Mendocino County is a truly beautiful place. Even if you’re short on time, you’ll still be able to soak up a whole lot of the natural beauty of Northern California. I felt completely refreshed after a single day of exploring, but I also enjoyed the extra days I spent at the Little River Inn for a media trip and am looking forward to returning to the area.
Of course, you can take your time, but the following five places can be enjoyed all in one day.
- Van Damme State Park, Pygmy Forest
The Pygmy Forest is a unique spot due to the geological history of the area. The soil is very poor, so the trees growth has been stunted. They are comparable in size to ‘regular’ trees, but a much smaller than the redwoods nearby. The ground is swampy, so there are wooden paths and informational signs that explain the history and current state of the forest. If you are up for a hike (2+ miles), you can enter through the main entrance of the State Park on Highway 1. If you’d just like to walk around the Pygmy Forest, there is a nice free parking lot on Little Airport Road right next to the beginning of the wooden walkway.
2. Van Damme State Park Beach
This beautiful beach is where Little River meets the Pacific Ocean. It’s a great place to walk or sit and watch the view. There is plenty of free parking. There were a variety of birds on the beach. If you’re lucky, you may see a whale or dolphins pass by.
3. Big River Estuary
This beautiful spot wasn’t part of our plan for the day. As soon as we saw it from Highway 1, we knew we needed to stop. There are big sandy beaches along the shore of Big River going all the way to the ocean. There is ample parking for those who want to stay near the river and for those who want to walk toward the ocean. It’s peaceful and the views are amazing in every direction.
4. Mendocino Headlands State Park
Instead of allowing development right up to the coast in the town of Mendocino, the outer areas close to the ocean have been set aside as a State Park for all to enjoy. The shops, restaurants, inns and houses are set back from the edge. There are walking trails and areas to sit in the park or you can stick to the city where you’ll still have clear views of the ocean and rugged coastline.
5. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg
While the idea of sparkling sea glass on a beach sounds beautiful, I had mixed feelings about visiting glass beach. This was a man made disaster that just happened to produce something beautiful. For years, garbage from the town was dumped. The glass part of the trash was worn by the ocean where it lands on the beach. I don’t know where the other trash ended up, but I’m sure it isn’t a good thing. The beach is beautiful and the glass sparkles in the sunlight. I hope that we can learn that it’s really not okay to dump trash in our rivers and ocean.
We finished our day with another stop at Van Damme Beach just in time for a gorgeous sunset. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Mendocino and would love to go back again soon!
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