview :  Visiting Fort Ross begins more as a meander than a point to point walk. The fort site and its structures have a grand and sweeping... more »

Tips:  Weather is highly changeable here. Be ready for wind, fog, and sun. Winter rains can be harsh. Early spring is a blaze of green and... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Start

The start of this walk begins at the paved parking area near the Park Ranger Station and Museum. A well presented museum on local cultural and natural history for the area and it’s worth spending time here to put the park and your visit into context.

2. Junction

After exiting the building follow the paved path down to the 3-way intersection, take the left fork, follow the path over a bridge and towards the fort.

3. Windmill Site

On the way you will be passing the site of an old windmill (long gone) as well as part of the old village site where the lower ranking settlers lived. The structures you do see are part of the Call Ranch that post dates the Russian occupation. Extensive archeological work has been done to understand the occupation of the site, results of which are... More

4. The Fort

Fort Entrance Gate. The structures have been carefully reconstructed from surviving period illustrations, maps, ruins, and archeological remains. Plans exist to expand this work.

5. Northwest Blockade

Feel free to explore and do get a feel for the isolation the colonists must have felt 200 years ago.

6. Kuskov House

Kuskov House was the primary storehouse for the fort and village. When built it was the original colony manager's house.

Inside, the rooms have been furnished to provide a feel for the building's intended purposes. Some of the rooms include: clerk's rooms, the armory, early 19th century scientific study of California's flora and fauna,... More

7. Chapel

The Russian Orthodox Chapel was one of the longest surviving structures, was built in the mid 1820's, and was also the first Russian Orthodox church built south of the Russian Alaskan colonies. It's been rebuilt and is one of the signature structures of the Fort.

Heading down-slope from here, pass the trio of early California canon and old water ... More

8. Southeast Blockhouse

The Southeast Blockhouse has some of the best views from within the Fort overlooking the coast and Sandy Cove. The spartan interior houses several period cannon.

Officials Quarters: Spartan living for the officers, store rooms, cooking facilities, and tool shops. Outside are an outdoor cooking pit, the emergency well, and picnic benches.

9. Rotchev House

Rotchev House (built 1836). This is the only surviving original structure and is one of the oldest surviving wood structures west of the Mississippi. It is on the registry of National Landmarks.

An existing building that was renovated for Alexander Rotchev, the last manager of Ross. The interior has been backdated and furnished to reflect the... More

10. Trail Head

Between the Fort's Gate and out to the Bluff the road passes through the site of the Eskimo worker's village. The Alaskan Russians brought with them Eskimos, their kayaks, and other gear to hunt Sea Otter for them as employees. The Otter's fur was a primary economic reason for the colony's formation. These luxurious and warm pelts brought top... More

11. Sandy Cove Beach

Nothing remains of the shipway across the sands however this little cove with its kelp beds offshore, driftwood, and creek remain much as they did during the Russian occupation. After crossing the creek, head to the south bluff trail and steps to the top of the bluff.

12. Bluffs

Trail Head for the bluffs.

The walk along the bluffs is through coastal shelf and open grassland which provide wide open views both north and south. It really creates a sense of the isolation the colonists must have had at the far end of the world, thousands of miles from home.

Along the coast and into the hills are protected hollows and ravines... More

13. Viewpoint

Along the bluff edge, views to the coves below.

14. Viewpoint

Along the bluff edge, views to the coves below.

15. Viewpoint

Along the bluff edge, views to the coves below.

The beach is accessible from the Reef Campground.

16. Trail Head

Trail head to the Bluffs and lower beach access parking for the Reef campground. There is water, trash, and a restroom located here. Access to the cove is from this lot.

Access to the northerly cove is at this point.

Camp site 20 is up the road to the right (southerly road).

17. Restroom.

Should it be needed and trash location.

18. Beach Access

The access to the southerly cove.

19. Camp sites 18 and 19

Camp sites 18 and 19 share an entrance road. The sites are separated from the road by dense vegetation and a creek.

20. Camp Sites 16 and 17

Camp sites 16 and 17 share an entrance road. The sites are separated from the road by dense vegetation and a creek.

21. Camp Sites 8-11b

Camp sites 8 through 11b are along the road. Some of the smaller sites. Most get plenty of sun, some are nestled in redwoods and along a creek.

22. Camp Sites 4-7

Some open and in grassland, some within redwood groves. Camp 6 is across the creek with its own bridge.

23. Camps 1-3

Nestled in the redwoods. Some of the larger camps.

24. Gate

Gate. The gate closes off the campground off season. It's easy for walkers to get around.

25. Reef Campground Entrance

Kiosk, phone, restroom.

The camps all have potable water in close proximity, restrooms and trash are nearby to all in a number of locations. There are no RV hookups at the campsites.

The sites are available on a first come/first serve basis.

(707) 847-3708

26. Reef Campground Day Use Area

This bluff has a road in, accessible at the Reef Campground entrance. Trails head down to the cove. The cove is also a popular dive spot.

When done, retrace the route back to the Reef Cove access point and bluff trail head.

With luck, one can take notes on specific campsites to use on a future visit!

27. Bluff Trailhead

See also Point 16.

28. Trail head- Sandy Cove

Return to the road turnaround at Sandy Cove.

From here one can access the Cemetery Trail.

29. Gate at Fort Ross

Seaward gate at Fort Ross. Return via the Fort to catch something missed or follow the Fort Ross Road past the Ranger's housing and a group picnic site. The road may have begun as the old ranch road. It may have been part of the original HWY 1 when it passed through the Fort site during ranch days.

On a curve in this road near some rock... More

30. End

Back at the parking lot.