Not many botanical gardens come with a thundering ocean sound track in the background. The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg enjoys that distinction, along with a moody maritime climate that fosters its signature displays of rare rhododendrons native to the cloud forests of Southeast Asia and the Himalayas. Camellias, dahlias, heaths and heathers also thrive here, and a perennial garden is bright with color from spring to fall.
A combination of salty smells and botanical aromas will have your dog’s nose working overtime as you meander the garden’s manicured paths. You’ll find lots to admire, both from a panoramic perspective and in close-up mode. With an eye to the sky, you might also spot circling ospreys, hawks, oystercatchers and other sea birds. Bring binoculars to get a better look at migrating whales swimming northbound between January and April.
The McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding is overlooked by many visitors to the Shasta Cascade region. After all, the soaring (and dog-friendly) Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River is Redding’s star attraction. You and Champ won’t want to miss walking over the iconic structure, but neither should you miss the 20 acres of Mediterranean-climate display gardens on the far side.
The gardens are the newest addition to a 200-acre, trail-laced arboretum that also includes a children’s garden, a medicinal garden, a butterfly garden and pair of unusual water features. Your four-legged friend may not appreciate the colorful displays of perennials or unusual plants from Chile and Australia, but he’s welcome to accompany you on the 1.2-mile Arboretum Loop Trail that winds through the preserve’s oak savannah, riparian forest and wetlands. Spur trails lead to a hilltop with views and to the 19-mile Sacramento National Recreation Trail, crown jewel of Redding’s extensive trail system.
Picnic tables and restrooms are available at the arboretum entrance, and the deli at the Turtle Bay Museum across the bridge is a good place to pick up a bite to eat while you smell the roses.
The drive east on Interstate 80 from the San Francisco Bay Area to points beyond can hardly be described as scenic, but you don’t have to go far off the road to immerse yourself in an oasis of cool, leafy beauty.
The U.C. Davis Arboretum, just off the highway, is 100 acres of curated greenery along the banks of a waterway flowing through the university campus. It’s a serene place to walk, bike, jog, contemplateóand learn about plant communities in the bargain.
You’ll encounter lots of other dog-walkers as you stroll through a series of gorgeously landscaped gardens featuring labeled plants from various parts of the world. And taking a stroll is indeed an international venture. The arboretum’s collections span the globe, from Australia to South America, East Asia to the Mediterranean, Central America to California. The 18 themed planting areas also include spaces devoted to desert plants, conifers, acacias, oaks, redwoods and redbuds. There’s even a garden showcasing white flowers said to glow luminously under a full moon.