Mendocino County is the ideal destination for an unforgettable weekend getaway. It’s a place where art and culture merge with Mother Nature and it’s home to countless unique experiences and numerous locales for visitors with a wide range of ages, interests, and budgets. Below is a suggested long weekend Mendocino County road trip that hits many of the highlights of Mendocino County.
Weekend Mendocino County Road Trip
Arrive early Friday afternoon in time for lunch in Mendocino Village.
Lunch at Mendo Burgers
10483 Lansing St, Mendocino, CA 95460
Mendo Burgers offers great, large burgers made from high quality meat and loaded with fresh toppings. They have a quaint outdoor seating patio and delicious food, prepared fresh right in front of you. Order a milkshake for a truly special treat.
12301 N Hwy 1, Mendocino, CA (two miles north of the village of Mendocino)
This park is known for the heavily forested Russian Gulch Creek Canyon, a Headland that features the Devil’s Punch Bowl (a large, collapsed sea cave with churning water), and a beach that offers swimming, tide pool exploring, skin diving, and rock fishing. Inland, there is a 36-foot high waterfall. Hikers enjoy miles of hiking trails. The park also has a paved three-mile bicycle trail.
Athena and I hiked a six mile trail to reach the waterfall. It’s not a difficult hike and Athena was able to walk the entire trail without struggling. the views, and sense of accomplishment, were well worth the trek.
Check in at MacCallum House
45020 Albion St, Mendocino, CA 95460
There is nothing quite like a stay at the MacCallum House in the heart of Mendocino Village. Surrounded by lush gardens and expansive lawns, their main property has nineteen rooms as well as our acclaimed restaurant and bar. The Inn also includes MacCallum Suites, a luxury mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We stayed in the suites and soaked up luxury in the large tub with jets. Even more notable than the bath was the sheets on the bed. It was like wrapping myself in a fluffy cloud of Heaven. They were unquestionably the most comfortable sheets I’ve ever felt around my body.
Dinner at the MacCallum House
The renowned MacCallum House Restaurant, located on the main property, serves local, seasonal, organic Northern California cuisine created by executive chef Alan Kantor. Save room for dessert because the cookie plate is worth the extra calories.
Morning Breakfast at MacCallum House
All rooms at MacCallum House include a gourmet breakfast along with tea or coffee for adults and juice for kids.
44850 Comptche-Ukiah Rd. Mendocino, CA 95460
Kayak up Big River or into Mendocino Bay on a locally made, hand-built redwood canoe.
This was one of our favorite experiences on the trip. The staff are super laid-back and helpful and the peacefulness on the river is remarkable. We could actual hear the wings flapping on a hawk that flew over head as we paddled up the river.
Lunch at Cafe One
753 N Main St, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
“The organic choice on the north coast”. Their menu is dedicated to using organic, chemical-free and non-genetically modified products.
Skunk Train Pudding Creek Express
Foot of Laurel Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Explore the soaring coast redwoods in a fun, old-timey way with a ride on this California classic. Originally built to transport redwood logs from the rugged backcountry to the coast, this 1885 heritage railroad now ferries sightseers to and fro between the waterfront town of Fort Bragg inland to the cowboy town of Willits. Steam-and diesel-powered trains chug through the lush redwood forests of the California Coast Range, zigzagging along the Noyo River—keep your eyes peeled for deer, egrets and other waterfowl, and the occasional river otter. Riding “The Skunk” is a long-standing family tradition for many Californians, with new generations getting wide-eyed and excited when the conductor bellows, “All aboard!” Little ones leave nose prints on the windows as Ole’ No. 45 charges through a 1,122-foot tunnel, crosses over 30 trestles, and sends clouds of steam skyward. Year-round trips range from sunset barbecue cruises to overnight excursions where passengers spend the night in tents set up on the site of a historic logging camp.
We enjoyed a one hour, 7-mile round trip along the Pudding Creek Estuary, spending time in both the passenger cars and an open-air car.
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
18220 Hwy 1, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
The Gardens are a delight in any season. Wander through the different environments out to the clifftop cabin. Children four and under are admitted free.
Dinner at Trillium
1090 Kasten St, Mendocino, CA 95460
Trillium Cafe is located right in the middle of Mendocino village. It’s beautiful and cozy, with a fire place and ocean views. They offer an outside deck, which has ocean views of Big River Bay and their beautiful culinary flower garden.
Normally, I’m a meat-eater. It doesn’t feel like dinner if there isn’t a piece of meat on the plate, but when I saw the Roasted Vegetable Strudel on the menu, I had to try it. It has grilled polenta, roasted asparagus, cauliflower, olives, and red pepper puree wrapped in a freshly baked strudel. It rivaled the filet mignon I had at MacCallum House Restaurant and I was left feeling euphoric.
Morning Breakfast at MacCallum House
See the MacCallum House Restaurant photo above for a repeat of salivating goodness.
Explore The Pygmy Forest
Little River-Airport Road, Little River, CA 95456
Directions: take Hwy 1 for 3 miles south of Mendocino. Turn left onto Little River Airport road. In 2.8 miles make a slight left onto Van Damme State Park and you will see the parking area on your right.
Mendocino Pygmy Forest is an oligotrophic community caused by podzolized (nutrient-poor, highly acidic) soils. The forest flora is dominated by dwarfed Bishop pine, Bolander pine (a variety of shore pine), and Mendocino cypress. These trees may be 100 years old or older yet they are as tiny as saplings.
Athena and I enjoyed searching for pine cones and playing scavenger games along the trail in Pygmy Forest, making this area another one of her favorite spots.
Mendocino County offers tranquility amidst a restless sea and thick forests. If you’re altering the Mendocino County road trip based on time or availability, don’t leave out Catch-A-Canoe & Bicycles Too or the Russian Gulch State Park. They are two unbelievable experiences suitable for all ages that really shouldn’t be missed. If you stay at MacCallum House, do me a favor and ask them where they buy their sheets. And don’t forget to save lots of time for driving along route 1 because the wild north waves are magical.