A Dog Friendly Guide to Mendocino: Best Dog Friendly Activities in California’s Redwoods

Home » A Dog Friendly Guide to Mendocino: Best Dog Friendly Activities in California’s Redwoods

Are you looking to visit Mendocino with your pup and wondering about the best dog friendly activities to enjoy during your visit? As someone who has been there and done that, here is my tell all dog friendly Mendocino guide where I cover everything that you can enjoy with your dog in this beautiful coastal town on Pacific coast highway. With plenty of dog friendly beaches, parks, restaurants and other attractions welcoming canines, this dog friendly guide to Mendocino tells you where to stay, eat and enjoy with your dog in California’s gateway to the Redwoods!


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Thanks to being parents to our Tibetan Spaniel mix Babu, 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!


This coastal town on the famous Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1, the same that takes you to Big Sur 286 miles south) is not only the gateway to California’s majestic coastal Redwoods, but is also a haven for dogs, much like Carmel by the Sea on California’s central coast.


From dreamy coastal views, sandy beaches, popular dog friendly hotels, delicious food and even a fun train ride through the Redwoods, Mendocino will welcome your dog heartily! Having visited Mendocino, adjoining Fort Bragg and Little River many times over the last 10 years with our two pups Babu and now Gunda, I cannot recommend this town enough. 


Fort Bragg is about 10 miles north of Mendocino. I highly recommend going on a day trip to Fort Bragg for the Skunk Train ride, visiting Glass Beach and enjoying a sunset from Pomo Bluffs Park or Noyo Headlands (read my Fort Bragg guide here for all the deets).

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dog friendly mendocino, what to do with your dog in mendocino, dog friendly guide to mendocino

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Mendocino is about 3.5-4 hrs north of San Francisco (distance of 170 miles), depending on your route (scenic coastal route along Highway 1 or inland via 101N and 128) This town is also one of the best winter getaways in California if you are looking to venture out of San Francisco during your visit in December or January and makes for a great weekend trip from San Francisco.


However, you will need a car to drive there. I recommend renting a car from San Francisco to drive up to Mendocino. If you have ample time in your hand, do take the scenic coastal route along Highway 1. It is one of the best dog friendly road trips in California, dotted with small towns and attractions and you can read all about them in my San Francisco to Mendocino road trip post.


The closest airport to Mendocino is the Charles M. Schulz Airport in Sonoma county with limited flight options that might be expensive. If you must fly in, choose San Francisco International Airport (SFO) or Oakland International Airport to get into Bay Area and then drive north to Mendocino by renting a car at the airport.


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 several times) or it may clear up and you might experience a very hot and humid day.


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.


Mendocino is one of the handful, quiet dog friendly places to escape the July 4 fireworks (since the show is about 10 miles away in Fort Bragg). Our first fur baby Babu used to be terrified of fireworks and Mendocino was our very last 4th of July retreat with him in 2019 before he passed away.


Read my other Mendocino county posts here:



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Babu at Glass beach

a dog friendly guide to Mendocino, what to do with your dog in Mendocino, dog friendly activities in Mendocino

Mendocino Headlands State Park

foggy Mendocino, weather in mendocino, mendocino coast

foggy Mendocino coast



Dog Friendly hotels and accommodations 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. Although there are plenty of dog friendly hotels in Mendocino, I recommend the following based on my experience spanning multiple visits.


Stanford Inn by the Sea : This dog friendly hotel is located at the mouth of Comptche-Ukiah road and has been rated the best due to its impeccable hospitality and its world famous dining option Ravens, which  has a dining hall that welcomes dogs.

dog friendly Mendocino, Little River Inn

Little River Inn


Little River Inn: This hotel, a few miles down the road, is perched close to the ocean with a fantastic view of the coastline, that is simply unmatchable. Little River Inn is a series of Victorian houses overlooking the coast and sprawled over acres of land encompassing a beautiful garden.


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 sunset on the Pacific with the waves crashing on the beach. Now make that vision come true by booking a dog friendly room at Little River Inn!


This inn 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.


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dog friendly hotels in Mendocino, Little River Inn

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Little River Inn

Airbnb: We’ve booked Airbnb twice during our last two visits to Mendocino. One was up in Fort Bragg at this beautiful dog friendly cottage which has 2 bedrooms (3 beds) and two baths and can accommodate up to 6 guests and 4 dogs (with an additional fee)! Plus there is a beautiful outdoor patio and hot tub and it is a short walk to a beach accessed through a private gate. The views of the ocean are spectacular from here and we loved our stay here because it was so relaxing!


The second time around we stayed right in downtown Mendocino on Main street at Didjeridoo Dreamtime Inn which only charges an extra $10 in cash for cleaning! Our room was on the smaller side but this slight inconvenience was made up for by the excellent home cooked breakfast (included in the stay) and the hospitality of our hosts Charles and his wife.  Click here to see all the other pet friendly Airbnb options in Mendocino!

Didgeridoo Inn in Mendocino is a dog friendly hotel

Didjeridoo Dreamtime Inn


Holiday Inn Express (Fort Bragg): On our most recent trip to Fort Bragg (only 10 miles north of Mendocino along Highway 1) we stayed at Holiday Inn Express which was perfect for our needs. They charge $20/night per dog, have spacious rooms with free wifi, continental breakfast and parking. The location is right off Highway 1 as you enter Fort Bragg and is about a 5 min drive from downtown. Another place I recommend staying when visiting Mendocino county.


I highly recommend these places 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.  Just be a responsible pet parent and follow all pet related guidelines.




There is a lot to do with your pup in dog friendly Mendocino as well as in nearby Fort Bragg, Albione and Little River, with pet friendly activities ranging from a day at the beach to riding the world famous “Skunk” train to visiting a rare, dog friendly lighthouse in California.


In Mendocino, 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 four trips, which are a must see/do kind in dog friendly Mendocino as well as in Fort Bragg in the north, a short 15-20 min drive from downtown Mendocino.

a dog friendly guide to Mendocino, hiking in Mendocino headlands state park



a) 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. However, if you’re looking for some amazing dog friendly Redwoods to visit with your pup, I have a whole list for you right here.


One of the best options to experience the Redwoods here with dogs 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. We’ve boarded the Skunk train twice on two separate visits and really enjoyed the view from the open decks adjacent to the compartments.


Best of all, this train allows dogs on board to enjoy the majestic views of the forest. There is an extra $10.95 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 June 2022). 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.


 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.


dog friendly Skunk train ride in Fort Bragg, Dog friendly things to do in Mendocino, pet friendly places in Fort Bragg and Mendocino

dog friendly Skunk train ride in Fort Bragg, Dog friendly things to do in Mendocino, pet friendly places in Fort Bragg and Mendocino



b) Dog friendly beaches and state parks in Mendocino and Fort Bragg

Mendocino county, bless its generous heart, is home to some of the best dog friendly beaches in California! Visiting Glass beach at Fort Bragg is one of the best things to do in Northern California 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, Big River Beach (also an estuary and part of Mendocino Headlands State Park), 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).


Laguna Point Beach at Mackerricher state park in Fort Bragg is a dog friendly beach. Get on the boardwalk to the left of the parking lot to get to Laguna Point Tidepools and observation area, which is a great place for migratory grey whale watching along the shores.


During our fourth stay in Mendocino, we hiked through Mendocino Headlands State park (which is right next to downtown) to take in the breathtaking views of the coast. Another dog friendly trail that starts from the very end of Main street is the one leading to Portuguese beach and Port Mendocino cave. The beach itself is accessible via very steep steps going downwards from the trail but even if you are not inclined to make that steep hike downwards, the benches on the bluffs provide panoramic views of the coastline!

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Van Damme state park and beach, Little River


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Glass Beach, Fort Bragg


dog friendly beaches in Mendocino

Seaside creek beach, Fort Bragg


Big River Beach in Mendocino is a dog friendly beach

Big River Estuary (beach), Mendocino


Laguna Point Beach, MacKerricher State Park, Fort Bragg


Mendocino headland state park

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Mendocino Headlands State Park

Portuguese beach Mendocino

Hiking trail overlooking Portuguese beach


c) Canoeing on the Big river with your dog 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.

dog friendly guide to Mendocino



d) 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 attraction in  dog friendly Mendocino is that it is a rare lighthouse that 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.

Point Cabrillo lighthouse is a dog friendly lighthouse in Mendocinodog friendly Mendocino, dog friendly lighthouse, Point Cabrillo



e) Dog friendly hiking in Mendocino and Fort Bragg

Mendocino and Fort Bragg have many dog friendly hiking trails that lead to breathtaking views of the ocean. All these trails allow dogs on leashes; please pick up after your dog as a responsible dog parent!


For Mendocino, I recommend the Mendocino Headlands (a must visit), the Point Mendocino Trail hugging the coast and the Big River Beach overlook east of the trail which you can access from walking across the Mendocino Presbyterian Church. 

dog friendly hiking in Mendocino

 Mendocino dog friendly hiking 


Fort Bragg also has some stunning coastal hikes to enjoy with your leashed dog. On our recent trip to Fort Bragg (Jan 2022) with our newly adopted pup Gunda, we explored the Noyo Headlands which is home to the California Coastal Trail (that leads to Glass Beach and beyond to MacKerricher State Park) and the Pomo Bluff Park. Both of them have the best views of the North Coast from the bluffs. 

Pomo Bluffs Park in Fort Bragg has dog friendly hiking trail

Pomo Bluffs Park

Noyo Headland park and California Coastal Trail

Sunset from Noyo Headlands 


MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg has several dog friendly trails to enjoy. The easiest is the boardwalk leading from the parking lot of Laguna Point Beach to Laguna Point and beyond for whale watching.

MacKerricher State Park dog friendly hike in Mendocino and Fort Bragg


f) Dog friendly wineries in Mendocino county

For wine lovers with a pooch, dog friendly Mendocino county is the place to be, with Anderson Valley being one of the prized California wine appellations producing world class Pinot Noir!


Wineries dotted along 128 west in Philo, Boonville and Yorkville in Anderson valley 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.


Some of the wineries that we visited along 128 west are Navarro Vineyards, Lula Cellars and Goldeneye winery for some dog friendly wine tasting. Both wineries specialize in Pinot Noirs, with Lula having one of it’s wines named “Rescue block” after their rescue dog Honey who lived till 16!  Dogs at Lula are welcome in the tasting room and the tasting costs only $10!


Navarro Vineyards (known for their Pinot Noir AND Grape Juice) is one of the most famous Farmsteads in Northern California where BabyDoll Sheep are used to keep the vineyards clean during winter. Despite this, they allow dogs (well behaved and always on leash) on their patio and inside the tasting room as well! Navarro Vineyards is home to the rare Gewurztraminer varietal from Germany which you must try during your tasting! Tasting fee is waived with bottle purchase (of either the juice or wine).


At Goldeneye, the tasting rooms do not allow dogs but there is a huge garden and patio outside which is dog friendly. Goldeneye offers seated tasting where an assortment of Pinots are brought to your seat along with a few nibbles. It is indeed a very relaxing experience to just sit in a shaded spot, drink in the wine and stare out at the beautiful vineyards surrounding the tasting room.


Although the towns of Mendocino and Fort Bragg are not known for wineries, I did find an excellent dog friendly one, 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 and here are some excellent resources for all dog-friendly wineries in Mendocino county.  For wine aficionado dog parents, check out our dog friendly wine tasting adventures in Sonoma, Napa and Lodi.

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dog friendly wineries in Anderson Valley



f) 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, for mind-blowing views.


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.

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Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens





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) and several dog friendly restaurants 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 Sea Pal cove and Noyo Fish Company (famous for its fish and chips) that are both dog friendly (have outdoor seating). Cucina Verona is a very popular restaurant in Fort Bragg where dogs are welcome on the heated patio for dinner (advanced reservations are recommended).

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dog friendly dining room in Little River Inn


The other places that we dined during our fourth visit were all dog friendly restaurants as well. These are the beautiful Trillium Cafe with outdoor seating, Garden bakery which sells baked goods as well as savory dishes such as tamales and burritos and Goodlife Cafe and bakery which not only has a huge dog friendly patio but serves some really lip smacking baked good and food!

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Sea Pal Cove


Dog friendly Fort Bragg restaurants: Noyo Fish Company (left), Cucina Verona (Right) and Mendocino Cookie Co. (center, they have a takeout window)


Mendocino cafe, a dog friendly restaurant in Mendocino

Mendocino café

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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 (we’ve now encountered the cutout of the beloved Vermont senator twice during our four trips), wine lovers, adventure lovers and dog lovers.

 dog friendly Mendocino, pet friendly activities in Mendocino, things to do in Mendocino with your dog


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!

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14 thoughts on “A Dog Friendly Guide to Mendocino: Best Dog Friendly Activities in California’s Redwoods”

  1. What a lovely desitination Mendocino. Yet another gem in northern California I didn’t know about. I pinned your post too. I hope this area is okay as I’ve been watching the news lately about the wildfires in Sonoma County/Napa Valley destroying 20000+ acres. I’d love to try canoe or visit the Redwoods (bucket list item). The food looks divine. Yum.

  2. Your travel guides are always packed with great information, and I love your photos. If you ever make it to the eastern half of the U.S., I’d love to read a guide to pet friendly weekend getaways on the Atlantic side. You’ve answered so many questions about traveling with dogs. I hope someday that pets are as welcome everywhere as they are in Mendocino!

  3. The mist, the landscapes, the food…you photos tell the story! I feel immersed in the experience. Thanks so much for sharing such a pet-friendly adventure.

  4. Looks like a wonderful place to visit. Those flowers are beautiful, wish we could have those year round on the northern east coast! The ocean in one of the first pics looks ferocious! I’m sure pet parents who want to travel to northern CA will get alot of useful info from your guide!

  5. What a wonderful look at Mendocino! I’ve never been there, even though I reside in this beautiful state of California. The next time I’m up that way, I will have to be sure and visit Mendocino. Your photography is gorgeous and those food shots are making me hungry!

  6. Your posts are always so informative! I need to bookmark this one for a California trip with the dog. I would love to visit wineries with her in between hiking locations. Thank you for the great reviews!

  7. That train trip sounds like fun! I’d like to visit the Redwoods. Trains are one mode of transportation that Mr. N has not been on yet. It’s cool that the restaurant has a separate lobby for dogs. Finding a place to eat with the dogs is always the hardest part of a trip.

  8. It looks like a lovely place to visit, with or without dogs! Your photos are gorgeous. I am curious to know how Skunk Train got its name.

  9. I still want to visit the Redwoods. We are lucky in SC because within 2 to 3 hours, we can be in the mountains, or at the beach, or in Atlanta, or in Charlotte. We rarely have really cold weather. We do have some really hot weather though.

  10. I love all the lighthouses and cute little b&bs and inns that you find. Little River Inn looks so adorable! Sorry you got a lot of fog on your trip, but it does add a bit of mystery and awe to coastal landscapes!

  11. I love being an armchair traveler with your wonderful guides, photos, and recommendations! I love these pics…and the fog ones are pretty neat! Skunk Train – how cool is that?! It’s great dogs are allowed, makes for such a fun and memorable trip. Curious, why is it named Skunk Train? I love lighthouses (grew up spending summers on Long Island, NY and now live along the Hudson River, where I’ve shot many pics of ours lighthouses). Again, the fog adds such a mysterious aura! Thanks for another great travel post!


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