Open air dog-friendly activities perfect for social distancing

By: DogTrekker Staff
Dog and sculpture

By now, we all know the drill: wash your hands, cover your face in public, maintain six feet of “social distancing” between yourself and anyone else who is not a member of your household “bubble.” So where does your dog fit in? Right by your side, as always! In Mendocino County, you’ll have access to many activities that let you have fun while still adhering to the guidelines. Here are a few suggestions.

Choo-choo away: One of the most entertaining ways to experience Mendocino County’s majestic redwoods is aboard the historic (and dog-friendly) Skunk Train, so named because the self-propelled, gasoline-powered “railbus” cars introduced in the 1920s stunk to high heaven.

Today, Pudding Creek Express trains depart Fort Bragg on hour-long, 7-mile round trips on tracks laid down a century ago by the California Western Railroad. On the other end of the line, scenic journeys departing Willits travel over the highest point of the line on two-hour round trips with a stop in the middle. Up to five dogs are allowed on each train for a $10.95 charge. Face coverings are mandatory for people (but not for dogs), and social distancing is provided for.

Just beach it: You’ll find a comprehensive list of dog-friendly beaches in Mendocino County. And you’ll be pleased to know that you won’t find crowded conditions on any of them. While legally leash-free options are limited to Noyo Beach and Seaside Beach, both in Fort Bragg, a dozen more welcome pets, so long as they’re kept on a string. The shooshing sound of the sea will calm both of you as you walk along the shore and get some sand between your toes. At Glass Beach, part of MacKerricher State Park (one of the only state preserves in this part of the state that allows dog on designated trails), you’ll spy all manner of glass shards, rolled smooth in the sand. Don’t pick them up; that’s illegal. But look in local shops for jewelry made from these colorful gems.

Smell the roses (and other aromatic yhings): A top attraction for DogTrekkers in Mendo County is Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, a dog-friendly beauty spot on the edge of the sea. It comes with a thundering ocean sound track and a moody maritime climate that fosters signature displays of rare rhododendrons, camelias, dahlias, heaths, heathers and a perinneal garden that stays bright with color from spring to fall. Wander the manicured pathways with your pup, stop and stare over the ocean in winter and you’re likely to spot migrating gray whales swimming northbound.


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