That Highway 20 Ride

There is something magical about the Northern California Coast. Its rugged coastline, windy roads, crisp air, and that golden sunshine. North of San Francisco you have fewer tourists. The coastline starts to look more like something you would find in Oregon, but you can still have gorgeous sun rays and that vibe only found in California.

My parents were invited to join some family friends in Fort Bragg for the weekend. Everyone would have their fancy camper and the campground had full electricity, flushing toilets, showers and even WiFi. Basically glamping. I decided to tag along because I can’t pass up an opportunity to explore a new place.

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Puppy Kisses ❤

I had only been to Fort Bragg once before. I was in the 8th grade, and it was for a friend’s birthday. However, Fort Bragg is an extremely popular travel destination for everyone in my hometown. I’m sure most of our town folk consider the coastal town a second home. The family friends we were joining have been spending their weekends on Hwy 1 since the early 70s. Obviously, I like to travel (hence my travel blog), and I really like to explore and see new things. So as soon as I found out I would be spending time in Mendocino County, I began researching what to do and see.

My journey started by taking Hwy 20 in California from beginning to end. I pick it up off the 80 just passed Donner Summit and got off at Hwy 1. I journeyed through the mountains of Gold Country and made my way to the valley floor. From there it is farmland as far as the eye can see until Clear Lake. It is slow going around the lake, but it provides nice scenery. You cross paths with the 101 and enter Willits. The quaint little town situated on the crossing of Hwy 20 and 101. This is the start of Mendocino County and the beautifully rugged Northern California Coast. The drive from Willits to Fort Bragg is windy, steep at some parts and exceptionally picturesque. The whole drive was scenic. And it truly shows you how diverse the state of Califonia really is.

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Family Photo Opt

I spent 3 nights there, and during that time we ate a lot of seafood, drank a lot of beer, and walked on a lot of beaches. We ate at North Coast Brewing Company, Sea Pal Cove, and Cafe Del Mar. All were great and unique in their own way. I am also an avid hiker, and I found quite a few hikes I would one day like to try. I suggested we go to Russian Gulch State Park and look around. We found a secluded beach to let the dogs run wild on, and I looked for this hike to a waterfall on the park map. I was alone on the ‘hiking business’ which is why I said I would like to one day try them. We continued down Hwy 1 and stopped in Mendocino. You can walk around the town in probably half hour. The area offers some great coastal views, pathways for short strolls, shopping, eating, and of course a few watering holes. There is a river inlet that was perfect for the dogs and looked like a great place to catch some summer rays.

After learning I would be visiting Fort Brag, and starting my research, I came across a place called Bowling Ball beach. The beach is covered with small round boulders that well look like bowling balls. Some photos had the water just covering the bottom of the boulders, and the place looked magical. It was an hour from where we were staying, and on our last full day in Fort Bragg, I convinced my company to go on a road trip. I will be upfront with you. We made it to Bowling Ball Beach. It was beautiful, but I did not see the bowling ball boulders. Pretty sure you have to go during low tide. See I am just destined to return to Mendocino. Even though our initial goal was not met, the day was not wasted. Our road trip down there provided some of the most secluded and untouched coastline the West Coast has to offer. We made a pit stop at the Point Arena Lighthouse, and of course, the second I climbed to the top, the cloud cover rolled in and I couldn’t see a thing. We had ‘linner’ at the Pier Chowder House and Tap Room in Point Arena. Everyone loved it. The restaurant was situated in a harbor, and we could watch people surf from the window. Overall Fort Bragg was outstanding. I recommend exploring the surrounding area. Glass Beach is a popular town attraction, but it was under construction when I was there.

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Where are the bowling balls?!

 I will definitely be going back to that part of the California coast. I must see Bowling Ball Beach! There is so much to explore in that area, you just have to get in your car and go!

Chico and Oroville Area Hikes

As a Northern California native and an avid hiker, I like to get out and explore. Most of these hikes are available year-round and are a great way to get outside and explore your surrounding area.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain is a great place to take the family and let your dogs run loose. It is located in Oroville, CA near Oregon City just off of Cherokee Rd (Google Maps provides excellent directions). In the springtime, you can find the field blooming with wildflowers and the waterfall roaring at its peak. There is a creek that runs through a vast canyon which makes this a site to see year round. There are various trails you can take and make this hike as short or as long as you want. Just a forewarning, this area can get very wet and very muddy so be prepared. To locate the waterfall just follow the creek from the parking lot. The pasture is also home to some free grazing cattle. Located just 40 mins from Chico, North Table Mountain Ecological Preserve is one trail not to miss.

Side note: Waterfall not pictured so not to ruin the surprise. For best water flow visit in Spring.

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Puppies and Wild Flowers

Paradise Flumes

The Flumes are great in the summer because of the numerous swimming holes located along the Feather River. However, just hiking along the Flumes and soaking in the beautiful scenery is a treat in itself and can be experienced year round. You can access the Flumes from a few different locations. The two most popular starting locations are Feather River Hospital and Dean Road. After turning into the hospital, you can follow the road to the very back where you will find a parking lot and a trail. Dean Road can be found off of Pentz Road in Paradise. Once you turn onto Dean, follow the road until it ends. There you will find another section of the Flumes Trail (again google maps provides excellent directions). Dean Road may be a better option for dog owners. If you chose to walk on the actual flume (which I recommend) your dog might not appreciate it because it’s like walking on a railroad track. Paradise Flumes is located just 30 minutes from Chico and is a local favorite not to be missed. Take one of the many deer trails down to the river and find your perfect swimming hole. Whether you are looking to sunbathe or cliff jump, this trail is perfect for everyone.

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Hiking along the Flumes

Upper Bidwell

If you are looking to get outside but don’t want to stray too far from home Upper Bidwell is the ultimate classic. The park is accessible year round to bikers, joggers, hikers, and dog owners. During the summer, Upper Park offers excellent swimming holes for everyone to enjoy. The north side of the park is the “off leash” area for dogs while the south side (where the water is) asks you keep your dog on a leash. The north side is out in the open and without shade so it can get very warm in the summer. There are quite a few different trails to explore, but one of the more popular trails is Monkey Face. It is a short but steep hike up that offers panoramic views of the valley. The entrance to the park is located on the corner of East Ave and Manzanita Ave in Chico, CA. From there you can follow the road until you see a large parking lot on the left. There is a gate there that closes the road to any further traffic, so some days you are forced to park in that lot, but on days that the gate is open you can follow the dirt road up to popular swimming holes like Bear Hole. Upper Bidwell is located in the city and is very popular with the locals. Don’t be surprised if you show up on an April afternoon and find the parking lot full.

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Big Chico Creek

Feather Falls

Feather Falls might be the best hike on this list. It’s also the most traditional. The others offered multiple trails and the freedom to make your hike as long or short as you want. Feather Falls is a loop, and the magnificent waterfall (located about 1/2 way) is the highlight. My recommendation is to do this hike in the spring. The waterfall is at its peak and the heat isn’t so treacherous. I have completed this hike in July before and it was a little too hot for my liking. Maybe a mile after you start the hike, you will reach a trail split. This starts the loop. I usually take the trail to the right first. It is longer, but the inclines and declines are more gradual and easier on my knees. Once you reach the tip of the loop, you will see the turn off for Feather Falls. You climb for about a mile before reaching the overlook. The overlook is out above the canyon and the river giving you the perfect view of the falls, but there is no shade. After making the climb back down, you can continue on the loop. This section is shorter, but it is a steep incline. The hikers I meet going the opposite way aren’t a fan of the continuous downhill. That much downhill hurts my knees which is why I choose to climb it, but it is totally a personal preference. This is a popular hike, so I usually try to get there early. The trailhead is about an hour from Chico. To get there you take Hwy 162 E in Oroville and drive past Gold Country Casino. You turn right on Forbestown Rd which will eventually turn into Lumpkin Road. You will periodically see signs for Feather Falls to reassure you that you are going in the right direction. From Lumpkin, you will turn left onto Bryant Ravine Rd which will take you to the trailhead parking lot. The trail is about 8 miles long and is in a remote area, so pack whatever you might need for the day. Dogs are welcome. This is probably one of my favorite hikes in the area that I continue to do year after year. Again, I don’t want to ruin the surprise of the falls, so I chose not to include a picture.

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The trail to the falls was flooded

I wanted to keep this post local, so I chose some of my favorite hikes that are at most an hour drive away one way. I am always looking for new places to hike and explore, so if you have a favorite place you’d like to share feel free to leave a comment!