Mendocino County, in northern California, an area that begins 130 mi/210 km north of San Francisco, has some of the most beautiful and rugged coastal scenery in California. Several state parks are located in the county along the coast. Good places to appreciate the shoreline include Russian Gulch, Mendocino Headlands, Caspar Headlands State Beach and Jug Handle State Reserve. Though it's not an area for swimming and the weather is often chilly and misty, the landscape is more than amply rewarding. Residents have limited development, leaving the coast in fairly pristine condition.
Farther inland, the ever-growing California Backcountry Discovery Trail runs through the Mendocino National Forest and on the eastern edge of the Yuki Wilderness. The 200-mi/330-km trail is open to hikers, horseback riders, bicyclists and four-wheel-drive enthusiasts. When completely finished, the trail will extend the length of California, from Mexico to Oregon. The Yuki Wilderness is an area with no developed trails, allowing visitors to truly experience the wild. http://www.fs.usda.gov/Mendocino.
A wine industry is also burgeoning in the Anderson Valley region of Mendocino County, and winery tours there are good alternatives to those in the more heavily trafficked Napa and Sonoma valleys. One of the best known is Navarro Vineyards, which has been there since 1974. A boutique operation known for its pinot noirs, it also has good rieslings and sauvignon blancs. There are also several family-owned operations, including Foursight Wines, which produces small lots of estate-grown grapes, including excellent pinot noirs and Semillons.
A main draw to the area, the quaint coastal village of Mendocino—once a center for whaling—retains its Cape Cod (Massachussetts) architecture and has art galleries, shops and several bed-and-breakfasts, notably Blair House Inn, which was cast as the home of Angela Lansbury in the TV series Murder, She Wrote. Check out the exhibits at the Mendocino Art Center. You can also visit the Kelley House Museum, located in a house built in the mid-1800s. Phone 707-937-5791. http://www.kelleyhousemuseum.org.
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