CAMPING WITH THE GIANTS
From tucking into a classic treehouse to living large on a 100-acre redwood retreat, the options for camping with the giants in Mendocino County abound. If you’re someone who relishes all things Mother Nature — bedding down in an ancient grove of Mendocino redwoods — the tallest living things on earth, tops the list. Stretching higher than a 30-story skyscraper (more than 320 feet), these iconic conifers can live for more than 2,000 years. The surviving 5% of the original old-growth redwood forests can be found along California’s Central Coast to Southern Oregon. If you’re seeking the ultimate canopy cavort, Mendocino County is home to roughly 523 acres of groves, making it an ideal destination for forest bathing, stargazing or tree hugging, Mendo style.
The options for taking a walk on the wild side run large in this Northern California outpost with a network of towering groves set within 24 state and national parks. From Big Hendy State Park in wine-centric Anderson Valley to Van Damme State Park along the Pacific or Montgomery Woods State Reserve, with its magnificent stand of trees stretching 386 feet high (once the world’s tallest), unplugging in a grove of these majestic giants is nothing short of nirvana.
TREE HOUSES & WATER TOWERS
Tucked along the Pacific Coast in Albion, the Hideaway Tree House is an ideal escape set deep in a classic California redwood forest. The one-bedroom loft and southern-exposure deck offers complete privacy with an indoor fireplace, queen bed and kitchen. This is your stop for unplugging with the giants via a hike along the outback trails or kicking back on the deck for birdwatching in secluded silence.
Farther south in the hamlet of Elk (pop. 208), the Elk Forest Retreat steps up with two unique lodgings: The Water Tower and Forest Camping Hut set deep within the redwoods. If you’re seeking a unique tiny house experience, the Water Tower includes a queen bed, day bed, kitchen and rain shower in the bathroom. The alfresco deck offers complete tranquility among the towering, oxygen-rich trees. The Camping Hut offers a more rustic experience, with an elevated setting, queen bed with an alfresco sink and bath. The hut is accessed by a small forest path making this a true Mendocino adventure.
YURTS & SAFARI SLUMBERING
Leave the cell behind and embrace Mother Nature at her naked best at Oz Farm. Located just outside of scenic Point Arena – 130 miles north of San Francisco – this secluded retreat sits on one of the most pristine stretches of Highway 1 shouldering the Pacific. Bordered by redwood forests with the Garcia River running through its 240 acres, Oz Farm is blessed with tranquility, flowing meadows, fresh air and clear water. This working ranch uses solar energy and wind to power all of its operations. Here your lodgings run the gamut from rustic yurts to cabins, geodesic domes, and campsites with an onsite guest kitchen. You can take to the trails for a leisure hike, share farm chores or chill beneath a fairy ring of redwoods.
For a more upscale experience, Mendocino Grove is the stop for glamping with an edge. Tucked on 37 redwood-rich acres just a quarter mile from the village of Mendocino, this unplug-meets-unreal outpost boasts 60 classic and family style elevated safari tents outfitted with heated beds, down comforters, cotton linens, USB ports and sling back chairs. Pack the posse in a family-style tent; facilities include hot showers, gas barbeques, picnic tables, fire rings and activities such as bocce ball, horse shoes, yoga and evening entertainment.
Creature comforts come full circle at the 100-acre Forest and Meadow Shangri-La Retreat. Located just outside Potter Valley fringing Mendocino National Forest, two campsites with fresh spring water, expansive private hiking trails and an outback bathroom make for an easy stay. If you’re traveling with a group, you can book two classic yurts, 14- and 16-feet in size, set along a natural spring. The fully insulated yurts include a soaking tub for two filled with hot spring water, queen beds, propane heat and stunning views. Nearby, the Eel River offers a cool dip on lazy days then it’s back to camp for a tasty barbeque.
JUST ADD WATER
Leonard Lake offers an ideal extended family getaway, situated in the heart of a forest with 4,000 private acres and the largest natural lake in Mendocino County. Here, you and favored friends can cavort with rare, old-growth redwood forests, take the miles of hiking trails or hit the lake for a kayaking or bass fishing. Multiple lodgings include the Bee Hive, Big House and Redwood Barn, built from redwood milled on the property. If you have a larger group, the Sequoia House is set in the heart of an ancient redwood grove with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an alfresco kitchen and wrap-around deck.
Just north of the artsy town of Gualala in Anchor Bay lies a vintage campsite, set on six privately-owned acres. Fronting the Pacific Ocean on scenic Highway One, Anchor Bay Campground has been offering a true back-to-nature adventure since 1925 with beach access, kayaking, fishing and well-trodden hiking trails alongside a network of 27 camp sites tucked among the ancient redwood groves. On site, you’ll find water hook ups, picnic tables and fire pits to round out a stay. The region has a rich sailing and trapping history and a unique micro-climate providing a true banana belt effect.
CLASSIC CAMPS & CABINS
Tucked in Mendocino County’s interior, Hipcamp’s Heartland Mendocino offers five stylish cabins, complete with a modern hot water bath house (and tree shower), outdoor camp kitchen and top-shelf heated beds and linens. Surrounded by a 50,000-acre California State Forest, this is your stop for a foray into forest bathing, detour into dark sky tourism or tuning out to the sounds of tree canopies swishing in the wind. Sleeping with the giants was never easier.
For a true slice of heaven in the utmost of privacy, by all means turn right along Highway 1 at Little River to Baby Banana Slug Farm. Here, the ancient redwoods unfold into fairy circles and time truly stands still. Trees with canopies soaring 250 feet in the air provide plenty of shade with fishing, hiking by day and stargazing as the sun sets. Four miles from the Pacific and surrounded by two rivers, this campsite speaks serenity. You can tap into two idyllic sites set in the back of the land with private access.
Inland, just north of Leggett along scenic Highway 101 lies Redwoods River Resort & Pub. Situated deep in the majestic redwoods, the resort offers a mix of campsites, cabins and lodging options backed with a vibrant pub, pool and network of hiking trails. Here, you can bed down in one of seven comfortable cabins, including the Firehouse, complete with a hand-made firetruck bunk bed and helmets for the kids. The cozy Bear’s Den is ideal for couples with king accommodations, bathroom/shower and alfresco cooking station under the towering trees.
More than a dozen dry campsites and a kitschy eight-room lodge, set in Tuscan and nautical themes, adjoin a lively pub and restaurant. Bocce ball, alfresco fire pits, a heated pool and private access to the Eel River, for the ultimate day float, round out the amenities.
Another foray into the magical redwoods can be had at Mendocino Magic, the ideal stop for glamping under the giants. Set on a private 600-acre reserve, select sites include hot showers, solar lighting, queen sized beds with linens and plenty of redwood power. Once a logging camp set along the pristine Holland Reservoir, there are a variety of diverse camp themes you can choose from including Cannonball Camp, Lakeside Camp and Mast Family Camp – for glampers seeking a bit more comfort. Crystal waters and lack of light pollution make this the right Rx for diving into the dense redwood forests, lily ponds and refreshing streams backed with a nightly celestial showcase.
THE ULTIMATE DRIVE-THRU
What would a redwood visit be without taking in the ultimate drive-thru? Just off Highway 101 in Leggett lies Chandelier Tree and Confusion Hill. Standing 315 tall and 21 feet in diameter, the 2,400-year-old Chandelier Tree is worth seeking out; make sure to pull in your car mirrors and steady the wheel. Nearby, Confusion Hill features a gravity-defying house, Redwood Shoe house, mountain train ride and the world’s largest standing chainsaw sculpture.