Recreation In Fort Bragg
Fort Bragg and the Mendocino Coast provide excellent opportunities for all kinds of outdoor activities, and you are perfectly positioned to take advantage of them when you stay at the Surf & Sand Lodge.
There are dozens of places where you can take a hike. First and foremost, you can walk out our back door onto the MacKerricher State Park Coastal Path, a paved trail only used by foot traffic, bikes, and the occasional horse. The path follows the ocean for 9 miles up to Ten Mile Beach. Fort Bragg is adjacent to the 50,000-acre Jackson Demonstration State Forest, and you’ll find many miles of trails out in the woods.The Jughandle State Reserve, just 3 miles south of Fort Bragg, offers an excellent trail along the Ecological Staircase, a series of plateaus going inward from the shore, where each plateau supports a different ecosystem. A little further south, you can hike out to a waterfall at Russian Gulch State Park, or walk along the ocean bluffs of the Mendocino Headlands State Park. You can find out more on our Parks & Gardens page.
The MacKerricher Coastal Path provides miles of flat riding on a paved path along the ocean. The road is washed out near the northern end, so you can even ride in sand if it suits you. There are hundreds of miles of trails out in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest, some of them considered to be extremely technical. Big River, 10 miles south in Mendocino, has an old logging road that follows the north side of the river for many miles. This is a great ride along the river and through the redwoods, and it gradually climbs as you go inland. In August and Spetember, you can find blackberries lining the road a few miles inland. Some of the trails in Russian Gulch and Van Damme State Parks are open to bikes, including a 500-foot descent into the Fern Canyon at Van Damme.
This area provides a variety of habitats for birds: the ocean, forests, and rivers all support different kinds of birds. The local Audubon Society leads birding walks all the time at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, as well as at Lake Cleone in MacKerricher SP. They even go out to sea several times a year on pelagic birdwatching tours.
Whalewatching and Sportfishing
Since Fort Bragg has a working harbor with a fishing fleet, there are a bunch of outfits that will take you out on the ocean for sportfishing. During the annual migration of the California Gray Whales, you can also go out on a boat to get very close (not not too close!) to the 40-foot whales. On the return leg of the migration, they have the newborn calves along with them. You can also see the whales from the shore along the entire Mendocino Coast, including from your room and balcony at Surf & Sand.
Ricochet Ranch is only a couple of miles north of the Surf & Sand, near the entrance to MacKerricher SP. They will take you riding for miles along the ocean on the beach leading up to Ten Mile River, at the north end of MacKerricher SP. From this beach, you can see north to the Lost Coast—an area so rugged that they shifted Highway One inland for a stretch to avoid it.
In addition to ocean kayaking, there are a number of navigable rivers in the area, including Ten Mile RIver, the Noyo River, and Big River. To find out more, or to rent equipment, go to SubSurface Progression in Fort Bragg or Catch A Canoe in Mendocino. Fort Bragg Marine (964-3310) is down in Noyo Harbor, and you can rent a kayak and launch right there.
This is popular with kids and adults. The historic Skunk Train has been taking passengers through the redwoods along the Noyo River for a hundred years. They even have an open-air car that lets you really appreciate the redwood trees and the scenery. The trip takes you inland to a lovely spot in the redwoods, and then you return to Fort Bragg. They occasionally have musicians on the train, and they even do a Santa Train around Christmas.
There are quite a few surfing spots along the Mendocino Coast. Two popular spots are within 2 miles of the motel: Pudding Creek Beach, and Virgin Creek Beach. If you want to find out more about local surfing, talk to the people at Subsurface Progression—they are hooked into the local water sports scene. The best surfing here is during the winter months, from November into the spring.
One of the most popular activities on the Coast is abalone diving. According to the law, you must free-dive (no air tanks), and you are severely limited in your daily and annual take. Abalone diving requires a license and a card for recording every abaline as it is taken out of the water. Check with one of the dive shops to find good diving spots, rent equipment, etc. Be careful—people die every year while abalone diving. And the Fish & Game folks take poaching seriously, since overfishing is bad for everyone who loves the taste!
The Lost Coast
The Lost Coast, which starts about 30 miles north of us, is so rugged that the inrepid highway builders decided to shift Highway One inland for almost a hundred miles to avoid it. The area offers 4WD action, camping, and hiking in the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. This area is rugged and remote, and there are bears and mountain lions—know what you’re doing when you go into the wilderness!
Avenue of the Giants
An easy way to see giant redwood trees is to drive along the Avenue of the Giants, about 50 miles north of us. Starting just south of the town of Garberville, they preserved a 20-mile stretch of the old highway through fantastic groves of redwoods. You can poke along this road, stopping at park headquarters, redwood groves, and little towns along the way. If you have never seen redwood trees before, you will literally be amazed at their height and beauty! When you’ve had enough, simply get back onto Highway 101 to return.