I’ve lived in California for the last eleven years, and I’ve never been more than a couple hours north of Los Angeles. When you live in Southern California, you hear all about the beauty of Northern California, but it’s hard to imagine it for yourself. Well, the VIVA GLAM team was lucky enough to travel up north to Mendocino County early this summer, and it was an experience like no other. We left behind the traffic, dust, and scorching heat to find the beauty, heart, and soul of California.
The Mendocino Coast in mid-June keeps a nice, cool seventy-degree temperature most of the time, which was very refreshing compared to our ninety-degree weather down south. The mornings brought sea mists and fog rolling through the scenery only to clear up and reveal a bright, blue sky in the late morning. What struck me as so unique about this charming little area is that it really has it all. You can find sea cliffs on cattle ranches and farms. You can find rolling hills and gardens right next to the sea. And you can find tiny little fishing villages tucked away, their inhabitants living their own peaceful lives.
Sustainability and growing local produce seem to be key values in Mendocino County. We spoke with families who picked their own herbs, spices, and vegetables, and many along the coast traded with one another when they needed an item they did not grow or raise themselves. Mendocino mixed the charm of small towns and villages with beach living, and that was something I found truly unique. Of all the locations I’ve visited thus far in the United States, the Mendocino Coast was, perhaps, the most charming area I’ve seen. And don’t let the small-town feel confuse you, there are many incredible things to do in Mendocino County.
What to Do in Mendocino County
The Skunk Train
If you’re an adventure lover, or just someone who loves the outdoors, then you can’t miss the Rail Bike experience at the Skunk Train. The rail bikes were like nothing I have experienced before. They have you pedaling down the beautiful scenery of the railroad on an extremely unique bike that was meant specifically for this. You get your tickets stamped and take a quick driving lesson with your guides. Don’t let driving the bike alarm you, however, as you only need to know how to brake and how to press the throttle. The guides know a lot about the area and its history and continually crack jokes as they guide you down the tracks. Each rail bike seats 2 people. You can expect a leisurely activity where you can put your legs into it and power the bike fully by pedaling; however, you can also give your car a little bit of a nudge with the throttle lever if you don’t feel like pedaling. The most amazing part about this experience, in my opinion, was all the beautiful scenery. We coasted over bridges, past small creeks, and through redwood trees. A break in the trip leaves you at a few trail heads. It’s a serene place to explore before hopping back on your railbike and returning. It was a fantastic experience overall, and we definitely want to make it back to ride the actual Skunk Train soon.
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
If you’re looking for a more serene getaway, think about visiting Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, a nonprofit botanical garden with an incredible mission. Their mission is “to engage and enrich lives by displaying and conserving plants in harmony with the Northern California coastal ecosystems and to preserve public access to the coast.” This 47-acre garden has many highlights and collections that feature canyons, wetlands, coastal bluffs, and a cone-pine forest. Though our visit took place in June, the property still had the perfect temperature with a nice breeze coming in from the ocean. Though we loved the gardens, sculptures, and trails, our favorite view was that of the ocean. The coastal bluffs on the property are truly a sight to behold. If you live in the area, think about becoming a member so you can enjoy these breathtaking gardens whenever you’d like. Or, if you’re just visiting, be sure to get your tickets in advance to ensure you can get in! Each season brings different blooms, so you’ll enjoy various sights depending on the season you visit, and that’s just another reason to become a member if you’re in the area!
The Glass Beach
I’ve been hearing about the Glass Beach for many years. I’ve continually talked about it but never had the opportunity to go there… until now. I am thrilled to report that we visited the Glass Beach on our trip to Mendocino, CA. Basically, in the early 1900s, communities in the are were using the beach as a trash dump. Cars, glass, and waste were being thrown into the ocean. Decades later, anything that was biodegradable had degraded over time, the scrap metal and car parts were retrieved from the ocean, and that left the glass. The glass pieces were shaped and molded over time and continue to wash up as beautiful glass crystals onto the beach. Now, when you visit for yourself, you may be surprised to see how small these crystals are. I saw photos where they seemed much larger, but it’s all about perspective. Regardless of their size, there are tons of very tiny crystals there in the sand, and they are beautiful all the same. We heard from a local that there are sections of the beach where larger crystals accumulate, but due to the access stairs being washed away during a bad storm, the section with the larger crystals is closed off for the time being.
Be sure to take your time driving up the coast in Mendocino so you can get the full experience. There are adorable fishing villages, many beaches pocketed away, and, of course, plenty of great shopping and dining. All in all, Mendocino County is a true gem and absolutely a place you should visit as soon as possible. With the world opening back up, now’s the perfect time! We were blown away by its charm, and I’m seriously thinking of retiring there in my distant future.
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