Perched on bluffs above the Pacific Ocean in coastal Sonoma County, Fort Ross State Historic Park has a rich cultural history as the site of the southernmost Russian settlement in North America. The fort was established in 1812 to provide the Russian-American Company an agricultural base to supply their more northerly Pacific settlements in Alaska. Constructed to protect the settlement, the fort also became a base for a productive but deleterious sea otter harvesting industry through the early to mid 19th century that housed a diverse cultural mix of Russians, native Alaskans, and Californians. Interestingly, Fort Ross was also the location of California’s first shipbuilding and agricultural windmills.
Today visitors can tour the grounds of the fort by exploring the traditional reconstructed buildings within the stockade that include canon-fortified blockhouses, a Russian orthodox chapel, and an original surviving structure, the Rotchev House. A visitor center, museum, and bookstore provide access to the fort, and there is easy access to a series of hiking trails that traverse the coastal bluffs above scenic rocky coves. Reef Campground is located within the park grounds to the south of the park's main entrance (uses a separate access road off Highway 1), providing shoreline access.
The park’s stockade grounds and visitor center are open seven days a week from August 1 through September 30 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Outside of those dates the park scales back open hours to a Friday through Monday schedule for the rest of the year. Park grounds and hiking trails are accessible year round, but the parking area is closed outside of operating hours. Dogs are allowed in the parking area, service road, and campground, but they must remain on a leash.