Thanks to being pet parents, we are always on the hunt for places within California which are within 2-3 hours by car and are reasonably dog friendly. Many moons ago, we had visited Mendocino and were pleasantly surprised to see how dog friendly Mendocino was! At that time, I did not have this blog space to share our adventures with fellow dog lovers, so the second time’s visit has been the charm. I thus present to you a super useful pet friendly Mendocino guide, filled with suggestions on dog friendly activities in Mendocino, pet friendly hotels in Mendocino and of course pet friendly dining. Here is my dog friendly Mendocino itinerary based on my past three visits to Mendocino/Fort Bragg for your weekend getaway with your furry friend.
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Dog Friendly Mendocino: A Beautiful Californian town
Mendocino, three hours north of San Francisco, boasts of a jaw-droppingly beautiful coastline, b) the majestic redwood forests and c) some of the world’s best grapes producing some of the finest, delicate pinot noir known to man. Located in Mendocino county, north of the famous Sonoma county, it welcomes both bipeds of all kinds and four legged fur balls. There is a lot to do with your dog in dog friendly Mendocino as well as in neary Fort Bragg, with pet friendly activities ranging from a day at the beach to riding the world famous “Skunk” train to visiting that rare, dog friendly lighthouse. Here are some things to know about pet friendly Mendocino before you go:
Dog Friendly hotels and accomodations in Mendocino
As mentioned before, Mendocino county is known for its tall, majestic redwood trees, the breathtaking beautiful California coast and pristine beaches, plus the wineries along the Upper Russian River valley and Anderson Valley. All these places are dog-friendly to different extents, but overall Mendocino is very welcoming to dogs. There are pet friendly Mendocino hotels, of which the Stanford Inn by the Sea at the mouth of Comptche-Ukiah road has been rated the best (I will talk about it more later) and for good reason (impeccable hospitality and its world famous dining option). Little River Inn, a few miles down the road, is perched close to the ocean with a fantastic view of the coastline, that is unmatchable. Little River Inn is a series of Victorian houses overlooking the coast and sprawled over acres of land encompassing a beautiful garden. It has an excellent dining room offering breakfast, lunch and dinner with focus on local, sustainable produce and catch, but the best part of this again is the fact that they have a separate dining room for guests with dogs which you have to reserve slightly beforehand if you want to dine with your pooch there.
For these reasons and the warm hospitality that they extend to dogs (welcome treats, food and water bowl, doggie towels in the room), we chose Little River Inn as our pet friendly Mendocino hotel. Pricey, yes you bet, but worth every penny for the view, the food, the hospitality and above all, Babu’s comfort. I highly recommend this place for all dog-owners if you plan to visit dog friendly Mendocino (which you should) and make reservations well in advance (because dog-friendly rooms are limited) to have a great time with your four-legged friend. Imagine dining in a beautiful room with a vintage piano with your furry friend or sipping a glass of pinot on your rocking chair on the deck and watching the sun set on the Pacific with the waves crashing on the beach? Little River Inn, of the best pet friendly hotels in Mendocino is where you get to do all of this, get to eat some great food and decompress! Just be a responsible pet parent and follow all pet related hotel guidelines.
Dog Friendly Mendocino: What is the weather like?
Weather in pet friendly Mendocino county is one deceptive beast, because of beach vs. inland micro-climes. A very hot inland may cause the coast to remain foggy all day (such as what we experienced during our stay) or it may clear up and you might experience a very hot and humid day. So it is best to dress up in layers and wear sturdy footwear since you will be doing a lot of outdoor activities, specially with your dog. I highly recommend hiking shoes for exploration and a medium weight jacket for foggy, chilly evenings. The weather is cold, yet pleasant in winter with warm days in cold, windy nights.
Dog friendly Mendocino: Things to enjoy with your best friend
What makes Mendocino so dog friendly is that here our furry friends are made to feel very welcome and many attractions are accessible to them. I am listing some of the major ones that we embarked on during our last three trips, which are a must see/do kind in dog friendly Mendocino as well as in Fort Bragg in the north, a short 20-25 min drive from downtown Mendocino. These pet friendly activities in Mendocino are of different kinds and you can choose whatever it is that floats your boat.
Dog friendly train ride through the redwoods: All aboard the Skunk train!
The one big bummer in dog friendly Mendocino is that most of the redwood forests/preserves are off-limit to dogs for preservation and presence of wildlife. So one of the best options to experience them is to ride the Skunk train, from downtown Fort Bragg (12 miles north of Mendocino) which zips for 43 miles along the California Western Railroad right through the heart of the giant redwoods all the way to Willits and back. Best of all, this train allows dogs on board to enjoy the majestic views of the forest. There is an extra $10 charge for dogs and you need to make sure that your dog will be comfortable in a moving train. I highly recommend making reservations in advance since only 5 dogs are now allowed per ride (as of Dec 2018). Alternately, check the departure times (from 11AM-4PM with the last train departing at 4) and come early to book a later ride with your pet. We boarded the Skunk train twice on two separate visits and really enjoyed the view from the open decks adjacent to the compartments. The other place where dogs used to be permitted is the drive through tree grove (privately owned) in Leggett, the main attraction of which is, you guessed it-a huge redwood tree with a hole in its trunk so big that a compact car can easily pass through it. Leggett is north of Fort Bragg and there is a $5 vehicle fee to enter the grove. Sadly, the drive through tree was uprooted recently due to a fierce storm and is thus no longer standing. Read on for more Mendocino dog friendly activities.
Dog friendly beaches and state parks in Mendocino and Fort Bragg
Mendocino county, bless its generous heart, is full of beaches that your pooch can enjoy on or off leash. Glass beach at Fort Bragg is a fascinating place (one we visited on our last trip as well recently in Dec 2018) because the sand has shiny pieces of glassy marbles scattered everywhere, and is dog friendly (dogs must be on leash though). Even better is the Noyo beach, which pets can enjoy off-leash. Finally, there is a third leash free beach which dogs can enjoy romping on and that is the Seaside creek beach. We not only had a fantastic view of the beach from our Airbnb at Inglenook (the house comes with a hot tub as well) but could also access the beach via a private trail, about 7 houses down through a small iron gate. There are several beaches down south near Mendocino, such as the Russian Gulch State Park and beach, Mendocino Headlands State Park and beach and the Van Damme State Park and beach where on-leash dogs are allowed (this is closest beach to Little River Inn where we stayed during our second visit to Mendocino). Also, Mackerricher state park (dog friendly) in Fort Bragg is a great place for migratory grey whale watching along the shores and there are conducted tours on the weekends This again shows how dog friendly Mendocino is!
Canoeing on the Big river with your dog: a fun dog friendly activity in Mendocino
The one super fun activity from last time was our canoeing on the Big River in Mendocino, with Babu in the canoe, thanks to Catch-a-Canoe and Bicycles Too!, a company which offers pet friendly canoes to paddle the waters of the river. Again, your dog has to be calm enough or willing to sit in the outrigger canoe while you paddle. You do not need to be a seasoned kayaker to navigate the big river as long as you follow guided instructions. This is a super fun pet friendly activity to enjoy besides all the dog friendly beaches that I have mentioned before.
What to do with your dog in Mendocino: visiting Point Cabrillo lighthouse
Point Cabrillo lighthouse, nestled in one of California’s state parks, is one of the remaining five functional lighthouses in the state of the 200 that once were active. What makes it a must visit in dog friendly Mendocino is that it welcomes dogs in the lower level. The lens room, which hosts one a kind 3rd order Fresnel lens, is accessible to the public for only 8 days in a calendar year, and runs on automation. The lens throws out a sharp flare of light every 40 seconds in a certain direction, which was visible even in the midst of the dense fog when we visited. Like all lighthouses, this too is perched near the coastline, which is especially jagged due to the waves tearing away at the rocks. Looks scary, but makes for beautiful photos, specially with the field of wildflowers swaying away in the breeze juxtaposed against the choppy waves. The lighthouse runs completely on voluntary donations and so please loosen those purse strings towards the maintenance of this lovely piece of state heritage. There is an adjacent Aquarium & Marine Science Exhibit that is well worth a peak. You can also book an overnight stay in the rental units around the dog friendly lighthouse, including that of the lighthouse keepers and the assistant keeper’s former residence. The parking lot is next to the visitor center and then you walk half a mile to reach the lighthouse.
Wine tasting with your dog in Mendocino
For wine lovers with a pooch, dog friendly Mendocino county is the place to be! Wineries dotted along 128 west in Philo, Boonville and Yorkville in Anderson county or those in the upper Russian River Valley around Ukiah, Redwood Valley, Hopland and Potter Valley will welcome man and dog alike! The insanely popular Sonoma county to the south may walk away with all the tourists, but Anderson Valley will entice you with its best Pinot noir, guaranteed. Since the closest winery was a 40 min drive from the coast where we stayed, we decided to give wine tasting a pass on our second visit in 2016 ( I had to partake of my fill of libations with my meals). However, this time in 2018 I did find an excellent dog friendly winery, 12 miles north of Fort Bragg, which is perched right on a piece of land jutting out into the Pacific ocean and has excellent views. I am talking about the Pacific star winery where dogs are allowed in the picnic grounds up to the deck where the red wooden chairs are. Besides their wines such as Daddy’s Daily red or “It’s my Fault” (a tongue-in-cheek reference to their location which is right on the famous San Andreas fault), they are also famous for grey whale sighting (if you are lucky, that is) owing to their location. We simply bought a bottle of Daddy’s daily red ($20) and enjoyed it in the picnic area for some time till it got too cold to sit out. For those interested, here, here , here and here are some excellent resources for all dog-friendly wineries in Mendocino dog friendly county.
Mendocino botanical gardens: A dog friendly place with beautiful trails
Mendocino botanical gardens is dog friendly! Well behaved pooches on leash are allowed inside for free and once you get in, definitely explore one of the coastal trails, be it the south or the north. The north trail is steep and electric wheelchairs and strollers are not allowed. But the south trail, albeit more winding, is wider and more comfortable to hike on. The trail leads right onto the bluffs on the coast from where you get a fantastic view. The botanical garden boasts of roses, different varieties of native plants and a beautiful vegetable garden.
Dog friendly restaurants in Mendocino: Where to eat with your dog
Dog-owners, when traveling with their furry friends, almost always land in some kind of pickle owing to limited options for dining out due to lack of places with outdoor patio or in cases where the weather is not suitable for al fresco dining. Once again, dog friendly Mendocino surprises you in both sectors, with warm and inviting places where you can dine indoors with your dog (yes, you read that right) or has several pet friendly dining establishments in downtown Mendocino and Fort Bragg. We had dinner one night and breakfast the following morning at Little River Inn, in our own special dining room with Babu, which has to be booked in advance. Our second night’s dinner was at the world famous vegan restaurant The Ravens (named after the pair which made its nest on the inn property) where a separate dining room is reserved for patrons with dogs. We also had some yummy lunch in a heated patio in Mendocino cafe, downtown Mendocino and got delicious kulfi ice-cream from Frankie’s (a MUST try). On our third visit, besides the ritualistic dinner at Ravens, we explored several places in and around Fort Bragg of which I highly recommend Mara’s Coffee house and Sea Pal cove (famous for its fish and chips) that are both dog friendly (have outdoor seating).
This brings me to the end of this first post on a fun filled weekend in dog friendly Mendocino county. Mendocino is a sleepy little Californian town north of San Francisco, and is haven for Bernie lovers (our second visit was right before the state primaries in 2016 and saw the friendly senator from Vermont’s signs plastered everywhere), wine lovers, adventure lovers and dog lovers. Your furry friends will love the dog friendly beaches and other fun activities, guaranteed! You can read more about our adventures further south along the Redwood coast as we drove down home (San Francisco) along the scenic route via California 1.
Looking for more dog friendly destinations and getaways? Bend, Oregon (our neighboring state) is super pup friendly. Read this ultimate dog friendly guide to Bend for more pet friendly travel options!