What You’ll See in the Mendocino Pygmy Forest

evergreen boughs

If you thought fairies and elves were just a figment of a child’s imagination, you may change your mind after visiting the Mendocino Pygmy Forest. Situated in Van Damme State Park in Northern California, this baffling natural phenomenon looks as though it’s been taken right from the pages of a storybook. Here, 100-year-old Mendocino cypress, Bishop pine, and Bolander pine trees grow between 6 inches to 8 feet tall and have become strangely stunted due to the area’s unique terroir, which includes nutrient-poor soil and extremely acidic soil conditions. The next time you visit the California Coast, take a trip to the Mendocino Pygmy Forest and get ready for this incredible natural wonder to blow your mind!

Explore the Mendocino Pygmy Forest

When planning your trip to Mendocino’s enchanted woodland, be sure to book your stay at the Inns of Glendeven. Our luxurious inn is surrounded by the State Park on three sides, so you’ll have easy access to trails and can start your adventure right off our grounds! Here are some fascinating facts about the Mendocino Pygmy Forest.

What is a Pygmy Forest?

A pygmy forest, also known as a dwarf or elfin forest, is a rare ecosystem that features miniature trees and is inhabited by small species of wildlife like rodents and lizards. They are usually located at high elevations, where there is a lot of humidity but poor soil. The plants and trees have shallow roots due to an iron and sand concreted hard-pan layer about 18 to 30 inches below the surface.

Additionally, pygmy forest soils show low levels of essential nutrients and high levels of aluminum, which limits the ability of plants to grow. Low pH conditions prevent the trees from setting deep roots and as a result, the pine trees in the area are no more than a few feet tall. Only yards away, but with better soil, full-size redwood trees can grow hundreds of feet high. Pretty cool, right?

Hike the Fern Canyon Trail

Guests can spend an afternoon admiring this miniature wonderland when they travel the Fern Canyon Trail to the Pygmy Forest. After you walk about 2 miles down the trail, you’ll find a ¼-mile, wheelchair-accessible platform that winds through the Pygmy Forest in a loop. Along the way, trail signs will mark your journey and will tell you about the different types of plants around you. Explorers will have the chance to experience these strange trees up close, and it’s an easy and short hike right off of the Pacific Coast Highway. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

Head Back to the Inns of Glendeven

After a fascinating stroll through the forest, come home to our Mendocino bed and breakfast and put your feet up! You can enjoy delicious local wine and snacks in our exclusive Wine Bar[n] for happy hour, or treat yourself to a private in-room massage to restore those tired muscles. Be sure to tell us all about your adventures in the Mendocino Pygmy Forest!

Torrey Douglass