Mendocino County California is a place of romantic adventure, renowned for its awe-inspiring scenery, breathtaking coastline, imposing redwoods, enchanting wine country, craft microbrew subculture, and it's liberal views about cannabis (otherwise known as pot)!
With almost 100 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline to brag about, many visitors spend most of their time in Mendocino at the beaches, lighthouses, and villages along the ocean.
But there's much to be said for lesser-known interior destinations as well. Driving north along U.S. 101 will take you through rolling foothills dotted with live oaks and wide expanses of farmland devoted to vineyards.
North of Willits, the hills are more forested and you begin to see your first redwoods, which shortly turn into redwood forests and parkland. The southernmost of the three remaining drive-through trees, the Chandelier Tree is in Leggett, and a died-in-the-wool roadside attraction, Confusion Hill, is just off the highway in Piercy, the northernmost community in Mendocino County.
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Mendocino County California:
Diverse and Spectacular
From Victorian fishing villages that remind you of the Eastern Seaboard to unpretentious logging towns;
From rocky coastal bluffs and clean, sandy beaches to pastoral valleys and undulating mountain ranges;
From towering giant redwoods that are thousands of years old to a truly pygmy forest...
Visit lighthouses, ride the Skunk Train, enjoy a massage, hike the redwoods, tour Seabiscuit's retirement home and meet his grandchildren, meander the Anderson Valley for wine tasting, kayak the Lost Coast...
You'll find all this and more awaiting your pleasure as you discover
Mendocino County California. I know when you do, you'll want to make it
your own special destination for future Northern California trips like others before you have done!
Along the Mendocino County California Coastline
Photo by Wolf Rosenberg
When you travel along the Mendocino Coast, you'll be following Highway 1 - one of the most scenic "highways" to be found anywhere!
I put quotation marks around highway because it's a term used lightly here.
Highway 1 in this area is a two-lane road - meaning 1 lane in each direction - that balances itself along the sides of ocean-dropping cliffs in many places.
But the road is good, and affords many spectacular views - keep your eyes open because it's entirely possible you could see a whale pod or two as you're driving!
As you enter Mendocino County from southern Sonoma County, you'll cross the Gualala River, which empties into the Pacific Ocean at the town of Gualala (pronounced: wa-LA-la).
Try kayaking the Gualala River through the redwood forests, keeping a lookout for Osprey and River Otters!
Continuing your trek north, take some time to explore some of the amiable villages along the way: Point Arena, Elk, Albion...
On your way to Point Arena for a tour of the Point Arena Lighthouse, don't miss the spectacular St. Orres Hotel and Restaurant. It was built in 1972 in a style meant to honor the area's Russian heritage, onion-domed turrets and all.
Of course, the most well-known towns along the Mendocino County coast are to the north.
I'm talking about charming Mendocino Village with its Cape Cod saltbox houses, Victorian Bed and Breakfasts, and historic water towers of all shapes and sizes.
Then there's rustic Fort Bragg with its Noyo Harbor, Glass Beach, Botanical Gardens, and Skunk Train.
But don't rush between Gualala and Fort Bragg!
If you do, you'll miss some real treasures like the little town of Elk (population somewhere between 80 and 250, depending on the day) which sits on the bluffs above the ocean; or Albion with its quiet beauty and breath-stealing views; or the hamlet of Little River, home to Van Damme State Park and our own personal favorite place to stay - the Little River Inn.
CC Peter Hess
Besides the quaint seaside villages, you'd also miss other wonderful opportunities along the Mendocino County California coast.
Or the tide pools; Cuffy's Cove with its Druid and Catholic cemeteries; the beach, driftwood, sand dunes and grasslands of Manchester State Park.
And the B Bryan Preserve for African Hoof Stock like Grevy's Zebra, Roan Antelope, Greater Kudu, and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra.
More of Mendocino County California
Photo by Scott Chalmers
But there's more to Mendocino than just its distinctive coast, lovely
as that is. Mendocino County covers a total area of 3,878 square miles, as far East as Highway 101.
Let's start with the Anderson Valley. If you're a wine lover, you've probably heard of - or perhaps even tried - Anderson Valley wines like Husch, but did you know the Anderson Valley is famous amongst beer lovers too? The Anderson Valley Brewing Company has twice been ranked among the world's top 10 breweries!
Ukiah, largest city in Mendocino County and the County Seat, and Willits, a frontier town with personality plus, are along the inland Highway 101 corridor, surrounded by mountains, redwoods, and Pomo Indian culture.
There's also Mendocino Lake, hot springs and mineral baths, more wineries, camping, and the retirement home of Seabiscuit, the most famous racehorse of the 1930s.
Come along, let's do a virtual tour and find out what there is for you to discover and love about Mendocino County California!
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