Mendocino CA is a stunning destination on the rugged Northern California coast, about a 3-hour drive north of San Francisco. It’s known for its natural beauty and coastal charm. With a diverse array of activities to suit anyone, this Mendocino County California guide has the best things to do in this enchanting region. From hiking along coastal trails to indulging in local wines, and more, Mendocino, California has something for every visitor to enjoy.
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Where to Go in Mendocino | Towns in Mendocino
Mendocino County is made up of various towns and areas. From the village of Mendocino, known for its quaint and charming downtown area and home of Mendocino Headlands, to Fort Bragg, the city of the famous Glass Beach. Here’s a breakdown of where to go in Mendocino County.
For a quaint and charming coastal experience, make sure to visit Mendocino Village during your Mendocino County adventure. This picturesque town is in the Mendocino downtown area and is known for its beautiful Victorian architecture and stunning ocean views. Stroll along Main Street lined with unique shops, art galleries, and cafes. Take in the natural beauty of the Mendocino Headlands State Park, which surrounds the village.
Anderson Valley, a charming wine region in Mendocino County, is known for its picturesque landscapes and boutique wineries. Explore the stunning Anderson Valley wineries trail along Highway 128, indulge in wine tastings, and savor farm-to-table cuisine at local restaurants. This is the best spot to enjoy Mendocino County wineries.
When exploring Mendocino County, don’t miss Fort Bragg, a vibrant coastal city with lots of adventure to offer. Enjoy the scenic beauty of the coastline and be sure to visit the famous Glass Beach, known for its colorful sea glass. There are so many fun things to do in Fort Bragg, CA.
Point Arena is in southern Mendocino County and should not be missed. This picturesque town is home to the iconic Point Arena Lighthouse, which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline. Point Arena is a hidden gem with its stunning natural beauty and laid-back coastal vibes, perfect for a memorable adventure on your California travel itinerary.
Mendocino, California Things To Do
Here are all the best Mendocino to do activities to add to your itinerary.
Russian Gulch State Park
Russian Gulch State Park offers an array of outdoor activities and stunning Mendocino hiking trails. Hike amongst redwoods, to a waterfall, and even along the coast. Adventurous visitors can also explore the park’s beaches and go kayaking or paddle boarding the park’s namesake gulch.
There is a day-use fee of $8, and there is also seasonal campground.
Skunk Train and Rail bikes in Fort Bragg
One of the coolest Mendocino attractions is the Skunk Train and the Fort Bragg railbikes.
The rail bikes are a new way to explore the Mendocino redwoods. You’ll sit in custom-built, two-person electric rail bikes and ride through the redwoods to the Glen Blair Junction where you’ll stop for a 50-minute break to explore the area.
And if you rather not peddle your way you can opt to take the Skunk Train. It goes along the same route and you even have snacks and beverages available for purchase inside the train. This is one of the coolest things to do in Fort Bragg!
Mendocino Headlands State Park is free and open to the public for day use only. There are miles of trails wind along the cliffs where you can admire the rugged coastline. You can also visit the Ford House Visitor Center & Museum open 11 am-4 pm, every day.
There is ample parking at different sections of the state park, overlooking the coastline, perfect for taking in the views.
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is a nature lover’s paradise located in Mendocino County, California. Visitors can explore miles of scenic trails that wind through lush gardens, showcasing a diverse collection of plants, flowers, and trees.
The gardens are open daily, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
State Parks and Best Hikes Mendocino
If you like hiking Mendocino County has tons of trails to choose from. There are various state parks, coastal trails, waterfalls, and more. Here are some of the best hikes in Mendocino.
Russian Gulch Waterfall Hike
There are various trails at Russian Gulch State Park but the waterfall hike should definitely be added to your itinerary if you enjoy hiking. There are a few trails that lead to the waterfall and they are between 3.9 – 6.3 miles out and back (depending on the route), and have a 250–350 foot change in elevation.
Jug Handle State Natural Reserve
Jug Handle State Natural Reserve boasts a unique ecological staircase, featuring five different terraces that showcase diverse ecosystems, from headlands to forests to wetlands. The park offers multiple hiking trails, including the popular Ecological Staircase Trail, which provides stunning views.
Navarro River Redwoods State Park
You can find towering ancient redwoods, lush ferns, and the serene Navarro River at Navarro River Redwoods State Park. The park features multiple trails of varying difficulty levels.
Navarro Point Preserve
The trails at Navarro Point Preserve are well-maintained and offer stunning vistas and an unforgettable outdoor adventure in Mendocino County.
Navarro Point Preserve is a coastal area known for its scenic vistas, meadows, and bluffs, while Navarro River Redwoods State Park is a park known for its redwood trees and scenic river. Both offer great hiking opportunities, but they are distinct locations with different features.
Mackerricher State Park
If you’re looking for coastal hiking adventures head to Mackerricher State Park. Enjoy ocean vistas, sandy beaches, and rugged cliffs! Mackerricher State Park offers a range of scenic trails for hikers of all levels. Explore the Ten Mile Beach Trail, which follows the coastline, or venture into the park’s dense forests on the Inglenook Fen-Ten Mile Dunes Natural Preserve Trail, where you can spot diverse wildlife.
Goat Rock State Park
Goat Rock State Park takes hikers along the coastal bluffs with vistas of the rugged coastline, sea stacks, and sandy beaches. For a shorter hike, the Goat Rock Overlook Trail offers epic views of the iconic Goat Rock, a massive offshore sea stack.
Hendy Woods State Park
Hendy Woods State Park has a variety of scenic hiking trails. The Big Hendy Grove Loop Trail is a popular 2.4-mile loop trail through ancient redwoods. For a shorter option, the Little Hendy Grove Loop Trail offers a gentle 1-mile loop.
Van Damme State Park
Van Damme State Park is known for its lush fern-filled canyons and dense forests. The Fern Canyon Trail is a must-visit, taking hikers on a magical journey through a picturesque canyon draped in ferns and redwood trees. The Pygmy Forest Trail is another unique option, where you can explore a fascinating ecosystem of stunted trees.
Hiking in Mendocino is definitely one of the best things to do in the area.
Canoe Big River
Here’s what you need to know about canoeing at Big River. Head to Catch-A-Canoe at Big River Beach at Mendocino Headlands State Park. Here you can rent redwood outriggers that can accommodate up to 8 people. There are also special canoes that can accommodate dogs!
You have up to 3 hours on your canoe, which is plenty of time to enjoy the river. You’re welcome to bring some snacks to enjoy on your ride. And be sure to dress in layers, it can be chilly in the area and can warm up quickly.
Love a coastal sunset? If you’re heading to Mendocino be sure to catch the sunset at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. The park grounds and trails are open daily, from sunrise to sunset. There is also a lighthouse museum and gift shop, open every day from 11am – 4pm.
There are two paths to the lighthouse station. You can take the dirt path which begins at the north end of the parking lot and takes you through the grassland prairie. Or you can opt to take the paved access road to the south is an easier walk.
Dogs are allowed on trails but must be leashed.
There are lens tours where you’ll climb to the top of the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. They’re listed on the website and are first-come, first-serve.
Horseback Riding at MacKerricher State Park
You’ll depart from Ricochet Ridge Ranch, go through MacKerricher, and along the trail to Ten Mile Beach. Opt for a 2-hour or more ride to explore more of the forest and beach.
See the Giraffes at B. Bryan Preserve
Get ready for a unique experience at B. Bryan Preserve. Go on a guided safari tour in an open-air vintage Land Rover on a 1 ½ hour tour ($25/adult). You will have an experienced guide with you telling you all about the various African hoof stock. The tour with a giraffe feeding and informational lecture. Or you can opt for a self-guided tour ($25/adult) and enjoy a visit from the safety and comfort of your own vehicle. The tour ends with a giraffe feeding.
Anderson Valley: Mendocino County Wineries
Anderson Valley is an underrated wine region along Highway 128 in Mendocino County. Here are some top Mendocino wineries to explore in Anderson Valley.
Pennyroyal Farm in Anderson Valley is a one-of-a-kind winery and creamy offering farm tours with a wine and cheese tasting. You’ll tour through the garden and check out the farm where you’ll see goats and sheep. Then sample cheeses along with a selection of wine in the outside patio.
Navarro Vineyards is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. The drive through the redwood forest to reach the winery is scenic. Don’t miss their award-winning dry Gewürztraminer.
As one of the oldest wineries in the area, Husch Vineyards is known for its Sauvignon Blanc. The relaxed and welcoming atmosphere of their tasting room makes it a great place to enjoy their wines. The tasting is free and you can opt to buy wine by the bottle if you like. This is a must-visit among the Mendocino wineries.
Known for its exceptional sparkling wines, Roederer Estate offers one of the best Mendocino wine tasting experiences. The tasting room offers a sophisticated and elegant atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy their award-winning sparkling wines while taking in the views.
Anderson Valley is truly a wine lover’s paradise, with its breathtaking scenery and outstanding wines. Be sure to add these top wineries to your itinerary when exploring this beautiful region.
Anderson Valley Annual Events:
held the third weekend of May
the third weekend of February
Celebrating white wines and sparkling wines
the third weekend of October
Bringing in the harvest with winemakers and culinary friends
Mendocino County, CA is known for its beautiful and rugged coastline and if you love an ocean view you have to check out these beaches. From unusual and unique beaches to beaches with incredible views here are the best beaches in Mendocino.
Portuguese Beach at Mendocino Headlands
Portuguese Beach is a stunning beach with towering cliffs and dramatic views. It’s a paradise for nature lovers, hikers, and photographers alike. Don’t forget to check out the sea caves during low tide.
Greenwood State Beach
If you’re looking for a secluded and picturesque beach head to Greenwood State Beach in Elk, California. Greenwood State Beach offers panoramic views of the ocean and pristine sands. This Mendocino beach is a local favorite.
Glass Beach in Fort Bragg
Glass Beach is Mendocino County’s most visited beach and is a unique spot that should be on your itinerary. This beach is known for its sea glass that adorns the shores. Although there isn’t as much sea glass as years prior this is a cool stop.
Van Damme Beach
This pristine beach boasts stunning coastal vistas and picturesque driftwood-strewn shores. Embark on a kayaking adventure through sea caves. Explore the fascinating tide pools or simply relax on the sandy beach and soak in the scenery.
Big River Beach
This picturesque beach is nestled along the tranquil Big River Estuary, offering a blend of natural beauty and recreational opportunities. Explore the lush coastal forest on the surrounding trails, rent a kayak or canoe, from Catch-A-Canoe to paddle along the calm river, or simply relax on the sandy shores and take in the breathtaking views.
Bowling Ball Beach
If you’re looking for a unique and awe-inspiring beach experience, don’t miss Bowling Ball Beach. This beach is famous for its spherical rock formations, resembling giant bowling balls. During low tide, you can walk among them for a truly otherworldly experience.
It’s best to visit during low tide (negative tide if possible). At high tide, the rocks are mostly submerged, making it difficult to see their true size.
Wondering where to eat in Mendocino County? Whether you’re eating in the village, Point Arena, or Fort Bragg, here are the best restaurants in Mendocino.
Mendocino Village Restaurants
Fog Eater Cafe: Located in Mendocino Village, Fog Eater is a trendy and vibrant restaurant known for its farm-to-table cuisine. They offer a diverse menu with a focus on fresh, local ingredients, including seafood, meats, and vegetarian options.
Trillium Cafe: Nestled in the heart of Mendocino Village, Trillium Cafe is a charming restaurant that offers a unique dining experience. They are known for their creative and seasonal menu of delicious dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, including fresh seafood and organic produce.
Good Life Cafe: Good Life Cafe is a beloved local spot known for its wholesome and delicious fare. The menu at Good Life Cafe features organic, locally sourced ingredients, with a focus on healthy and sustainable options, including vegetarian and vegan choices.
Cafe Beaujolais: A long-standing culinary gem, Cafe Beaujolais is a French-inspired restaurant that has been serving exquisite cuisine for decades. Using locally sourced ingredients, Cafe Beaujolais offers a menu that highlights the flavors of the region, with an emphasis on seafood, meats, and fresh produce.
The Brickery: A popular spot in Mendocino Village, The Brickery is known for its wood-fired pizzas and casual, laid-back vibe. With its cozy atmosphere and friendly service, The Brickery is a great place to enjoy a delicious pizza made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, as well as other Italian-inspired dishes.
Fort Bragg Restaurants
Noyo Fish: Noyo Fish is a popular eatery in Fort Bragg that specializes in fresh, sustainable seafood. Known for its casual and welcoming atmosphere, Noyo Fish offers a variety of seafood options, including fish and chips, fish tacos, and fresh catches of the day.
Point Arena Restaurants
Izakaya Gama: This Japanese-inspired restaurant offers a fusion of traditional Japanese flavors with locally sourced ingredients, resulting in a truly unique dining experience.
Franny’s Cup and Saucer: A charming bakery and cafe located in Point Arena, Franny’s Cup and Saucer is known for its delectable baked goods and cozy ambiance. From mouthwatering pastries to freshly brewed coffee. This is a perfect spot for breakfast or brunch, offering a range of sweet and savory treats, including scones, quiches, and sandwiches.
The New Museum Brewers & Blenders: The New Museum Brewers & Blenders is a unique dining experience that combines craft beer brewing and culinary creativity. This restaurant offers a rotating menu of farm-to-table dishes that showcase locally sourced ingredients, including fresh seafood, meats, and produce. You can also find a variety of house-brewed craft beers, ciders, and cocktails, making it a great spot for foodies and beer enthusiasts alike.
Other Mendocino County Restaurants
Little River Inn: Overlooking the breathtaking Mendocino coastline, Little River Inn, located in Little River (just south of Mendocino Village) is not just a stunning hotel, but also a renowned restaurant. With its classic coastal cuisine, Little River Inn offers a diverse menu that includes fresh seafood, locally sourced meats, and seasonal produce. The elegant dining room and ocean views make it a perfect choice for a special occasion or a romantic dinner.
Sibo Restaurant at Elk Cove Inn: With a view of the stunning Greenwood Creek State Beach and amazing cuisine, the Sibo Restaurant at Elk Cove Inn is a true culinary experience. The chef sources organic proteins, and uses herbs and vegetables he grows on the property. Advance reservations are a must.
Where to Buy Produce and Groceries
Whether you need snacks for your drive, need to pack a picnic, or need groceries for your Airbnb here’s where you’ll find produce and groceries outside Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg does have various grocery stores including a large Safeway however if you’re further away check out these places.
Nye Ranch (farm stand): Nye Ranch is a charming farm stand where visitors can purchase fresh produce and groceries directly from the farm. They offer a wide selection of locally grown fruits, vegetables, and other farm-fresh products, providing a true farm-to-table experience.
The Elk Store (local cheeses, wine, etc): The Elk Store is known for its selection of local cheeses, wines, and other gourmet items. It’s a great place to shop for unique and locally-made culinary treats.
Harvest Market at Mendosa’s (grocery store): Harvest Market at Mendosa’s is a well-known grocery store in Mendocino County that offers a wide range of fresh produce, groceries, and other essentials.
Where to Stay in Mendocino County | Mendocino CA hotels
If you’re looking for the best Mendocino hotels or Airbnbs check out these places.
Looking for the perfect destination for a girls’ trip or romantic getaway? Nicholson House is a charming boutique hotel located in the heart of the village of Mendocino making it easy to walk to all the best places in town. It’s close to local businesses as well as Mendocino Headlands, Portuguese Beach, and more. It’s also located 2 minutes off Highway 1 making it easy to drive around the area.
Nicholson House offers a range of luxurious amenities, including plush bedding, heated flooring, and whirlpool tubs, you’ll feel pampered and rejuvenated from the moment you arrive.
Elk Forest Retreat
The Elk Forest Retreat is a secluded cabin in the redwoods. It’s only a 10-minute drive to the beach in the town of Elk. Enjoy a relaxing outdoor shower/tub while you stay in your cozy cabin. This place makes for a romantic stay.
If you’re looking for a glamping experience in Mendocino check out Mendocino Grove. This glamping oasis is one of coolest and the most unique glamping resorts in California. From spacious and luxurious tents to hotel-like amenities, Mendocino Grove is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Other Hotels Mendocino CA:
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Mendocino County depends on your preferences and the type of experience you’re looking for. However, many travelers find that late spring to early fall is an ideal time to visit. During this period, you can enjoy mild, pleasant Mendocino CA weather with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to low 70s Fahrenheit. Additionally, outdoor activities like hiking, and wine tasting are most enjoyable during this time.
I hope this post helped you with what to do in Mendocino and Fort Bragg. This region is stunning any time of year and is a gem!
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