Fort Bragg and Mendocino, CA - 3 Days Visit Planning


What? :

Fort Bragg is a small city in Mendocino County on the North California's Coast (Highway 1).

Although it is probably best known for its famous Glass Beach (small shore full of colorful glass stones) the city and the nearby charming town of Mendocino are the central hub for your local nature parks and attractions.


Travelers that are coming to Fort Bragg will drive along highway 1 that is passing through town from south to north.

When staying here you can visit the small old downtown, ride the old Skunk Train steam locomotive, explore, and dine in the local harbor, and during summer months, have fun at the few local beaches.

There are many state park and beaches within a short driving distance, you can explore the local area and at the evening come back to your hotel.


For travelers there are many accommodation and dining options in Fort Bragg.


The cliff bluff and the ocean front along the west side of the city is actually the south section of MacKerricher State Park. This park stretch from Fort Bragg for 10 miles north along the ocean front.


On top of the things you can do right in Fort Bragg there are few, highly recommended to visit, state parks where you can explore the ocean beaches, bluff, inland creeks, and redwood forests.

Withing a short driving distance from Fort Bragg, north or south, you can enjoy the scenic highway 1 road and visit the local beaches.


Fort Bragg and the nearby town Mendocino are the perfect destination for long weekend getaway, spend here few days and enjoy the nearby attractions.

If you are coming here as part of your  north California and Highway 1 road-trip this is a perfect location to stay for few nights while visiting the nearby parks.

You can decide to have your stay here as a relax easygoing visit, enjoy the scenery and take it slow or to be more active, take long hike in the nearby parks.


In this blog I will describe all the places I visit in and near Fort Bragg.

I will also provide below my recommendation for 3 Days weekend itinerary to Fort Bragg area.


as always, you need to remember that you can’t visit and do all the things in the list below in one weekend. I visit here several times and each time we did something different and discover new place or a park.


Highway 1, San Francisco to Fort Bragg – A Trip Planner

This link to my Blog covering all what you can see and do along highway 1, from San Francisco north to Fort Bragg and the north end of highway 1 at Leggett (highway 101):

Below you will have many links to all my local blogs, a lot more information on each location and many more pictures....




Where? :

Fort Bragg is located on the north coastal section of California in Mendocino County, right on highway 1.

Google Map Link


How to drive there? :

From San Francisco it will take you about 3.5 hours’ drive to Fort Bragg. From San Francisco cross the Golden Gate Bridge and head north on highway 101, at the town of Willits turn into highway 20 that will take you west to the coastline, directly into Fort Bragg.

Note: Some times google map recommend taking highway 128 (exit 101 on Cloverdale).


If you decide to drive the more scenic coastal route, on California Highway 1, the 178-mile drive will take you more than 5 hours’ even without stopping along the way.

This road is much more challenging to drive, highway 1 is known for it winding rout just above the ragged ocean coastline.

This drive is destination by itself and there are many things to visit and to see along this drive.

If your destination is Fort Bragg, I will not recommend taking highway 1, with all stops along the way it will take you a full day of driving.



If you are coming from the north, driving south on highway 101 than you need to turn west on highway 1 in the town of Leggett.

From Leggett it will take you almost 1.5 hours to drive along the coastline and reach Fort Bragg.



When? :

Fort Bragg that is in the north section of California coastline is a year-round destination, there is no snow or extreme cold temperatures.

After stating this it is important to note that winter months (Dec. – Apr.) are colder and may have many rainy days. The best months to visit here and have good, relatively, warm and no rain weather are July, August, and September.

At summer months it is usually clear and warmer compared to other seasons.

With the good weather the summer months bring with them the crowd, during weekends, the beaches, parks, and other attractions are having many other visitors and prices are high and accommodations availability is low.


I visit here also in mid-winter months when it was raining and we enjoy it a lot, or even one time during January where I had sunny and relatively warm days. In California you can have weeks without any rain even during the winter months.


No matter when you are visiting here, and as in many other North Pacific Coast destination plan for potential foggy, grey, overcast, or even rainy days.

It is always good to have a light rain gear and as always dress with layers.



Due note 1: Visit Accommodation:

Fort Bragg provide many accommodation options, from simple lower coast motels, hotels, inns, and more upscale options.

You can also find additional hotels in the nearby towns including the upscale, and usually higher prices, Mendocino.


Due note 2: Where to eat:

There are so many options to eat in Fort Bragg, from fast-food chains located manly along highway 1 to local seafood restaurants. According your budge and taste you will be able to find where to eat in Fort Bragg and in Mendocino towns.


My thoughts:

Fort Bragg and the nearby area is one of my preferred visit destinations along the north coast of California.

I visit here several times and always did something new.

I highly recommend visiting here when you are exploring the Mendocino County area, you can be here for 3 days or even for a week, plenty to do and see in the area.



Things to see and do in your Fort Bragg visit:


I will list below the main attraction in the city and parks located north and south of the city along highway 1 road.


Every time I visit Fort Bragg I discover another hidden gam, if this is a small beach cove, ocean bluff, dunes or new hiking trail and I’m sure that there are many more interesting nature places to visit in this area.


At the end I will provide a suggested 3 days itinerary visit to Fort Bragg area.



Fort Bragg Downtown:

The town small old looking buildings section is located at the north side of the town, right on highway 1.

Here you can find a lot of local stores and business as well as few restaurants.

Fun place to stop, eat something or enjoy the local ice-cream shop.

In the downtown you can also find Guest House Museum, which present the history of Fort Bragg, Mendocino Coast, and the logging industry.



Skunk Train

Since 1885 Skunk Train made its way from Fort Bragg through old-growth redwood groves and into the heart of the Noyo River canyon.

The old steam locomotive carry the train along the track from Willits but the tracks that are crossing the mountain range are no longer in use, I saw somewhere that the tunnel has collapse and not restored.

Today, the Pudding Creek Express is a 90-minute round-trip train ride that departs from Fort Bragg.

Another option to explore the track line is the two-person electrical railbikes, Redwood Route along scenic Pudding Creek.

I did not do any of those activities, additional information can be found here:



Noyo Harbor and Marina:

Noyo Harbor is located near the mouth of the Noyo River, at the south entrance to Fort Bragg.

It easily can be completely missed because highway 1 pass above it, crossing the river over elevated bridge, you almost do not see the harbor from the road.

It is still a working harbor for fishing vessels as well as a small boats marina.

Along the harbor road you can find many local restaurants and bars, this is a popular place for evening dining.

There is a small beach at the end of the road just below the large overhanging highway 1 bridge.

I do recommend visiting in Noyo Harbor even for a short stop along your drive, you can have a meal in one of the restaurants or walk to the beach.



Glass Beach

The glass beach was created over a period of few decades where glass from buttles and cars in local dumpsite eroded to small smooth sand/pebble by the ocean grinding waves.

It is nice to see the glass sand pebbles but do not expect to see long stretch of beach covered with colorful glass, the glasses are mainly located in a small cove between the rocks where most of the glasses are white/gray, you can find also some blue or red.
You need to come here during low-tide and when the ocean is not stormy.


Please do not take any glass from the beach !


For more information see my blog:

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg




The Pudding Creek Trestle and Beach

Fort Bragg’s historic Pudding Creek Trestle is a beautiful, it is almost 500 feet long bridge, and you can also find here a popular ocean beach.

The large wooden Trestle was built in the early 1900s, when the route was used for transporting lumber, first used by train, and later buy trucks.

Today you can cross over the renovated bridge, it is part of the longer Noyo Headlands Coastal Trail that keep going for many miles to the north, all the way to MacKerricher State Park.

You can park at the upper south bridge parking lot (near Glass Beach) or down at the beach small parking.


For more information see my blog:

Fort Bragg - Pudding Creek Trestle and Beach



Kayak and Bike:

Another popular thing to do in and near Fort Bragg is Kayak the Noyo River or ride the many local Biking Trails, along the coastline or in the nearby woods.

You can also have a Canoe peddling on the Big River, just south of Mendocino or to rent Kayak at the Van Damme Beach State Park just off highway 1 and Little River.



Noyo Headlands Park

This flat bluff area located in the city west of highway 1. Previusly private land and now part of the nature park.

There are few parking lot that provide park trail access. The paved trail following the cliff edge, a perfect place for summer afternoon walk, watching the ocean and the enjoy the sunset.

At the north section of the trail, you can visit Glass Beach and the nearby rocky tidepools.

The Noyo Headlands Coastal Trail at Fort Bragg is part of the California Coastal Trail.



Pomo Bluffs Park

Located on the south side of Noyo River, at the west ocean side. This rocky bluff has several trails. You can enjoy the hike and the ocean view.

I did not visit this park yet.



Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

South of the city center on highway 1, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens shelters native and other plants.

I did not visit here yet so I can’t provide my personal impression but looks like it display many plants and flowers (during summer months). To the west it also have native area with coastal bluffs, forests, and wetlands.

Advanced reservations are required.





State Parks South of Fort Bragg:


There are many state parks and nature reserve between Fort Bragg and Mendocino, just a short drive away.

Jug Handle State Natural Reserve:

This preserve has few hiking trails leading inland.

The reserve’s 2.5-mile Ecological Staircase Trail explores three wave-cut terraces formed by the continental glaciers, rising seas, and tectonic plates that built the Coast Range.

There is also ocean front trail along the cliffs.

I did not visit here so I can’t provide a lot more information on this preserve.

Park website:



Point Cabrillo Light Station

Point Cabrillo Light Station was active during the early 1900’s.

Today, the light house and most of the surrounding buildings are still standing, you can even rent a cabin here for a night stay.

The park area around the lighthouse is relatively flat grassland and exposed to the wind. There is ¾ of a mile paved road leading from the parking down to the light house and there are few nature trails leading to the cliffs above the ocean.


For more information see my blog:

Point Cabrillo Light Station



Russian Gulch State Park

Russian Gulch State Park offer ocean cliffs with large blow hole, sandy beach just below the impressive bridge, lush redwood forest, canyon, and impressive Furan Waterfall.

This is my favorite state park in Mendocino area, and I highly recommend hiking to the waterfall.


For more information see my blogs:

Russian Gulch State Park

Russian Gulch State Park – Devil’s Punchbowl Hike

Russian Gulch State Park – Furan Waterfall Hike



Mendocino town and Headlands State Park

Mendocino is a coastal small town, a prime tourist destination in northern California coast.

The town can be your basecamp for few days, see and explore all nearby attractions.

Just west of the town there is nice bluff and ocean front park with small coves that you can explore and even large rocky arch.


For more information see my blog:

Mendocino town and Headlands State Park



Van Damme State Park

State Park that offer both beach and ocean activity as well as hiking along the little river redwoods as well as visiting the inner side of the park and see the unique Pygmy Forest.


For more information see my blog:

Van Damme State Park




Navarro Beach and Redwood Park

Navarro Beach and Navarro Redwood Park are good place to enjoy some time on the beach or drive through the redwood forest (highway 128).


For more information see my blog:

Navarro Beach and Redwood Park





State Parks and other attractions north of Fort Bragg:


MacKerricher State Park

MacKerricher State Park, located just north of Fort Bragg along the ocean front, is a great place to discover it long beaches and bluffs.

Near Laguna Point you can walk over the short boardwalk trail, explore the tidepools, and during winter month maybe even spot a migrating whales.

You can hike or bike on a trail from Glass Beach at Fort Bragg along Haul Road, all the way to 10-mile river.


For more information see my blog:

Manchester State Park



Inglenook Fen & 10 Miles Dune

The 5 miles north section of MacKerricher State Park is large protected coastal send dunes area with no road access.

You can get into the section from the park main road or find the small parking just before 10-mile river and hike into the dunes.

I did not visit here so can’t elaborate a lot more about the visit here.



Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and Slat Beach

The unpaved, steep, narrow 6 miles dirt road will lead you from highway 1 to one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in California, Usal Beach.

The large opening of Usual Creek nested in the coastal mountains and located in the southern tip of the remote Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.

This is a 4x4 recommended drive.


For more information see my blog:

Usal Beach - Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, CA (4x4 drive)





Located about an hour drive north of Fort Bragg on highway 1.

On you way here you will no longer be traveling along the coastline but rather get east inland into the redwood mountain ridges.

Here you will reach the small town of Leggett, the official northern point of California Highway 1 and the junction with the main south to north highway 101.

From here to the north on highway 101 the Redwood area starts.


For more information see my blog:

Highway 101 Attractions between Leggett to Avenue of the Giants

Redwood Parksat Northern California Coastline – Visit Planning


Plan Your Trip:

As you can see above, where I listed the main towns, state parks, and attractions along the drive there are many options and places to visit. You can’t visit all of them even in one week, so you need to see how to arrange your visit here.

Be open plan changes, stay longer in places you have fun.


When coming to create your road trip itinerary you need to tailor it to how you travel and what you want to see and do.

Some want to start the day easy, eat long breakfast/lunch and enjoy their time in nice places, others want to see more things in one day.

People may want to explore the small towns local stores, shops and pubs where other are only want nature.

Some are looking for long hikes in the state parks others are looking for viewpoint stops without hikes.

You need to plan accordingly, be flexible and always be open to changes.


I will try to suggest 2 options, the first one is full 3 days, and the second option will be 7 days road trip.



Suggested 3 Days Weekend Itinerary Visit to Fort Bragg area:


Day 1:

Assume you start your day at San Francisco, Sonoma Wine County or somewhere south along highway 1 you will arrive to Mendocino/Fort Bragg area at mid-day.

You can enjoy the rest of your day in Fort Bragg:

Visit the harbor and the old town area, can even spend time at the town museum.

Later that afternoon visit Glass Beach, walk along the easy ocean front trail, enjoy the sunset here or at the nearby Pudding Creek Trestle.

Sleep in Fort Bragg



Day 2:

In the morning you can start your day in Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

Later visit Point Cabrillo Lighthouse Park.

If you have time visit the nearby Russian Gulch State Park and walk the short hike to the west bluffs and the Sinking Whole (I do not think you have the time to hike to the park waterfall).

Short drive south will bring you to Mendocino and Mendocino Headlands State Park. Spend the afternoon here, walk from the picturesque town to the ocean front. Walk along the cliff edge trail, explore the shoreline and the natural arch in the rocky section.

Sleep in Fort Bragg


Day 3:

I wrote here a collection of options of things to do in your last day.

What to do is depending on what you want to do, how much time you have and where is your next destination (north or south). If you need to drive all the way to San Francisco, my advice is to start heading south at mid-day.

You can take the shorter route, highway 20 to 101, or spend more time and enjoy highway 1 drive south to the Russian River (highway 116) or through Bodega Bay.


Visit again Russian Gulch State Park, this time hike to the waterfall (3-4 hours hike).


You can do the Skunk Train ride.


Kayak activity in Noyo River, Big River or Small River.


Visit Van Damme State Park.


Visit MacKerricher State Park, north of Fort Bragg, walk the lake trail, visit the beaches and the tidepools.







Additional Pictures: