Mendocino County, CA, 2 hours north of San Francisco Bay Area, beckons. Pack a corkscrew and hiking boots. Let your Mendocino road trip begin.
About two hours north of the San Francisco Bay Area, Mendocino County, California, welcomes visitors with wineries, hotels, restaurants, and the county’s majestic tapestry of ancient redwoods seeking a heartfelt hug. If a romantic redux is on tap, consider one of the region’s rustic cabins to fan the flames or an elevated stay in a vintage water tower. Tap into a frothy brew trail, slip into a kayak, or take to the practice of Shinrin-Yoku, or forest bathing, with various new getaway packages perfectly timed to tempt both mind and soul. It’s time to pack a corkscrew and hiking boots and let the Mendocino County road trip begin.
Refresh in the Mendocino County Redwoods
My mother always said that a trip from our home in San Francisco to the redwood forest was good for what ails you. If we came down with a cold, and it was the weekend, off we went to our cabin in the redwoods. And Mendocino County has many healing forests, like Montgomery Woods State Preserve, one of California’s most magnificent virgin redwood groves.
Step into nature’s cathedral for a mind-blowing mix of gigantic spires shooting high in the canopy, past flying buttresses, and enormous treetops soaring more than 350 feet. The eye-popping fern forest, flush with a sea of giant green fronds reaching for the sky, taps the imagination. Enjoy a moderate hike, then hit Orr Hot Springs next door for the ultimate soak.
Socially Distance in Natural Beauty
Mendocino County offers a playground steeped in seclusion. From 24 state and national parks to 90 miles of prime Pacific coastline, the options for escape are endless. Families can walk off some steam with a leisurely trek through Russian Gulch State Park, waterfall included, or breakaway with a coastal jaunt to the tide pools, Glass Beach at Fort Bragg, or a trek to the more isolated Ten Mile Beach, known for wildlife, up the coast.
Soothe Your Soul in Mineral Waters
Nearby, California Landmark No. 980–better known as the champagne mineral baths–is an ideal reboot. A Jack London escape, Vichy Springs Resort and Spa in Ukiah boasts a 700-acre retreat with America’s only warm and naturally carbonated mineral baths (and an Olympic-size pool). Bed down in the historic Blue Cottage (1852), hike to Chemisal Falls, or take to the creekside baths like lime in Perrier. And, if you are passing through, day rates are available.
See Rare Rocky Orbs
As the tide pulls out, a surreal setting unfolds south of Point Arena on scenic Highway 1. Rare and wonderful, Bowling Ball Beach has caused speculation for centuries, given the mass of almost perfectly spherical stones. Usually hidden under the water, the geological phenomena known as “concretions” are rare and picture-ready, formed by a natural process of sedimentary rock binding to minerals and/or stone.
Paired with a sizzling Mendocino sunset, these surreal stones finish the frame. Located at Schooner Gulch State Beach, visitors can access the site via a short hike across the bluffs and a moderate scramble down a dirt path. Note: Low tide access only.
Discover the Rugged Coast of Mendocino
Raw, rugged, and ready for its close-up, the Lost Coast—straddling Mendocino and Humboldt counties—is the call for outback enthusiasts seeking a final frontier. Named “One of the Top 10 American Adventures” by National Geographic Traveler, this 80-mile stretch of pristine green comprises King Range National Conservation Area, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, and a stretch of legendary surf breaks for those who can haul a board out. Hike this unique area, and you may encounter Instagram-ready Roosevelt Elk and a host of oddly-shaped candelabra trees marking the entrance route.
Bathe in the Forest
Shinrin-Yoku is not your typical romp in the redwoods. A forest bathing session might take three hours, including sensory exercises to allow the body to slow down, touch the trees, study colors and patterns, breathe deeply, and relax under the canopy while peering up through the branches. Delve deeper into Shinrin-Yoku through The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing: Finding Calm, Creativity, and Connection in the Natural World by Julia Plevin.
New at Glendeven Inn & Lodge is a half-day forest bathing package designed to realign the chakras. Begin with a two-hour walk with the “Barefoot Botanist” in the pristine forest surrounding the inn, followed by a soak in one of the private forest-side hot tubs. Complete the experience with a full one-hour massage employing aromatherapy products sourced from the trees, ferns, and woodland plants.
For a full immersion, check into Brewery Gulch Inn and dive into a personal Dipping Your Toes session with a wellness guide; at $175.00. Read more about the Wander experience at Brewery Gulch Inn here.
Savor the Healing Power of Nature
Long known as an ideal urban escape, Mendocino County now offers a twist on traditional wellness programs. Trek to Gualala, the coast’s southern outpost, for a meet-up with Unbeaten Path Tours. Visitors can tap into a new guided “BreathWalk,” enhanced by wildflowers and wide-open spaces.
The two-hour part-meditation/part-yoga walk through the woods is designed to realign one’s sense of place and deep connection to nature. Another option is a quiet float up Big River via Catch-a-Canoe or a half-day nature experience on Liquid Fusion Kayak’s Forest Immersion tour on Noyo River in Fort Bragg, where the only sounds are the gentle slap of paddles in the water, the calls of the river birds and the occasional curious seal or otter.
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When You Visit Mendocino County
Mendocino County offers 90 miles of scenic Pacific coastline, 90+ wineries, 10 diverse AVAs (earning the highest percentage of organic and biodynamic vineyards in the United States), 24 state/national parklands, and 450+ unique accommodations. Straddling scenic Highways 1 and 101, “The Redwood Corridor,” the County delivers an ideal combination of waves, wines, and redwoods with historic villages and outdoor adventures.
Located 114 miles north of San Francisco, the region’s gateway airports are Arcata-Eureka Airport (ACV), San Francisco International (SFO), Oakland International (OAK), Sacramento International Airport (SMF), and Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport (STS). For more ideas, travel along through California with our Wander writers.