Drive north on Highway 1 from Fort Bragg, and you’ll soon turn away from the coast and enter the county’s “Inland Empire.” It’s about an hour to Leggett, where the road merges with Highway 101 and the Redwood Coast begins. Leggett is home to one of the North State's most enduring roadside attractions, the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree, a centuries-old coast redwood that was transformed into a tourist stop in the 1930's, when a 6-foot-wide tunnel was bored through it. Visitors ever since have been driving their cars into the opening and snapping photos with kids and dogs waving hands and paws out the windows.
There's a gift shop (of course), but this relic of a bygone America is also graced with pond-side picnic grounds and 250 acres of redwood wilderness laced with dog-friendly trails. It's a great place to stretch your legs, let Rover stretch his and come back with a camera full of memories.
Turn south on Highway 101 in Leggett, and in less than an hour you’ll be in the misty mountain town of Willits, eastern terminus for the dog-friendly Skunk Train. It’s another half-hour to Ukiah and the Lake Mendocino Recreation Area, with its stellar boating opportunities and 15 miles of dog-friendly hiking trails.
A good place to hang your hat and rest Fido's paws in this neck of the redwoods is Baechtel Creek Inn and Spa in Willits. The proprietors will be happy to pack a snack, provide a map and point you toward a web of scenic, dog-friendly trails that follow old logging roads converted to hiking trails through the redwoods. If you're traveling by RV, a great place to settle in with your pet is the Willits KOA just outside Willits, where amenities include a Frisbee Golf course where Fido can play, too.
Continuing south, follow the Inland Mendocino Wine Trail through Hopland and Ukiah and into the Redwood and Potter valleys, where you’ll encounter many small tasting rooms that welcome pets as part of the family. If you’ve never driven this route before, prepare to be enchanted.
Photo Credit: Chandelier Tree, Redwood Coast (CC)