Weekend in Mendocino County

One of the best scenic road trip destinations in California

Harshita Kasera
Digital Global Traveler
7 min readDec 10, 2022


Illustration of viewpoints of Mendocino County ( Photo Credits: Created by author using Canva )

There is so much to do in this coastal town and nearby areas that it is a perfect destination for a weekend trip. ​​

We have been there in 2017 on a short weekend trip. If you are planning a trip to Mendocino, hope my two-day itinerary will help make your planning easier. Mendocino is a year-round destination, winter, in particular, is a great time as it is the whale watching season in northern California.

The city of Mendocino and Fort Bragg both are great places to stay in the area. We stayed in Fort Bragg as the views of the Pacific Ocean here are just breathtaking. We stayed in a cute little inn, Oceanside Inn & Suites, which offers easy access to the beach.

Google Maps: Oceanside Inn & Suites, Fort Bragg

Drive to Mendocino

The fastest way to get to Mendocino from the San Francisco Bay Area is via Highway 101. The alternate scenic route along the coast is via Highway One, also called the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the most beautiful coastal drives. It is a bit longer but if you do have the time and don’t mind driving a bit longer, highly recommend this route.

Coastal views on the drive to Mendocino (Photo Credits : Antriksh Saxena, Included with permission)

Along this drive there are so many spots worth checking out. We stopped at a couple of them before making our way to Fort Bragg.

Fort Ross | Google Maps | Park Website

Fort Ross (short for Russia) showcases the first Russian colony created in California. It has been designated National Historic Landmark status. It is a part of Fort Ross State Historic Park.

Chapel at Fort Ross (Photo Credits : Antriksh Saxena, Included with permission)

The park also has a visitor center which is an excellent place to start a tour of Fort Ross. You can see various structures on the tour — (1) Stockade Walls surrounding the fort, (2, 3) Watchtowers, (4) Barracks, (5) Rotchev House, (6) Russian Orchard, (7) Warehouse, (8) Well, (9) Kuskov House, (10) Chapel, (11) The Russian Cemetery and (12) Sandy Cove.

Map of Fort Ross viewpoints ( Photo Credits : Fort Ross State Historic Park )

Set in the amazing backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, with coastal fog of Northern California around it, this is a perfect stop to take some photos and learn about the rich natural and cultural history of the area.

Point Arena Lighthouse | Google Maps | Website

This is one of the most beautiful lighthouses and gorgeous stops on the way to Mendocino. It is also one of the best whale-watching spots on the North Coast of California.

Point Arena Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse (tied with Pigeon Point lighthouse) on the West Coast of the United States.

Day 1: Exploring Mendocino

We drove south from Fort Bragg to Mendocino and explored the areas around.

Mendocino Headlands State Park | Google Maps

Mendocino Headlands Trail is a 4.2-mile out-and-back trail along the dramatic coastal cliffs in Mendocino. It is mostly flat and really beautiful.

Mendocino Headlands Trail (Photo Credits : Antriksh Saxena, Included with permission)

Mendocino Bay Viewpoint is a great viewpoint to enjoy the views of the ocean.

After exploring this park, we strolled through the city of Mendocino. We stopped by Mendocino Market to grab some sandwiches before heading out.

Russian Gulch Bridge Viewpoint | Google Maps

This viewpoint offers spectacular views to the gorgeous Russian Gulch Bridge. If you have been to the famous Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, this bridge will remind you of it.

The bridge is a part of Russian Gulch State Park and connects the cities of Mendocino and Fort Bragg. This viewpoint is a great stop to admire the beauty of the bridge which otherwise is easy to miss.

If you have additional time, check out some of the trails in the Russian Gulch State Park here.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse | Google Maps

This beautiful lighthouse overlooking the Pacific Ocean is a part of the Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park. It is a must-visit on the trip to Mendocino county.

The light station is a great spot for whale watching in the migration season and they also host an annual Whale Festival in March.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse (Photo Credits : Antriksh Saxena, Included with permission)

Point Cabrillo Light Station Coastal Trail is an easy 2.0-mile loop trail that we did here. It was a fun hike to enjoy the coastal views.

Point Cabrillo Light Station Coastal Trail (Photo Credits: Antriksh Saxena, included with permission)

We also spotted so many birds on the trail. Antriksh Saxena captured some amazing shots of these birds.

White-crowned sparrow in Point Cabrillo Light Station Coastal Trail (Photo Credits: Antriksh Saxena, included with permission)

We spent quite a lot of time here before we headed back to Fort Bragg. We had dinner at a really good Thai restaurant GG’s Thai Cafe which is unfortunately permanently closed now 🙁

Day 2: Explore Fort Bragg

We decided to explore Fort Bragg, drive up north till Leggett and then return back to the Bay area.

MacKerricher State Park | Google Maps

The park stretches about nine miles along the coast. This is a great spot for watching harbor seals. During the whale migration season in winter, this is also an excellent spot for whale watching.

MacKerricher State Park (Photo Credits: Antriksh Saxena, included with permission)

One of the really famous spots of this park is Glass Beach. This beach is famous for spotting colorful pieces of glass on the shore. Though we couldn’t spot any glass pieces on this beach (maybe we didn’t know where to look for them), the beach was very pretty. I would definitely recommend taking a stroll here to enjoy the coastal views. We spent a few hours here just watching the ocean before driving up north.

This drive to Legett is really gorgeous. We stopped by several places to check out the views. Some notable viewpoints along the way are Roadside Overlook, Devonte Lookout and Westport Beach Vista Point.

Scenic Spots on the way to Legett (Photo Credits: Antriksh Saxena, included with permission)
Scenic Spots on the way to Legett (Photo Credits: Antriksh Saxena, included with permission)

We also saw Elks on the way up here.

Elk on the way to Legett (Photo Credits: Antriksh Saxena, included with permission)

Confusion Hill | Google Maps

This was a roadside attraction which we wanted to check out just for fun. It features a Gravity House which is a structure that gives an illusion that gravity is confusing here. Antriksh Saxena was standing upright but as you can see the photo makes it appear that he was clearly tilted 😲

Gravity House in Confusion Hill (Photo Credits: Shot by author on Pixel)

Drive-Thru Tree Park | Google Maps

We also stopped by the Drive Thru Tree Park. We didn’t drive our car through it though but it was a fun little stop to check out.

Drive-Thru Tree Park (Photo Credits: Shot by a stranger in the park)

This was the last stop on our short little trip to Mendocino.

Trip Photos

My husband Antriksh Saxena captures amazing photos from his DSLR. Check out some of his photos of our trip at https://antrromet.com/mendocino


Mendocino county has so much to offer. There are so many places that we haven’t checked out in the area. Van Damme State Park, Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, Skunk Train, Cowlick’s Ice Cream and Pacific Star Winery are just some of these.

Are you planning to visit Mendocino and have a question? Ask me in the comments! I would love to hear from you!

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