Warm summer days with cool nights provide the ideal atmosphere for family camping and rural getaways, while couples seeking a romantic weekend can snuggle up in cozy rooms in chic hotels and guest quarters. Fine wine connoisseurs and foodies find their particular slice of heaven throughout inland Mendocino County where handcrafted wines abound and locavore is the only way to eat. Outdoor activities, a train ride through the redwoods, and a multitude of hop stops, are just some of the many reasons visitors choose inland Mendocino County as their preferred destination.
Hopland: Solar Living Center
Solar Living Center
A beacon of sustainable living, on the south side of Hopland! Visit the gardens, which feature drought tolerant plants, a kids’ play area, a central sundial, and ponds. Browse through the offerings in the Real Goods store, which sold the first retail solar panel in the US. Up for come cycling? Then take a ride to pedal some energy to power the store! Visit the car forest where the rusting hulks of American autos are being subsumed by the natural growth of trees rising through the roofs. The site is also home to Emerald Pharms, a solar powered cannabis dispensary and education center.
Ukiah: Lake Mendocino
Just a hop, skip, and a jump northeast of Ukiah is Lake Mendocino, a man-made lake created in 1958 to capture the flow of the Russian River on its journey south to Sonoma County. Today it’s a playground for campers, fisher-folk, boaters, hikers, kayakers, and plenty of people who just want to relax. Walk the dam for great views of the Ukiah Valley and eastern mountains. In the summer, cool off in the lake’s cool waters. Springtime is prime for waterfowl viewing and wildflowers. Feeling energetic? Then, park the car and walk around the entire lake where you can stumble on the relics of abandoned barns and wineries. The lake sits on what was Shodokai — Coyote Valley. Visit the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah to learn about the people who made this their home.
Hopland: Saracina Vineyards
Just north of Hopland, a required stop is at Saracina Vineyards. This glorious property (formerly Sundial Ranch) is lovingly tended by John Fetzer and his wife Patty Rock. In summer when the vines are in full leaf and the grove of century-old olive trees are budding, watch the field of sunflowers nodding in the afternoon breeze. Then head to the tasting bar where you can sip the wine and drink in the views. Visit “the choir” in their home in the cool and quiet caves. Learn more about the Saracina story here.
Ukiah: City of 10,000 Buddhas
Yes, there really are 10,000 buddhas through the Gate of Three Arches in the tiny enclave of Talmage! Located on the site of a former state hospital, the City of 10,000 Buddhas was founded in 1976 as the first large Buddhist monastic community in the United States. Now it is home to a thriving community of nuns and monks, schools, and a great vegetarian restaurant. Enter the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas (the former gymnasium), observe or participate in chants, and admire the statue of the Greatly Compassionate Guanshiyin Bodhisattva with a Thousand Hands and a Thousand Eyes! Be sure to check in at the office before walking the grounds.
Ukiah: WestsideRenaissance Market
A market you say? But this is no ordinary market! Tucked into Ukiah’s West Side area (famed for the spring dogwood blooms), Scott Cratty opened the doors in June 2009. This is the latest incarnation of Ukiah’s last remaining neighborhood market, which has been at the same location since at least 1937, possibly since as far back as 1877. This “Inconvenience Store” stocks the best beer selection in Mendocino County and features and supports small-scale, quality, locally-made products. Stock up here on grocery items you won’t find elsewhere and enjoy the ambience of a real, old-fashioned market… a far cry from the box stores down the way!
Ukiah: Oco Time
“Eat a piece for Peace” is the slogan to be found at Oco Time in downtown Ukiah and its sister take-outs It’s Time, also in Ukiah, and It’s Time Noodle House in Willits. Owners, Yoshiki and Naoko Sakane, who hail from Hiroshima proudly serve their hometown favorite — the okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “how you like” or “what you like”, and yaki meaning “grill.” You can also get other Japanese favorites like sushi, sashimi and maki.
Willits: Ridgewood Ranch
And we’re off to the races! This beautiful property nestled between Redwood Valley and Willits was the last home of the “little horse that could”… Seabiscuit. This depression-era hero inspired a nation by giving hope to millions of Americans during the darkest economic era ever faced by the US.
Take a walking tour of the property once owned by Charles and Marcela Howard where ‘Biscuit spent his final years. View Seabiscuit memorabilia, hear historical facts, fun stories and poignant memories. Take a tour of Seabiscuit’s Stud Barn, a National Historic Site, and visit the historic craftsman-style ranch house built by William Van Arsdale in 1905.
In spring, learn about the the ranch on a nature walk, glimpsing wildflowers and if you’re lucky, the herd of rare white deer who make their home on this 5,000-acre ranch just south of Willits.
Willits: Skunk Train
Choo-choo! Climb aboard the back of the Skunk for a ride through the majestic redwoods that line the track. Head out of Willits… wave at the stopped cars… and then slowly and steadily head down the grade to Northspur, deep in the forest. Stop for a lunch and a stroll around before boarding the open-air car for the ride back to the depot.
Leggett: Drive-Thru Tree
As one of the oldest and most highlighted attractions in the county, the Chandelier Tree is a must! Enjoy the picnic area canopied by redwoods and, of course, take your picture at the tree or get a snap of the whole family driving through this massive opening.
An article published in The Redwood Journal on May 6, 1931 reported there was a new attraction in the redwoods. At Coolidge Park a tree was cut to enable cars to drive through it. The tree is 305 feet tall and 58 feet in circumference (18.5 feet in diameter). Oral history has automobiles becoming larger and unable to fit through the opening in the Coolidge Tree. The Chandelier Tree at 21 feet in diameter (approximately 65.9 feet in circumference) was a much larger tree and was located at the edge of the park much closer to the highway. This opening was cutin 1936 or 1937.