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Exploring Mendocino, CA: A Weekend Travel Guide

Russian Gulch State Park

Mendocino, CA is a great weekend getaway spot located about 3.5 hours north of San Francisco, CA along the rugged northern California coast.

Mendocino County was created in 1850 as one of California's original counties and the town of Mendocino was founded two years later around a mill built within the dense coastal redwood forests. Mendocino was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 in recognition of the many 19th century buildings built from local redwoods. The picturesque town offers lots of places for shopping, eating and exploration.

There are about 6 state parks within 20 minutes making Mendocino, CA the perfect getaway for nature lovers and adventurers. Check out my top recommendations on places to visit and my favorite place to stay in Mendocino.


Where to Stay: Mendocino Grove


I’d recommend staying at Mendocino Grove, which offers a unique glamping experience in elevated canvas tents located off Highway 1, no more than a 20-minute drive from all the places on this list. This dog and cat-friendly campsite is open from May-November and prices start at $200 per night. ANNA30 saves you 30% during '24 season!

Use my discount code (ANNA30) and save 30% on your midweek booking from June to November (2 night minimum).

Here are some other highlights:

  • Dog and cat friendly ($35 per night fee)

  • Complimentary campfire service that will build and start your fire for you.

  • Complementary daily yoga, and walking tours.

  • Sauna and massage services (for an additional fee)


Mendocino Arch

Mendocino Headlands State Park – This park is an easy 5-minute drive from downtown Mendocino. The .9-mile Mendocino Cliff Trail offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the cliff arches. The longer 5-mile Mendocino Headlands Trail follows the coastline of the entire park if you have more time. This park is one of the few dog-friendly state parks. The park is also a great place for whale spotting during migration season.


Russian Gulch State Park  This state park is 10-minute drive north of Mendocino. Highlights include the Devil's Punchbowl, a collapsed sea cave that forms a natural bridge over the ocean and the 4-mile Russian Gulch Waterfall Loop Trail with its 36-foot waterfall. The Russian Gulch Bridge is also a great place for photos.


Point Cabrillo Light Station – The lighthouse is open daily from 11:00am – 4:00pm for self-guided tours. There is also a museum in one of the three preserved lightkeeper houses. The lighthouse and grounds and dog-friendly and it is free to visit.


Van Damme State Beach - For an unforgettable adventure, try kayaking at Van Damme State Beach, which is located about 5 minutes south of Mendocino. Kayak Mendocino offers daily tours of the sea caves with luck you can get up close to the harbor seals that populate the cove. Tours are approximately 2 hours and cost $80 per person.


Glass Beach - Located in Fort Bragg about 15 minutes north of Mendocino, this dog-friendly beach is special due to the tiny pieces of multi-colored sea glass. This is worth a visit, although I was disappointed at how little sea glass remains after much of it has been taken as souvenirs. 

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