Spunky little dog near Lake Mendocino. Photo: Swift Benjamin
Drive north on Highway 1 from Fort Bragg, and you’ll soon leave the coast and turn inland. 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 KOA Kampground just outside Willits, where amenities include a Frisbee Golf course where Fido can play, too.
South of Willits, Highway 101 skirts the Redwood Valley and Mendocino winegrowing regions. Many wineries dot the side of the road, especially between Ukiah and Hopland. Most are small and family owned, tasting is often gratis and pets are considered part of the family. You’ll seldom be turned away, at least so far as outdoor facilities go, for having a dog in your party. One favorite stop for DogTrekkers is Saracina Winery on Highway 101, where you can learn about organic grape farming and let Rover stretch his legs in the spacious picnic area.