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Fort Ross State Historic Park

Fort Ross, the southernmost Russian outpost in North America, stands on a high ocean bluff, with a calm sheltered cove below. The settlement was established in 1812 by explorers and fur traders of the Russian-American Company who came to hunt sea otters and seals. The settlers—25 Russians and 80 Alaskan Aleuts brought along to help in the hunt,...
Fort Ross, the southernmost Russian outpost in North America, stands on a high ocean bluff, with a calm sheltered cove below. The settlement was established in 1812 by explorers and fur traders of the Russian-American Company who came to hunt sea otters and seals. The settlers—25 Russians and 80 Alaskan Aleuts brought along to help in the hunt, built houses, barracks, workshops, and other structures, and surrounded them by a stockade; a Russian Orthodox chapel was added in 1820. Villages for the Aleuts and for lower-ranking employees were established outside the stockade. The colony also grew wheat and other crops for settlers at Russian outposts in Alaska.

By 1820, over-hunting had depleted otter and seal populations along the coast, and the Russian-American Company instituted a hunting moratorium. The colony declined, and in 1841 the company sold Fort Ross to John Sutter, who was later to make a fortune in the Gold Rush. In 1906 the State acquired the Fort Ross stockade for a park. It is one of California’s oldest state parks. The Rotchev House, which served as the residence for the fort’s last manager, Alexander Rotchev, is the only original structure to survive; it contains construction techniques dating back to the Russian era. Other buildings have been extensively restored and reconstructed. The park's acreage has been expanded to include some 3,000 acres in addition to the fort compound. A variety of interpretive programs is offered, and Cultural Heritage Day is celebrated on the last Saturday in July.

Trail/Pathway Details

Trail to fort

Trailhead: Near the visitor center

Length: Under one mile total

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Gentle

Terrain: Hard

The trail has some bumpy sections and the asphalt is cracked in places, but it is generally easy to navigate.

Description

Begin your outing at the visitor center, to absorb the history of the various cultures that mingled in this settlement—Russian, Alaskan, and native and mixed-heritage Californian. The asphalt trail to the fort compound begins at the visitor center. You can start from the front of the visitor center, follow the path to your right and wind downhill through...
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Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

The Fort Ross visitor center, completed in 1985, is an imposing, high-beamed wood structure designed to resemble the buildings of the old Russian fort. It’s well worth a visit just in itself, with its trove of information about and artifacts from the Russian settlement at Fort Ross and the Kashaya Pomo people who preceded it, as well as the Aleut people who were brought to the settlement from Alaska by the Russians to hunt otter. Look especially for the lovely maps and charts of the California coast made by Russian explorers, and replicas of the kayaks used by the Aleuts. A video about the settlement can be seen in the main auditorium. By the visitor center. You can also ask at the entry station or visitor center for a permit that allows you to park along the access road near the fort compound, but this parking is not accessible; the surface is level but grassy and not firm, and may become muddy when wet.

Accessible Restroom: Yes

At the visitor center. The porta-potties in the fort compound are not accessible.
The compound viewed from the coastal terrace.
The compound viewed from the coastal terrace. (Eileen Ecklund)

Features icon key

  • camping
  • hiking

Additional Information

View Map  
Website: www.parks.ca.gov
Managing Agency: California State Parks
Address: 19005 Coast Highway One, Fort Ross
Nearest City: Fort Ross
Phone: (707) 847-3286 for general information; (707) 847-3437 for museum and bookstore
Hours: Open weekends and holidays
Fees: Entrance, Camping
Dogs: In restricted areas
Allowed in parking lot and nearby campground only
Useful Links: Fort Ross Interpretive Association 
Fort Ross State Park Organization
Reviewed by Eileen Ecklund, July 8, 2010
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

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