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.
One of the biggest surprises in Fort Bragg is the 47-acre Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, where manicured paths can be meandered with your leashed dog as a thundering ocean sound track plays in the background. Keep an eye to the sky: you’ll likely spot circling ospreys, hawks, oystercatchers and other seabirds. Migrating whales sometimes can be spotted from here, too. Fort Bragg is also the western terminus for the historic, steam-powered (and dog-friendly) Skunk Train, which crisscrosses over the Noyo River, cuts over coastal mountains and meanders through redwood forests on a 23-mile run.
The Beachcomber Motel and Surf & Sand Lodge are among Fort Bragg lodging establishments that welcome pets. When it comes time to grab a bite, you and Fido both will be welcomed at Nemo’s Market & Grill, Heron’s By the Sea, Laurel Deli and Silver’s at the Wharf.