If you haven’t been to Mendocino County in a while, consider following coastal Highway 1 through a scenic wonderland touched by many trails where you and your dog can sniff out your own discoveries.
Start in Gualala, on the Sonoma/Mendocino county line, where the Gualala Bluff Trail offers three miles of elevated views and excellent wildlife watching (look for passing whales, sea otters hauled out on the beach and lots of shorebirds). Sunsets seen from the trail often are outstanding, too.
Moving north to Point Arena, be sure to visit the newly designated Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument, encompassing 1,665 acres of pristine coastal environment administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Leashed dogs are welcome on trails here, and there’s much for the senses to take in.
Photo buffs will want to take aim at Point Arena Lighthouse, dating to 1879 and at 115 feet high one of the tallest structures of its kind on the West Coast. Leashed dogs are welcome on the grounds, but Bella will have to stay behind while her people climb the stairs spiraling up inside the tower.
Continuing up the coast, picturesque Mendocino village, with its wealth of lacy Victorians and colorful saltbox cottages, has more places than you can shake a stick at to enjoy with your four-legged friend. Once you’ve explored downtown, venture just outside the city limits to Mendocino Headlands State Park for a hike on a gorgeous, bluff-top trail to moody Big River State Beach.
When it comes time to put paws to pillow, the Mendocino Hotel and Garden Suites, right in the center of the village, is a great dog-friendly choice. Or, try the Blackberry Inn on an ocean-view bluff above town. It features a Western town motif, with rooms carrying names such as Bank, Saloon, Livery Stable and Belle’s Place.
For longer stays, a vacation rental can provide a kitchen and space for both man and beast to chill out. Coast Getaways Vacation Rentals represents two dozen homes along 40 miles of Mendocino coastline, with choices ranging from intimate retreats for couples to sprawling properties that can accommodate families or groups of friends.
In nearby Little River, the charming Little River Inn welcomes dogs and their people, offering bed, breakfast and majestic views of the sea. The outside dining area is fur-friendly, and there’s a private path to the beach. Dog-friendly Van Damme State Beach is nearby.
With a whopping 7,500 full-time residents, Fort Bragg is the “big city” on the Mendocino coast. It’s also a very dog-friendly place, thanks largely to the tireless advocacy efforts of the Mendocino Coast Dog Owners Group (McDog).
Top attractions for canine visitors include leash-free Noyo Harbor and Seaside beaches—the former a small strand at a working harbor, the latter a newly leash-free strip of sand backed by tall cliffs.
Hiking opportunities start right in town at Pudding Creek Trestle, a 515-foot-long railroad bridge converted to pedestrian use that connects to the Ten Mile Beach Trail (known south of the bridge as the MacKerricher Haul Road). This scenic path follows 3.5 miles of coastal bluffs to MacKerricher State Park, fabulous for wildlife watching and one of few state preserves that allows dogs on (most) dirt trails.
When it comes to lodging, you might be overwhelmed by the number of dog-friendly choices. Like we said, Fort Bragg is a very dog-friendly place.