Have Bike, Will Travel

Tunnel of redwoodss
Riding through a tunnel of redwoods

Mendocino County is a must for motorcycle enthusiasts. Riders find their own particular slice of heaven when they encounter the twisty, turny roads that wind through mountains and across valleys, from inland to the ocean. We consulted with a few of our riding pals and they came up with three of their favorite rides. Let us know about yours!

Highway 128: Cloverdale to Mendocino
Change up the driving pace and take the Highway 128 exit off Highway 101 just south of Cloverdale for a 75-mile ride of epic proportions. Wend your way to the tiny hamlet of Yorkville and then snake through the Yorkville Highlands, known by the cognoscenti as “Les Petits Tetons,” and on to Boonville, the “bahlest” town in the county. Pick up a lunch to eat at Hendy Woods State Park, just off Highway 128 on Philo-Greenwood Road. Start ‘er up again and as you rev your engine, gaze across the valley floor where you can spy unique wineries, plenty of sheep and endless verdant vistas. At Navarro, the deep end of the valley, fuel up at the Navarro Store and begin a magnificent 11-mile ride through old growth redwoods that tower hundreds of feet above you. Emerge into bright sunshine or cool grey-blue fog two miles south of Navarro Beach where the river empties into the sea. Head north up the coast tasting the salty tang of the air and drinking in views of whitecaps and whales. Arriving in Mendocino, tour the village with its charming Victorian homes and B&Bs, shops and restaurants. At the end of your long day of riding, fall asleep to the lap of the ocean and the promise of another spectacular day of riding Mendocino tomorrow.

Highway 1: Gualala to the Lost Coast
From the beginning of your journey in Gualala, located at the southernmost tip of the county, this is one of the most jaw-dropping 85-mile rides in California, teeming with infinite ocean views, small towns, and breathtaking scenery. Head north to Point Arena, taking in the turrets and spires of the Russian-styled St. Orres resort and the 180 degree bend in the highway at Anchor Bay. Stop for a short break in Point Arena to pick up lunch to eat down at the pier or some mouthwatering morsels from the local patisserie. As you head out of town, stop at the newly designated part of the California Coastal National Monument, the Stornetta Public Lands, for a quick hike and whale watching or climb the 115′ tall lighthouse sited on the closest point of land to the Hawaiian Islands in the continental U.S. The road now meanders along the coast, passing meadows and bluffs (visitors call them “cliffs”). If the tide is low, park roadside and take in the natural symmetry of the boulders lined up like soldiers at Bowling Ball Beach. Next stop is the village of Elk where picture-perfect B&Bs provide respite for weary travelers. A series of hairpin bends leads you down to cross the Navarro River and on the road well-traveled to Albion and Little River. If you're ready for a hike after all that riding, stop just north of Little River at Peterson Road, and take the Spring Ranch trail to experience the ocean close up and personal. The loop trail takes about an hour to hike. At the right time of year, this is a great place to watch for pods of whales.

The Village of Mendocino sits pretty on the oceanside of the highway but Fort Bragg beckons with a promise of pizza, burgers or BBQ, and a quick scout around downtown. North of Fort Bragg, the road hugs the coast taking you through the hamlet of Westport and beyond to the soaring mountains of the Lost Coast. Just north of Rockport, Hwy One turns inland towards Leggett winding through thick redwood forest. Aptly named, the Lost Coast is mostly inaccessible except for the hardiest of campers and hikers, or drivers willing to take the partially unpaved road to Shelter Cove. Take the bike into Leggett and leg it back to the southern reaches of the county, or turn around and do it all over again…

Boonville: Mountain View Road
Not all roads to the Mendocino coast are created equal. Consider Mountain View Road from Boonville to Manchester. This twisting, windy road is a former stagecoach route that, due to its circuitous nature, generally discourages much traffic bar locals and the occasional bicycle enthusiast. Car drivers tend to take the road just once! Before taking off, stop for a “horn of zeese” at one of Boonville's cafés. Just north of Boonville, take the signposted road on the west side of Highway 128, passing the airport and Faulker County Park and begin a steep climb that descends and climbs with regularity throughout the drive. The road takes you through Mendocino Ridge (a unique American Viticultural Area (AVA) which is the world's first non-contiguous appellation) and tops out at 2,200 feet. Twenty miles into the ride, the road begins a five-mile descent to the coast, out of the forest lands and into open pastures with glimpses of the sparkling ocean—provided it’s not foggy. The road deposits you between Point Arena and Manchester. Head south to Point Arena to see the lighthouse or take a hike on the Stornetta Public Lands or north to Manchester for a walk on the driftwood-laden beach. If you choose, take the same road back to Boonville or head north on Hwy One to take Highway 128 through Navarro River Redwoods State Park and the Anderson Valley and back to Boonville, where you can rest up and enjoy a meal at one of the valley's restaurants.