Mendocino County Road Trip: Redwoods, Rugged Beaches, and Spas

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Mendocino County, California, about two hours north of the San Francisco Bay Area, 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 a variety of 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.

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Mendocino Road Trip

A Mendocino road trip can take you along the scenic coast. Photo courtesy Visit Mendocino County

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 plenty of healing forests like Montgomery Woods State Preserve, one of California's most magnificent virgin redwood groves.

Montgomery Woods

Montgomery Woods State Preserve. Photo courtesy Visit Mendocino County

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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.

Mendocino County

Hike the soft trails of the redwood forest like the Russian Gulch Trail. Photo courtesy Visit Mendocino.

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 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 just passing through, day rates are available.

Monarc Duffel Bags
Vichy Mineral Baths

The Vichy Springs Resort and Spa has a variety of mineral water pools and baths. Photo courtesy Vichy Springs Resort

See Rare Rocky Orbs

As the tide pulls out, a surreal setting unfolds just 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.

Bowling Ball Beach

Bowling Ball Beach. Courtesy Creative Commons

These surreal stones, paired with a sizzling Mendocino sunset, finish the frame. Located at Schooner Gulch State Beach, visitors can access the site via a short hike across the bluffs and 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 as well as a host of oddly-shaped candelabra trees marking the entrance route.

Camping at Lost Coast

Camping at Lost Coast. Photo courtesy: Visit Mendocino County

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 provide the body with a chance 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” among the pristine forest that surrounds 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 themselves.

Glendeven Inn and Lodge

Glendeven Inn and Lodge suite. Photo courtesy Glendeven Inn and Lodge

For a full immersion, check into Brewery Gulch Inn and dive into a personal Dipping Your Toes session with a wellness guide; $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.

Catch A Canoe

Catch-A-Canoe tours. Photo courtesy Visit Mendocino County

When You Visit Mendocino County

Mendocino County offers you 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 laced with historic villages and outdoor adventures.

Ten Mile Dunes

It's easy to socially distance at a place like Ten Mile Dunes. Photo courtesy Visit Mendocino County

RoamRight travel insurance

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.

Note: For the health and safety of their community and guests, Mendocino County asks if you are feeling sick or are experiencing any symptoms please stay home. They also kindly ask that you wear a mask or face covering as it is required by the state. Check with all attractions and accommodations before visiting as hours and services may be modified during this time. Mendocino County health and safety information here.

Mendocino County, California, about two hours north of the San Francisco Bay Area, welcomes visitors with wineries, hotels, restaurants, and the county's majestic tapestry of ancient redwoods seeking a heartfelt hug. It's time to pack a corkscrew and hiking boots and let the Mendocino County road trip begin.

Written by Elizabeth Rose

Elizabeth Rose is back again in the Phoenix area after more than a decade living in New Mexico and Washington state. She travels throughout the West and beyond writing about destinations, accommodations, festivals, and restaurants, especially farm to table cuisine. As an expert in cultural tourism, her writing reflects that passion. She has won awards for her photography and accompanies her articles with her own images. She also provides photos for magazine covers, web sites and magazine articles (both print and online).

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