The Mendocino Coast is rich in natural attractions, from beaches and redwood forests to vast networks of trails where you and your pup can hike to your hearts’ content. And then there are the manmade attractions, from the dog-friendly Skunk Train to specially rigged outrigger canoes at Catch A Canoe in which dogs can ride with their paddling people, to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.
Leash up your dog and bundle up (it can be breezy on the coast) to take in the sights at Mendocino Botanical Gardens, a coastal preserve best known for fragrant and rare species of rhododendrons. Dahlias, begonias, heath, heather, rare conifers and heritage roses are on show, too, and leashed dogs are welcome to admire them alongside you.
For something more active, head to Catch A Canoe & Bicycles, Too on the grounds of Stanford Inn by the Sea. All manner of paddle craft are for rent here, but for stability with your dog, choose an outrigger canoe or custom “canine cruiser” with a platform where dogs can sit as you paddle an 8.3-mile stretch of the calm, inky and brackish Big River estuary, ending up at the ocean.
If entertainment is more your thing, take a ride on the Skunk Train, so named because the self-propelled, gasoline powered “railbus” cars introduced in the 1920s stunk to high heaven. Today, your train will be pulled by a vintage steam engine or other locomotive on four-hour, 40-mile round trips through lush redwood forests out of the Willits depot. One-hour trips out of Fort Bragg give a brief but still rewarding taste of the environment. On both ends, look for seasonal specials like the Pumpkin Express and Magical Christmas Train.