The Jug Handle State Natural Reserve is home to The Ecological Staircase, a tiered rock formation made from glacier movement, tectonic activity, and ocean waves over several hundred thousand years. It lies midway between Fort Bragg and Mendocino on the California coast off Pacific Coast Highway.
Each of the five terraces of the natural staircase represents successive ecological stages, exhibits an interval of about 100,000 years, and has its own flora and fauna. This is one of only a few places on earth that shows such a clear representation of the earth's natural progression through stages.
Visitors to the Jughandle State Reserve can also find a sea arch, shaped by wave activity and viewable at the bay; a forest of knee-high trees that are decades old; and abundant wildflowers in the springtime.
The park includes a 2.5-mile trail that explores the natural five-level staircase from the coast to the inland part of the State Reserve. The water temperature stays between 50 and 55 degrees Farenheit year round.
To locate the Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, visitors should take Highway 1 north of Casper for about one mile. Casper is about 150 miles north of San Francisco. Near Casper visitors can also enjoy Point Cabrillo Light Station, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Russian Gulch State Park, and Mendocino Art Center.