A Mendocino Mama Trip

Mendocino Headlands State Park

This post is image heavy.

A few months back I took the boys with me for a little mama getaway to Mendocino. It was their Christmas gift from us and I was so excited to share with them a place I fell deep in love with during our last visit. All I could think about was how fun it would be for them to explore the wonders of the Northern California coastline. Being born and raised in California I’ve always been drawn to the northern coastline’s ruggedness. When you take time and look closer there is also beauty to be found in the tiny details, from the patterns in the rock to the tiny plants that grow along the coastal scrub areas. I’m happy to share it with you on Mother’s Day!

Mendocino Headlands State Park Mendocino Headlands State Park
Mendocino Headlands State Park Mendocino Headlands State Park
Mendocino Headlands State Park Mendocino Headlands State Park

We arrived at our hotel a little too early to check-in so I decided to head through town to explore the headlands state park. It’s a roughly 2 mile trail that runs around the Mendocino peninsula and offers everything from tide pools to grassy trails and cliffs. It’s often easy to spot migrating whales and harbor seals with babies, and makes for a great place to catch the sunset.

Mendocino Headlands State Park
Mendocino, California 95460

Little River Inn in Little River, California Little River Inn in Little River, California
Little River Inn in Little River, California Little River Inn in Little River, California
Little River Inn in Little River, California Little River Inn in Little River, California

The familiarity of checking into an old favorite always brings a smile to my face. I’m so happy they were generous enough to host us again. I’m a creature of habit and sincerely enjoyed our last stay here. The family-owned property boasts 65 guest rooms, a Zagat rated restaurant, meeting & wedding facilities, a golf course, and a full-service salon & spa all situated on 225 wooded acres. It was built in 1857 and their five generations of hospitality always shines through. Our routine often consisted of a room service breakfast, exploring the area, and returning for a delicious dinner at the restaurant. The restaurant is very allergy-friendly and accommodates kids with ease.

Upcoming Specials:
The Little River Inn has created a package for those who want to learn how to gather, prepare and preserve Mendocino’s homegrown goodness themselves. The first-ever Mendocino Coast Forage and Ferment Experience will have its inaugural weekend from June 22-24. The Inn itself is a sprawling historical landmark that has been owned and operated by the same family for five generations. Today it is a full-service resort with regulation tennis courts, an Audubon-certified 9-hole golf course, a bar and restaurant, and a salon and day spa. There are 66 rooms and suites, some appealingly affordable and others that are downright luxurious, all of which have views of the ocean. Chef Marc Dym, who helms the Inn’s award-winning restaurant, created an adventure in foraging and fermenting with the help of local experts who uncover everything from mushrooms and herbs to seaweed and sea urchin. The hands-on odyssey starts on Friday night, with a history of the area served up with cocktails, wine and appetizers, emphasizing locally gathered and preserved delicacies. The package includes two nights’ lodging (Fri & Sat) so participants will be right on site to begin Saturday’s activities, which will be divided between mining the forest for treasures such as mushrooms, roots and berries with Kevin Smith, Countryman Forager, and an afternoon at the beach collecting savory seaweed with Larry Knowles of Rising Tide Sea Vegetables. In the evening there will be cooking demonstrations, including tips in preservation. During the demo, led by Chef Dym, Greg Fonts from Triton X will present ocean delicacies from his day’s dive, which might yield scallops, rock fish, box crabs or urchins. The night culminates in a communal feast that incorporates the day’s finds and celebrates Mendocino’s tradition of scrumptious self-sufficiency. Prices for the weekend experience start at $1,000 per person for a single room and $755 per person for a shared room.

Little River Inn
7901 N. Highway One
Little River, California 95456
(707) 937-5942
www.littleriverinn.com

As much as I’d like to love Glass Beach, it’s a novelty when you visit Fort Bragg. The beach is often packed with visitors near and far and has been ravaged by scavengers so it has lost much of it’s beautiful sea glass. The history behind it and fun of discovering beautiful pieces of glass (to then leave where they belong, right there!) keeps me coming back. The boys thought it was really cool, I’m just still a little disappointed that it’s not in the same shape it used to be in.

Glass Beach
900 Glass Beach Drive
Fort Bragg, California 95437

Rhododendron at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens Rhododendron at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Dragons Blood Sedum at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens Giant Pitcher Plant at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens Magnolia at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Fern Canyon Trail at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens Magnolia at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Magnolia at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens Magnolia at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens Succulent Garden at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

One of my very favorite places to visit in Mendocino is the botanical gardens. I’ve visited during three different times of year and each time I go they still make my heart skip a beat. The gardens sit on 47 acres that back up to the Pacific Ocean and feature a myriad of trails to get you all over them. My favorite gardens are the heath & heather and their extensive rhododendron collection which peaks in May.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
18220 CA-1
Fort Bragg, California 95437

Pygmy Forest in Van Damme State Park Pygmy Forest in Van Damme State Park
Pygmy Forest in Van Damme State Park Pygmy Forest in Van Damme State Park

Though they may be small, they are mighty. The trees in this forest stand merely feet tall but are hundreds of years old. Their growth is stunted due to poor soils on the terrace they are located on and this short little hike is a nice stop if you have under an hour to check it out. The trail is elevated on a wooden walkaway and has handrails, so it’s good for little ones too.

Pygmy Forest Discovery Trail
Van Damme State Park
Little River-Airport Road
Little River, California 95456

MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area

The moon as seen from MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area
MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area

MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area
MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area

A new place we visited from my Mendocino wishlist is MacKerricher Park. The coastal trail leads to a small cove full of tide pools and marine life, and the beach (windy on this trip) is other-wordly. We had fun exploring both during low tide and were even able to watch Turkey Vultures soaring in the thermals above us.

MacKerricher State Marine Conservation Area
Fort Bragg, California 95437

The northern end of Highway 1, where it pulls away from the coastline in California Seaside Beach, north of Fort Bragg, California
Seaside Beach, north of Fort Bragg, California Seaside Beach, north of Fort Bragg, California
Seaside Beach, north of Fort Bragg, California Seaside Beach, north of Fort Bragg, California

Seaside Beach, north of Fort Bragg, California

After continuing our drive up to where Highway 1 pulls away from the coast (and ends shortly after), we came back down and stumbled upon a beach called Seaside beach. The rock formations on it are both humbling and fun to climb. The boys and I climbed up on one along with my tripod to have a photo together from our trip. Some of the other rock formations feature beautiful arches and the beach ends when it meets up with Ten Mile River.

Seaside Creek Beach
California 95437

Sunset at Pudding Creek Beach in Fort Bragg, California

Sunset at Pudding Creek Beach in Fort Bragg, California Sunset at Pudding Creek Beach in Fort Bragg, California
Sunset in Mendocino, California Sunset in Mendocino, California
Orions Nebula as seen from Little River, California A half-full moon as seen from Little River, California

During our long drive back we started our sunset-watching journey on the bridge at Pudding Creek Beach, stopped to watch the sun crest the horizon on a coastal bluff south of the Botanical Gardens, and ended with star watching from our deck at Little River Inn. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I could actually see the nebula within the constellation Orion’s belt. It’s one of the most recognizable constellations in the sky and for some reason I never saw a nebula in it before.

Skunk Train ride from Fort Bragg, California Skunk Train ride from Fort Bragg, California
Skunk Train ride from Fort Bragg, California Skunk Train ride from Fort Bragg, California

On the last day of our trip we went for a fun ride on the Skunk Train. They offered to let us check it out and I’m so glad we did. The route we rode on was the Pudding Creek Express. Named after the path it follows, Pudding Creek used to be an old logging route and offers views you don’t normally get from a car or frequently visited area. The train moves slowly and features an open-air car you can visit for better views or a breath of fresh air. The boys absolutely loved the ride and it was so fun to go back into the redwoods. During the ride I learned that the circle of new trees that grow up around an old redwood stump form something called a fairy ring. Isn’t that adorable?

Upcoming Specials:
History buffs and locals know that the Skunk Train—today one of California’s most beloved attractions—was built in the 1880s to move logs from the coastal town of Fort Bragg to the inland cowboy country of Willits. Nowadays the railroad’s steam and diesel-powered trains chug through dense woods and zigzag along the lively Noyo River, providing unparalleled access to the Pacific Coast Temperate Rainforest. Young and old delight as the trains travel through tunnels and cross over trestles, all while sending clouds of steam skyward. There are two scenic rides, the Pudding Creek Express and the Northspur Flyer, in addition to annual themed trains for holidays such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Christmas. This Spring, the Skunk Train is adding two very unique offerings to their repertoire. Beginning in May, the Skunk will offer Rail Bikes that you can ride along the tracks, as well as a Trail Loop hike through some of the most unspoiled redwood forest in the world. Departing out of the Fort Bragg depot on the Mendocino Coast, patrons will have the option of riding a 2-person Rail Bike on the tracks along the picturesque Pudding Creek Estuary. These peddle-powered vehicles turn around at the Glen, a spot nestled deep in the redwoods where visitors can saunter along well-maintained trails, discover the local flora and fauna, or have a picnic at a table in the meadow. A Trail Loop is also available for riders of the Pudding Creek Express who wish to disembark and walk a 1-mile loop before getting back on the train. These options allow you to experience the railroad in a new way and get even more up close and personal with spring’s charms.

Skunk Train (California Western Railroad)
100 W. Laurel Street
Fort Bragg, California 95437
(707) 964-6371
www.skunktrain.com

Highway 20, the Fort Bragg Willits Highway in Northern California Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

Do you travel with kids? Have you been to Mendocino?

This post is not sponsored but our stay near Mendocino was hosted by Little River Inn, and ride on the Skunk Train were both part of a sponsored exchange.

8 thoughts on “A Mendocino Mama Trip

  1. I love that area and Little River Inn so much! We had one of our favorite family trips there. So many beautiful beaches and hikes to explore (and the Botanical Garden is amazing). Your post has lots of ideas that I haven’t tried yet.

  2. Loving all the great photos. I don’t think I have been to Mendocino…. we went to Northern Cal a lot as kids but we must have missed this spot. Bummer! The botanical gardens look amazing.

  3. My goodness Mendocino is SO pretty!! You make me want to visit California so bad. I love the beautiful botanical gardens, and your pictures seemed to capture everything so well. Now I have beach fever!!

  4. Enjoyed reading this. We were at the Little River Inn last Sunday, it was spectacular and a perfect eve while on our honeymoon in the Mendocino area from Charlotte NC. We enjoyed and recommend many of the activities you mentioned, especially the botanical gardens and the Pudding Creek Express train. The area is great for young and old alike!

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