There’s a ton of medical literature that tells us taking vacations can keep you healthy, happy, and sane. Our European friends insist that their long vacations make a lot of economic sense too. If you’ve been putting off that vacation, do yourself a favor and explore these ten great things to do on a Mendocino County vacation.
Drive Thru a Tree!
You really can drive right through the Chandelier tree in Leggett. It might be a tight fit if you’re driving a tank, but the six by six foot-hole that Charlie Underwood carved through this 276-foot tall giant in the early thirties will accommodate most autos, and doesn’t seem to hurt the tree. It’s a great photo opp for you and your family!
The Chandelier Tree, Leggett
Enjoy a Glass of Wine
Wine is also good for you. Really! Mendocino winemakers create balanced, pure wines from grapes grown on unspoiled land, wines that express the individuality of Mendocino’s 10 diverse appellations. We’re a little more laid back than some more famous wine destinations, with an unhurried pace that lets you savor the wine and most likely meet the winemaker, not to mention beautiful settings and friendly company, that includes your four-legged pals.
Wine tasting, Jaxon Keys in Hopland
Take a Hike
Redwoods, waterfalls, pristine coastline… take your pick, then lace up and explore the hidden hikes of Mendocino County. For example, the Point Arena unit of the California Coastal National Monument includes over two miles of coastline and is the perfect place for a leisurely hike. There’s also the mysterious Lost Coast; with no major highways or county thoroughfares in the area, the secluded communities within the Lost Coast are only accessible by land via small mountain roads. Many visitors say Mendocino County has the best redwoods in California and Montgomery Woods is a great place to start your redwood exploration.
Trail on the Lost Coast.Photo: Brian Klonoski
Soak in Hot Springs
Before it was known for wine, before it was known for waves, and before it was known for getting off the grid, Mendocino County was known for its hot springs. Highlights include Vichy Springs Resort and Orr Hot Springs. These rustic hot spring getaways are the real deal.
Orr Hot Springs Resort. Photo: Michelantony Dunston
Eat Something Special
Enjoy a meal at Saucy in Ukiah, and you’re not likely to see tomatoes in your salad after the middle of September. Owner Cynthia Ariosta keeps it local, with seasonal ingredients. Then there’s Ravens at the Stanford Inn in Mendocino, a vegan restaurant that turns carnivores into repeat visitors, and it’s dog-friendly too. We can’t list all the great restaurants in Mendocino County, but here’s a start.
Where the magic happens at Saucy, Ukiah
Watch a Sunset
The photo says it all. Wow. Sunsets (and sunrises) are a spectacular part of the county. And one of the reasons is our very clean air. Breathe deep and experience Mendocino County!
Climb a Lighthouse
Mendocino County has two very different lighthouses to explore and you can stay at both of them. Point Cabrillo light station, just South of Caspar, is a great place to watch the eastern Pacific grey whales migration in the late fall/early winter. Just two miles north of Point Arena, the Point Arena Lighthouse offers moonlight tours, and a chance to stay at the newly renovated lodging, with stunning oceanfront views.
Catch a Fish
Noyo Harbor is THE place to go catch a fish. Well, not in the harbor but take any of the fishing boats out on an expedition and you’re assured a catch. What the catch is depends on the season. Summer brings the salmon and fall and winter bring our famous Dungeness Crab — just in time for our annual Crab, Wine & Beer Festival! Just remember, all anglers over 16 years of age need a current valid fishing license.
Big River, Noyo River, Navarro River, Eel River — they are all uncrowded and beautiful. Paddle upriver and experience tidal flows, mist-laden redwoods, and obscure marshes throughout Mendocino County. Kayaking, canoeing, and SUP boarding are a must for anyone who loves paddling in nature’s beauty and the outdoors. Just remember to check the tide tables on tidal rivers!
Kayaking up Big River. Photo: Catch a Canoe
Ride a Train
They call it the Skunk Train because the old locomotives were downright stinky. Today’s restored trains are a lot easier on the senses. The California Western Railroad popularly called the Skunk Train, runs from the railroad’s headquarters in the coastal town of Fort Bragg, and the interchange with the Northwestern Pacific Railroad at Willits. The dog-friendly Skunk Train will take you through the heart of the Mendocino County redwoods, and you’ll see places in the county that can’t be accessed any other way. Forty miles of railroad run through majestic redwood forests, scenic mountain meadows, and over 30 trestles. Note that recent tunnel work may impact some schedules and runs.
Kayla and the conductor. Photo: Dave Kendrick, DogTrekker.com