By Mary Charlebois
Go behind the Redwood Curtain and bathe among giants on California’s Mendocino Coast
Forest bathing doesn’t require clothing removal. You don’t need soap. You won’t even get wet. However, after bathing, you’ll feel light, happy, and refreshed. Some folks say it also lowers their blood pressure.
Forest bathing is simple. Find a forest, go for a walk, take a seat, get in touch with the natural world surrounding you. Listen to ravens calling; feel their wings beat as they move through the canopy; smell wildflowers, inhale the soil’s musk, feel the sea breeze, be silent.
Redwood trees are said to be the best for a forest immersion. Some say they heal us when we stand close. Is that where the term ‘tree-hugger’ comes from?
The magnificent Mendocino coastline is known for wildlife, waves, wilderness, and wine. Craggy headlands, secret beaches, coastal trails, grazing cattle, sheep ranches, and windswept vistas surprise you at each turn in the road, but redwoods are king.
Come to the coast and bathe amongst the giant trees in a no-drive weekend based in Little River California.
Set-up basecamp at Little River Inn, a coastal resort with a Mendocino casual-luxury vibe. Located on 225-wooded acres, there are 65 ocean view rooms, a restaurant, bar, day spa, 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, and pro shop.
Settle in your room, then take a walk around the property to take your first forest bath. The Inn’s property is beautifully landscaped with numerous gardens. Deer often graze at dawn and dusk. Maps are available at reception.
Have dinner in the Garden Room at the Inn where 5-star Chef Marc Dym’s menu reflects his CIA training and mastery of local and seasonal ingredients. There is an authentic taste of Mendocino in every dish. The Petrale Sole Almandine is heavenly, but the Bouillabaisse is transformative.
Enjoy a nightcap at Ole’s Whale Watch Bar after dinner. Try the drink special, whatever it might be. The Inn’s award-winning cocktails are made with in-house fusions, local produce; even sea vegetables foraged from tide pools across the road. The bar is a friendly place to chat with locals and other travelers.
Guarantee a deep sleep with a nice soak in your room’s jacuzzi. Light the fireplace, turn out the lights, dream.
For breakfast, have Ole’s Swedish Hot Cakes on your deck. Room service with an ocean view is a double treat. Locals gather to have breakfast at the Inn (that includes me). Ole’s hotcakes are the star. Personally, I dream about their breakfast sausage; best on the coast.
After breakfast, grab your day-pack and camera. Head across the road to the Little River Market & Deli. The small shop is well-stocked. They have local cheeses, charcuterie, sandwiches, salads, hot dishes, and desserts. The selection of wine and beer is superior. Ocean view tables are handy for a quick snack or coffee. Grab picnic fixings for the morning’s forest bath.
Buy a postcard and stamp in the market and mail yourself a souvenir you’ll always treasure.
Discover a forest bath spot in the redwood and fern canyons of Van Damme State Park. The park is a thousand feet from Little River Inn. There is a private trail from the Inn to the park. This easy walk begins near the campgrounds and continues with a gently rolling path along Little River.
You’ll encounter massive redwoods, alders, wild berries, Douglas fir, masses of sword ferns, wildflowers, and moss. Wildlife is abundant, especially birds. Birdsong echoing through the woods is enchanting. Arched wooden bridges cross the river numerous times. You’ll encounter behemoth redwoods here. Sit or stand quietly to hear their whispers.
At the end of the trail, there’s a picnic area. Savor your picnic lunch of goodies from the market.
Ride the rails to the redwoods. Catch a local bus to Fort Bragg. There is an MTA bus stop in front of the Inn. Tell the driver you’re going to the Skunk Train. He’ll drop you one block of the train depot.
The historic train once hauled redwoods from the forest to the coast lumber mills. Today, the Skunk is an excursion train taking passengers into the redwood forest of the California Coastal Range. Take a leisurely vintage train ride, or ride the open air rail bikes along estuaries and forest. Make reservations at Skunk Train.
Dine at Wild Fish. Across the road from the Inn, and next to the market, is a tiny restaurant where they say, “a stunning view meets organic fare.” The food is organic, local, and exceptional. Service is perfect, and the view of Little River Cove is mesmerizing.
Sip the sun down on your deck with a bottle of local wine.
Sleep late. Try Sunday Mimosa Brunch, a coastal tradition at Little River Inn. If it’s whale watching season, ask for a window table, but get there early, the tables with an ocean view go fast.
If you’re traveling with your pet, ask for the pet-friendly dining room. Fido will have his own bowls and breakfast.
Go beachcombing and tide pooling at Van Damme. Follow the path from the Inn to the park. From there, cross HWY 1 to Van Damme Beach. Wander the shore, watch kayakers on sea cave tours, wade through tide pools, or sit and listen to waves and seagulls.
Head for home through Anderson Valley along HWY 128. You’ll drive through redwoods so tall, you almost need headlights at noon. There are plenty of places to pull over or enter parks if you feel the need for one last redwood bath.
In Anderson Valley, you’ll find wineries, breweries, cideries, creameries and farm stands. Anderson Valley is a laid-back agricultural area that is lovely to explore.
While you won’t need to drive once you are in Little River, but you’ll need a car to get there.
From US Hwy 101, take either Hwy 128 or HWY 20 to cross the California Coastal Range and get to CA HWY 1.
Your home base, Little River Inn, is at 7901 HWY 1, Little River, CA 95456 (Two miles south of Mendocino Village.)
In Little River California, you’ll find unspoiled nature, exceptional food, glorious libations, and a ‘slow-down and smell the redwoods’ atmosphere. All are perfect for bathing among giants and a no-drive weekend.