A new year always brings those resolutions that you never keep. But how about some resolutions to explore the nooks and crannies of Mendocino County? The winter months often bring bright, cold weather perfect for bundling up for a new adventure. Hit the highway to find gushing waterfalls, oceans of views with spouting whales, towering redwoods and luscious gardens. Mendocino is more than a day trip so check out these highlights to start planning your getaway.
Have a Whale of a Time!
It's one thing to stand on the bluffs and watch California Grey Whales spout and breach offshore as they make their annual trek south to Baja California. But it's quite another to board one of the whale-watching boats in Fort Bragg's Noyo Harbor and take to the high seas in search of cetaceans. Captain Tim of the Sea Hawk has been taking landlubbers aboard for more than 38 years and knows all the spots to get close to these gentle giants of the ocean. If you're lucky, you might spot the Orca pod that trawls the seas as far south as Point Arena. Fancy something a little more hands-on? Try your hand at a crabbing adventure! Bait the pots on the way out and haul in the prize on the return to port. Come home with the legal limit of 10 crabs per person!
Best time to go is when the whales are on the move, November through April.
Sip Your Way Round Hopland
Hopland is the gateway to Mendocino County on the Inspiration Highway and it's home to fabulous food, wonderful wines, over-the-top olive oil… and a whole lot more! Stop in at Terra Sávia/Olivino on Mountain House Road to explore their olive mill, winery and eclectic art gallery. In town, take a seat at The Golden Pig and sample their signature Mendocino Meats hot dog served on a pretzel roll. Wondering about wine? The one-stop shop in town is Sip Mendocino where the friendly staff will walk you through a selection of fine wines from around the county, all under one roof. There are plenty of other tasting rooms to try as well. Still hungry? Step into the petite Rock Seas Farm Fusion, a tiny restaurant with over-the-top culinary treats featuring the very freshest ingredients, and lots of gluten-free choices! End the perfect day with a visit to the world famous Solar Living Center, the model in sustainable living.
Visit in spring for the Hopland Spring Passport celebration!
Caution: Waterfall Ahead!
Although the winter weather can bring storms and plenty of rain, January can also be clear and crisp and dry… the perfect weather for a hearty hike. Just north of Mendocino, take the road to Russian Gulch Park where you're faced with a choice… head out to the blowhole on the bluffs or through the steep-sided watershed, once the home of massive logging operations, to the 36-foot high waterfall that cascades year-round. Trails abound throughout the park so you can meander through the rain forest-like setting at your leisure. For the more adventurous-minded, Chamberlain Creek waterfall, off Highway 20, offers a cataract of a slightly larger order… 50 feet when in full flow. Take MR 200, halfway between Willits and Fort Bragg on Highway 20, and drive to the trailhead exactly 4.5 miles up the gravel road, where a wooden staircase marks the trail. If you're mushroom-minded, this is a great place to hunt… with permit in hand!
Winter months are the optimum for waterfall watching.
It Takes a Lot of Beer
… to make good wine. At least, that's what all the Mendo winemakers tell us! So it's fortunate that the county is blessed with some of the top craft brews around. In Anderson Valley, home to aromatic white wines and elegant pinot noirs, Fal Allen, the brewmaster at Anderson Valley Brewing Company, ensures a steady supply of original brews are on tap at the brewery's tap room. Fort Bragg is home to the much lauded North Coast Brewing Company, making great beer since 1988, and home of great jazz and good food! The one that started it all (at least in California), Mendocino Brewing Company, has a tap house ready, willing, and able to pour the best of their brews in the southern reaches of Ukiah. Craft brew is on the up and up in Mendocino County so plan to sample plenty of other suds … Nine Hop Stops.
In 2018, watch for the opening of Overtime Brewing in Fort Bragg and the Second Annual Home Brew Festival in Ukiah.
Ride Like the Wind…
That does depend on your experience and the horse, of course. Mendocino County is home to two outfits that will settle the urge to ride bareback, hair flowing, along a golden sun-baked shoreline… almost! While we can't quite fulfill that fantasy, we can offer a couple of rare opportunities to prance with a pony in the surf. On the south coast, Tobi and John Ross of Ross Ranch lend out their expertise and horses to “bright-lighters” (city folk) for rides on glorious Manchester Beach just north of Point Arena. Experience MacKerricher State Beach like never before from the back of a horse with a ride from Ricochet Ridge Ranch. From their stables north of Fort Bragg, cross Highway One on your noble steed and proceed to the nearest surfline for unsurpassed ocean views and a phone-full of iconic memories. If you're feeling flush, get the whole package at the Inn at Newport Ranch… horses, hot tubs, redwoods, ATV tours…!
Riders of all ages and sizes are welcome. Just call ahead to book your visit of a lifetime.