Summary: The Mendocino area is a popular weekend getaway for those in the Bay Area. Located about 3 hours from San Francisco in the County of Mendocino, this tourist destination includes the town of Fort Bragg. Here, we hiked Gravel Pit Road. This 6+ mile out and back trail takes you through the towering redwoods, which are featured so prominently on the North Coast. Afterwards, we visited the town of Fort Brag, then enjoyed much-needed down time in our cozy Air BnB.
Where to Stay. The Mendocino area offers several boutique hotel experiences but all of them were more costly than we intended on spending for a weekend getaway. For a most cost sensitive option, we recommend the AirBnB we stayed in, which was located just outside of the town of Fort Bragg. It is dog friendly and was more than suitable for our family of four.
Weather. We visited Fort Bragg and Mendocino on Labor Day weekend. Typically, late summer and early Fall is the best time of year to visit, in our opinion. You are more likely to get a sunny day but for us, we still ran into the typical morning weather of thick fog. That being said, the temperature was mild and we still enjoyed the day, even in the fog.
Redwood Hike. The name, "Gravel Pit Road," doesn't exactly sound like an attractive hike. In some way, yes, it's a bit of a Gravel Pit. The hike is on a gravel road and there is some occasional traffic that kicks up a fair amount of dust. That being said, we took this hike on a quiet Sunday morning, our second morning in Mendocino area, and found the redwoods along this road to be quite beautiful. This dog-friendly hike itself is mostly flat with an elevation gain of 1,181 feet over 6+ miles. While we wouldn't call it the most spectacular hike we have been on, it made for a lovely stroll on a relaxing weekend. The hike features towering redwoods, a creek, large ferns, and depending on the time of year, wild black berries.
Fun Facts about Redwoods (cite: NPS). From a seed no bigger than one from a tomato, California's coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) may grow to a height of 367 feet (112 m) and have a width of 22 feet (7 m) at its base. Some trees are upwards of 2000 years old, with many reaching 600 years of age. Redwoods thrive in foggy climates like the Mendocino Coast, with foggy precipitation accounting for 40% of their water intake. Redwood are also unusual in that they can regenerate by throwing new sprouts, rather than relying on sexual reproduction like other trees. When hiking, take a peak at a fallen tree and you will find seedlings popping up all around the broken trunk.
Dog-Friendly Town. One thing to note is that the Mendocino area, including Fort Bragg, is a super dog-friendly area. Everywhere we went, visitors walked with their furry friends. Many restaurants have outdoor seating with dogs allowed at the tables and many hotels allowed dogs. Our two, Buster and Bella, had a great time.
Town of Fort Bragg. The town of Fort Bragg, population 7,200, seemed to be more economically impacted by the pandemic than its neighboring resort town of Mendocino. Many of the shops in the old downtown district were closed and boarded up. As tourism seemed to be opening up again during our visit, we did notice that those locations still open, were bustling with activity. We do hope to see this quant little town rebound soon.
For a tasty treat, stop by Mendocino Cookie Company to enjoy some fresh baked cookies. The ginger snap cookie was off the hook!
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