Northern California: Pet Friendly Mendocino

dog standing on rocking chair during sunset

A Pet Friendly Weekend on the California Coast

For our second trip to Mendocino, we were lucky enough to be invited to stay at the Little River Inn with the dogs. Mendocino County combines coastline, with redwood forests, and wine country for a perfect weekend getaway. Now that we’ve been able to fully explore the area, we put together a guide to our favorite pet friendly activities throughout Mendocino County.

dog wearing sunflower bandana sitting on porch

 

two retriever dogs with sunflower bandanas

Getting to Mendocino from San Francisco

Mendocino is the perfect weekend trip for anyone in Northern California. It is also a great stop for anyone driving up or down the coast to the Pacific Northwest. The town of Mendocino is located on the coast but the county has everything from wine tasting, hiking trails, to water sports.

If you are coming from San Francisco, be sure to leave before the start of Friday afternoon traffic. Without traffic, you can get to Mendocino from San Francisco in about 3.5 hours. If you leave early enough you will get to fully enjoy sunset over the coast when you arrive – We made the mistake of leaving during traffic on our first visit and missed the beautiful sunset drive. For our second trip, we did not make the same mistake and the trip was much more enjoyable.

little river inn mendocino ocean view

 

little river in mendocino ocean view room

Accommodations in Mendocino with your Pet

To get the most of your Mendocino experience, we recommend staying on the coast. The Little River Inn has a variety of pet friendly ocean front rooms to choose from – Being able to wake up to the sound of the ocean and drink morning coffee on the balcony allowed us to get the full Mendocino experience.

Besides the ocean view, our room had a fireplace, balcony, jacuzzi tub, king bed, and plenty of room for the dogs to zoom around. Explore all the available rooms here to find your perfect match.

Not only are the ocean views breathtaking from the rooms, but the food at the Inn was top notch from 5 star chef Marc Dym. We were able to enjoy breakfast from our ocean front balcony – hotcakes, eggs benny, and fresh OJ (it was amazing). For dinner, The oysters and fried calamari were spectacular. As an added bonus, there is a pet friendly dining area for breakfast and dinner with advance reservation. We will definitely be bringing out parents here next time we visit Mendocino.

dog with plaid bandana

 

two dogs wearing bandanas

 

dog wearing sunflower bandana at sunset

 

two retrievers wearing sunflower bandanas at sunset

 

two dogs wearing bandanas at sunset

 

 

 

When to Visit Mendocino with your Dog

Because Mendocino weather does not vary much throughout the year, it is always a good time to visit Mendocino with your dog. Dress in layers as the ocean pulls in a cool breeze throughout the day and the temperatures drop at night. You’ll dress lightly during the day, but will be bundled up in sweaters at night.

Map of Pet Friendly activities in Mendocino, California

Take your dog canoeing down Big River

Canoeing down Big River is a MUST when visiting Mendocino with your dog. Catch a Canoe & Bicycles Too offers Canoes, Kayaks, SUPs, and bicycle rentals. If you are interested in biking, the 10 mile Big River bike trail begins at the facility. The most unique part about renting a canoe with Catch a Canoe is the “Canine Cruiser” which is designed specially for stability. These are the only human powered boats in the world that are specifically made for pets! Even with Calvin running around on it, we stayed dry and stable.

Calvin was so excited to get into the canoe that it took our full strength to keep him from jumping over the dock and into the water. Be sure to allow your dog to take breaks from swimming – On the other hand, Samson was happy to relax and enjoy the breeze.

As you canoe down the calm Big River Estuary, it is not uncommon to see harbor seals bathing on the shores and river otters playing in the water. We saw at least 10 harbor seals bobbing in the water. Don’t miss out on this unique experience in Mendocino.

canoe on river

 

 

dog in canoe looking up at camera

 

golden retriever sitting on canoe

 

dog looking out of canoe

 

yellow labrador wearing a red life vest perching off of a canoe on a river

Ride the Pet Friendly Skunk Train through the Redwoods of Fort Bragg

The Skunk Train is a best way to experience the Mendocino redwoods without having to break sweat on a hike. The pet friendly train leaves from Fort Bragg and travels for a 7 mile, one hour, round trip through the historical landscape of northern California. The experience felt AND looked like what you’d expect on a real life Hogwarts Express (minus the wizards). The dogs loved the breeze on the outdoor railcar and they all got plenty of attention from fellow passengers.  Before your visit, check out the seasonal activities like the Magical Christmas rides and Pumpkin Express.

golden retriever wearing a green toggle button sweater

 

golden retriever wearing a green sweater sitting on a train car seat

 

golden retriever sitting in a train

 

golden retriever dog on the fort bragg skunk train

 

Relax with some wine at Maple Creek Winery

The highway 128 route to Mendocino from San Francisco winds through the hills of wine country. We stopped by  “Artevino” Maple Creek Winery for a signature wine tasting. We sat with the wine maker for over an hour, learning about the history of the vineyard. Tom & his staff were so welcoming and stick true to their motto “enter as strangers, leave as friends”.

golden retriever at maple creek winery

 

 

 

three wine bottles at maple creek winery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dog sitting on red chair

Check out the Beaches

The “Glass” Beach at Fort Bragg
The glass beach was the most heavily trafficked part of Fort Bragg, but frankly did not live up to its expectation as a “glass” beach. We’ve chosen to include the Glass Beach here since it is a neat spot to check out after the Skunk Train in Fort Bragg. The disclaimer to add is that the shores are no longer lined with beautiful sea glass as they have historically. The smooth glass that is found washed up on the beach is a result of extensive dumping of trash into the ocean in the 20th century. Today, only small pieces of glass are still visible if you look closely enough – mostly in whites, greens, and browns. It was a fun search to collect the pieces of smooth glass, but definitely underwhelming and disappointing. Dogs are welcome on the beach but must be kept on leash.

sea glass

 

glass beach at fort bragg

Off Leash Big River Beach
The Big River Beach is located directly across from the Catch a Canoe rental facility. It’s a great place to visit after or before canoeing. The beach is relatively abandoned except for some dogs chasing frisbees and swimming in the gentle tides. The water is perfect for swimming as it’s right at the beginning of the estuary so it is clean but there are no waves.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

The pet friendly Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens are a great way to enjoy beautiful flowers and ocean views all on one visit. We spent about 2 hours following the loop through the flower gardens and open fields to the coastal trail. We found the walk a lot more tranquil than we expected – we found our way to different gardens and sat on benches to enjoy the fresh air in each other’s presence. The gardens are scenic, inviting, and truly a hidden gem of Mendocino. The best part – the gardens are entirely dog friendly!

mendocino botanical gardens

 

 

 

Walk along the Mendocino Headlands Trail

The Mendocino Headlands trail is a 4 mile out and back stroll located along the coastal bluffs of the town. Even if you do not complete the entire trail, this is a great way to take in the coastal views. The trail follows the coast with the sounds of waves crashing below. The trail is overgrown at some parts, but we just trudged through without difficulty. The trail is best paired prior to or following a walk through town – we loved stopping into the cute shops and coffee bars.

mendocino headlands trail view of the ocean

 

pacific ocean from mendocino headlands trail

 

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