Mendocino Magic: 72 Hours of Northern California Adventure

For those of you that have experienced Mendocino, you know that it is the gem of California's north coast.

Wild, rugged coastlines meet exquisite foods and wines. On top of that, throw in loads of outdoor adventures and you've got a recipe that should put it at the top of any travel bucket list. Here's how four friends spent their 72 hours on the coast.

Day 1

11:30am // Black Oak Coffee Roasters

We arrived about 30 minutes before our first stop opened for lunch. So to kill some time, we walked down a few blocks and got some coffees to really start our trip off right. Black Oak is a coffee roastery located in Ukiah, CA. A large and spacious café with loads of seating inside and out. They roast their own coffee in house. Which is of course, proper. Their roasting area is put on display through a viewing window where guests can see their big ol' Probat roaster in action.

The baristas are excellent. Quick and friendly service with really tasty drinks!


12pm // Lunch at Oco Time

At noon, our little Japanese restaurant opened for lunch, so we made our way back over for some grub!

We received a warm welcome and were able to put in our orders right away. We were hungry! The Veggie Tempura and Okonomyaki plates are to die for!


If you've never tried it before, Okonomyaki is a specialty plate from the owner's home town of Hiroshima. There are tons of different options available, so there should be something in there for everybody!

1pm Rivino Winery

Rivino is located in the perfect spot, not five minutes from downtown Ukiah. We were greeted with a warm welcome from the staff, and eventually the owner (Jason) came out and we got to hang out with him for a while!

He introduced us to his award-winning wines (delicious, very delicious), before taking us out in his truck to see the property.

With a railroad, pool, ponds, and a few miles of river running through the property, Jason and his small family of staff members are never bored.

 

It was awesome getting to see everything on the property from the tasting room, Jason's home, the pool and pond, and the railroad that he can take into town. One of the coolest things to me though was seeing his barn where he stores all of his wine barrels.

Parties, barbecues, live music, and other events are a regular commodity here. So if you're ever in the area or looking for something to do, check out their Instagram account @rivino_winery for updates.

4:30pm // Check in at Vichy Springs Resort

This super quiet and cozy resort is tucked back in the hills outside of Ukiah. We checked in and got settled into our cottage before getting changed and heading for a soak in the natural springs!

These springs only run about 104 degrees. So not much hotter than your normal body temp. They're naturally carbonated (lightly carbonated), and are packed with tons of minerals, all of which are really good for your skin and hair! 


Day 2

7:30am // Breakfast at Vichy

We got up and packed first thing in the morning before heading down to breakfast. Gotta fuel up before we start day two!

There was tons of good food available here...eggs, granola, yogurt, fruits, pastries, and of course, coffee! 

8am // Depart for Montgomery Woods State Preserve

Now that we had a little fuel in us, it was time to hit the road and get to our first hike of the trip! STOKED! Montgomery Woods is located off of Orr Springs Road, which turned out to be one of my favorite drives of all time! Start in Ukiah and it takes you on a winding road up and over the rolling green hills, through the fog, and plunges back down under the canopy of the redwood forest. I honestly won't be able to do it justice with words, so here are some photos to help me out!

We pulled off to the left of the road and parked in the little parking lot for the trail. After getting prepped for a wet hike, we set off! Over a wooden walking bridge, a bit of a climb, and back down into one of my favorite environments of all time. 


Being under a redwood canopy is one of my favorite things. It's quiet. Real quiet. The light is soft. The ground is soft. Everywhere you look are blends of greens and browns and reds. You look up and the trees tower over you for hundreds of feet. You look around and it's pretty open and easy to navigate your way through the ferns and trees. 

You really can't help yourself, but it's pretty funny watching everybody constantly trying to look up while they're walking.

9:30am // Depart for Russian Gulch State Park

Back in the car! Time to continue down this beautiful road and go see the first thing I think of when somebody mentions Mendocino.


I'm talking about Russian Gulch State Park. Or to be precise, the Frederick W. Panhorst Bridge. 

We stopped here first as it's right off Highway 1.


So, it actually takes a while to drive the whole stretch of Orr Springs Road. So by the time we were done with the bridge we had a decision to make. More hiking? Or food? We chose food. Frankie's place was calling to us.

12pm Lunch at Frankie's Ice Cream & Pizza

Exactly like the title says, we got pizza and ice cream! We were starved. Two big pizzas between the four of us and we finished every last bite. We came pretty close to licking the pans clean!


After the pizza came the ice cream. One, because you can't have desert before the main meal. And two, because the ice cream is portable and we could take it with us to explore the rest of what Mendocino has to offer!


1pm // Explore Mendocino

The town of Mendocino is one of my favorite places to visit. It has amazing food, coffee, arts, beautiful architecture, and of course it's right on the ocean. Why don't I live here? 


We grabbed some coffee and went down to Big River Beach. Behind the Chevron on Main St. you follow the path down until you come across the trailhead and some wooden steps leading out onto the sand.


Big River Beach is a beautiful open beach with soft white sand. Great for kicking back and reading a book, going for a walk or run, picnics, or watching the sunset. 

Please note that dogs are allowed on this beach, so long as they're on leash. That being said, we weren't too upset with our little welcoming committee.


After being welcomed by the pupper, we went over and talked to her owner for a bit. Really nice guy with TONS of recommendations on places we should go see! We didn't have time to visit any of his spots, but I did get his business card so we can get in touch next time I'm in the area. One of my favorite things about traveling is getting to meet the locals and learning about places that mean a lot to them and maybe even getting shown some hidden gems.

We continued along the beach for a while, having a good time and enjoying our coffee while taking in the sights.

2:45pm // Point Arena Lighthouse

So this was a bit of an adventure. It was a 40-ish minute drive to the Lighthouse from Mendocino. We left a little early, giving ourselves time to not feel rushed. The lighthouse closes at 3:30, so we wanted to have time to be able to relax and enjoy it! However, there ended up being an accident on Highway 1 that stopped traffic completely. 

We sat in line for a bit, hoping it would start moving. I started to worry more and more that we weren't going to move any time soon and we would miss the lighthouse. I pulled up my maps and found another route that went inland and looked like it would drop us back out on the 1 on the other side of the accident. 

We pulled out of line, went back the way we came, and finally turned off of the 1 and started heading (gradually) back to the lighthouse.

WE MADE IT! Barely.


We really didn't have a whole lot of time there. But they did let us run up the stair and get the full experience. The view was breathtaking! There were unobstructed panoramas in every direction looking up and down the coast and out to sea. 

5pm // Beacon Light by the Sea

What can I say about Bobby? He's a homegrown Mendocino legend. He opened up this bar in the living room of his house.


He's lived the fullest of lives, and his stories show it. We heard everything; about his private fire department, about the dogs he's rescued, about misadventures of his youth, parties with celebrities. It was awesome. I could have sat there and listened to his stories all night! 

We ended up getting so wrapped up in Bobby's stories that we missed our check in at the hotel we had for that night. So, since we didn't want the restaurant to close on us, we went and got dinner before heading back to the hotel.

7pm // Dinner at Greenwood Pier Restaurant

I've gotta say, we will be back here. This may have been the best meal we had the whole trip, a four course delight with unbelievable staff. The restaurant was beautiful.

One of the best salads I've ever had, warm bread, tomato soup, and then your choice of spaghetti and meatballs, or a mushroom risotto. This is my kind of meal!!


8:30pm // Elk Cove Inn

After dinner we hurried back to the Inn so that we could finally check in and get settled into our rooms. We were late, so they had instructions to each of our rooms taped onto the door of the office. It was a kind of scavenger hunt! We love scavenger hunts. 

To top off an absolutely amazing meal, we found ourselves in the most amazing hotel. Each room was cozy, spacious, beautiful, warm, fancy, trendy, and just downright perfect. In the morning, we woke up to the most incredible views out of the massive windows that each room had facing the ocean. We're already looking at booking our return trip here!

Day 3

9:30am // Paddle Up the Big River

Waking up the next day we had the most beautiful weather. We drove back up the coast to Mendocino and grabbed some coffee and pastries for breakfast. Then we went to Catch a Canoe and rented a couple of beautiful redwood outrigger canoes.


We hopped in and started paddling down river. I love these canoes! They're really stable thanks to the pontoons that come out on either side. I doubt I could flip one if I tried! They're also really easy to maneuver. Foot pedals for controlling the rudder means all you have to do is paddle. No worries about switching sides to keep going straight and all that!

It was chilly, it is February after all. But it wasn't so bad. We didn't get wet at all, except for when the heavens opened up on us for about a minute and a half!


Even with the rain, we had a blast. And besides, I really love the photos that came out of it. I can't say this enough, mother nature was totally on our side this whole trip!

We had a couple of seals follow us a little ways. And we even saw a big jelly fish in the crystal clear blue waters by the mouth of the river. Trever at the shop told us to keep an eye out on the shoreline for deer, elk, coyote, and bear. We weren't that lucky, though.

12pm // Pick up Lunch at Harvest Market

After the canoes, we were starving! We had to paddle back to the dock against the current and the wind! 

We were on our way up to the Skunk Train Depot in Fort Bragg, and decided to stop at the Harvest Market and grab some warm food to help us warm back up. Turns out our beautiful weather wasn't quite what we thought. They were calling for snow down on the coast all day! 


It had everything we needed!


1pm // Ride the Rails / Skunk Train Depot

Last year, the owner of the Skunk Train was up in Oregon and he got to ride these things called rail bikes. They're basically two seater bikes that sit on the railroad tracks. You can pedal them, but they also have electric motors attached to them to help get you up those hills (no gears on the bikes).

They were awesome. None of us have ever done anything like this before. The only way to get back and see the land is via those railroad tracks. With the bikes, we could stop anywhere we wanted to explore/take pictures. 


Careful though, you don't want to wander too far off the tracks. A lot of the property around here is private. And you do not want to go wandering onto private property!

Rick took us out to where the tracks split.

The tracks to the left lead off into the mountains where they end, and the tracks to the right are where the Skunk Train used to go to Willits until the tunnel collapsed. 

Here we had a bit more room to get out and explore. We could see the tunnel, and even still see remnants of their holiday festivities. This train is definitely a must during any of the major holidays.

We had to get off the tracks by a certain time so that other trains could use them as well. So we started to make our way back to town and continue our explorations of the coast!


Afternoon // Explore the North Coast!

We had some time to kill before dinner, so we drove up the coast to see what we could see. First stop, the Pudding Creek Trestle Bridge! Really cool wooden walkway that expands over the beach and Pudding creek. 

Our hotel was right next to the bridge, so we decided to check in early since our rooms were ready for us. After dropping our extra bags in the rooms it was back into the car and on the road north again!

Mackerricher State Park

We pulled off of Highway 1 and followed the road all the way down to the day use parking lot. There are some turns for campgrounds, but we weren't camping this time. 

We jumped out of the car and were greeted with a beautiful beach with a dark (maybe black?) sand beach. We used a big log to jump the creek flowing into the ocean and had the whole beach to ourselves. Not even another footprint to be found. I never see that anymore...we were pretty stoked to say the least!


After we were done playing on the beach, we followed the boardwalks out to the point where you get a clear view of the coast on all sides. 


Sunset was looking promising, so I decided to stay here and shoot the sunset. In the meantime, we went down and checked out the tide pools. 


Sunset did not disappoint...


By this time we were pretty starved, so we hustled back to the car so we could go get some dinner. But first....

Moody Larry. Larry is my Land Cruiser's name. Now that you've officially been introduced, FOOD.

7pm // Dinner at Overtime Brewing

Overtime is a super awesome brewery in Fort Bragg. It was pretty much everything you could hope for in a brewery. Great atmosphere, great beer, and the food was delicious. Plus we got to sit at the bar facing the brewing equipment and we could bug the brewers while they worked (hehe).

S'mores at the Beachcomber!

After dinner, we needed desert! It wasn't raining anymore, so we went back to the hotel and they fired up a fire pit for us! They had left us gift bags in our rooms when we checked in full of s'mores stuff, how could we not put them to good use??


Getting to cozy up by the fire while hearing the waves crash along the beach is one of our favorite things. Every time we're going to be by the ocean for a night it's, "can we have a fire on the beach?!" We weren't quite on the beach here, but pretty damn close!

Day 4

10:45am // Pennyroyal Farm

Sarah is the daughter of the founders of Navarro Farms in Anderson Valley. She and her friend Erica completed their studies at UC Davis and went on to open Pennyroyal Farm. They produce their own goat and sheep cheeses, along with an exquisite selection of wines.

We were fortunate enough to get to tour the property. Vineyards, gardens, goats, sheep, guard dog, and guard llama; everything about Pennyroyal is beautiful. 

We started with the goat barn. All of the lady goats were pregnant, unfortunately we were maybe a week or so too early to get to play with the baby goats! These were great though. They craved attention almost as much as my dog. 


The male goats are kept separate from the ladies. They call their pad "The Gentleman's Club." They're much more stinky, but studs all the same.


We made our way back around towards the tasting room. The views in the valley are breathtaking.


Back at the tasting room, well, we did some tasting! They paired each wine with a different cheese that they produce there on the farm. One of the best, if not the best tasting I've ever taken part in!

After the tasting, we each bought a bottle of wine and some cheese. Ordered lunch, and found a place to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine on the beautiful patio overlooking the vineyards. 

All the food is made there in-house, and most of it is grown right there on the property!

These trips never last long enough. There's so much to do and see and never enough time. We didn't quite make it to all the stops on our list for this weekend. But that just means we have all the more reason to come back. And soon! 

Everywhere we went, we were greeted with open arms. People always had great ideas on what we should see next, and were so open and willing to share their home with us. Getting to travel and see so much and see so many people is just one of the reasons why I love doing this so much. 

Until next time Mendocino. We will be seeing you very soon!


We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!