Walk on a deserted beach
While Mendocino County is renowned for iconic spots such as the Drive-Thru Tree, redwood forests and miles of beaches, there are plenty of other, not so well-known places to learn about and visit. We’ll post new places to explore on a regular basis, so please check back to see what’s new!
Albion River and Beach
On the north side of the iconic Albion River Bridge — the only wooden bridge still standing on Highway 1 — drive down to the Albion River Campground and check out the bridge close up by walking out to the beach. Once a thriving logging “doghole” on the coast, the area teemed with activity in the late 1800s and early part of the 20th century. At low tide, you can still see remnants of the 1200-foot long railroad that stretched out into Albion Bay laden with old-growth redwood to load on to waiting schooners. The bridge is 1000 feet long, stands 170 feet high and is impressive to see from sea level. Constructed in 1944 when steel was in short supply, the bridge’s trusses are Doug Fir with a center metal truss from an older bridge in Oregon. There are dramatic views of the bridge from the village of Albion.
If you have the time and inclination, head south over the bridge and follow the signs to Pacific Union College, now a retreat center. For just a few dollars, rent one of their watercraft and head up the picturesque Albion River. Here you’ll see osprey, great blue herons, egrets, river otters, seals and other wildlife. You’ll also see three floating river homes, one of which is rumored to belong to Madame Chinchilla of the Triangle Tattoo Museum in Fort Bragg. The river is navigable for about four miles. Happy paddling!
The Town with Two Names
Head a little farther south of Albion on Highway One, and you’ll hit the bustling metropolis of Elk (pop. 208). This tiny town actually has two names: Greenwood and Elk. The original moniker of Greenwood comes from the four brothers who founded the settlement around 1852. However, when the town grew large enough to need a post office in 1887, they discovered the name had already been taken. A herd of local elk provided the inspiration for a new name and so the town became Elk. Today, a sign hangs near the old post office door that reads “Elk Post Office, Greenwood, California.”
While in Elk, stop in at the Elk Store for “Made in Mendocino” items and great lunch grub or eat at Queenie’s Roadhouse Café, located in a former auto dealership. Watch for whales from the clifftops, cruise the two cemeteries in town, and take in the history at the museum.
Visit in August for the annual Great Day in Elk celebration, complete with greasy-pole climbing and watermelon eating contests!
Chamberlain Creek Falls
Deep in the heart of Jackson State Forest is Chamberlain Creek Falls, a small but very pretty waterfall that’s well worth a hike after a good rain. Located mid-way between Willits and Fort Bragg on Highway 20, take Road 2oo, a well-maintained dirt road, for about a mile. At the fork in the road, stay to the left and continue for 3.5 miles; look for a wooden rail on the left side of the road. Park here for a short hike (about 600’) to the falls or continue on for another 0.3 miles to where the road forks again for a longer hike(about 1 mile).
Sit and gaze at the endless water flowing over a huge rock to the stream bed below. Take another short hike and you’ll find yourself immersed in a beautiful redwood grove.