Located a few hours from Sacramento or San Francisco, Fort Bragg is only an afternoon’s drive away. All roads to and from Fort Bragg are beautiful but winding – which makes the destination even sweeter! Motorcyclists and bicyclists love weaving along these coastal highways, and everyone appreciates the spectacular scenery.
From San Francisco via Highway 101
163 miles – 3.5 hours
Head north on the Golden Gate Bridge, continue north for approximately 112 miles to Cloverdale, where you have two choices: turn off onto Highway 128 West through the Anderson Valley, or continue on Highway 101 to Willits and take Highway 20 West. Here are the details:
The Anderson Valley route
Highway 128 West from Cloverdale takes you through Anderson Valley’s wine country. When you reach Highway 1 at the mouth of the Navarro River go North to the North Mendocino Coast and Fort Bragg.
Best bathroom breaks/pit stops: Hwy 128 is home to some of the world’s best small breweries, and the legendary town of Boonville – a small town with its own local language Boontling. Boonville is a good place to refuel, get a snack, and use the public restrooms of the businesses you visit. Take the opportunity to taste the flavors of the valley by touring the local wineries along the way– but make sure you have a designated driver! Stop for a round of frisbee golf and a cold beer at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company. For a true country experience, stop by Gowan’s Fruit Stand for local farm-fresh produce and preserves to enjoy during your stay in Fort Bragg. Gowan’s has a convenient restroom for the use of their customers.
The Willits/Highway 20 Route
Stay on 101 north to Willits and turn west on Highway 20. This route takes you to Fort Bragg, through wild wooded lands, most of which are part of Jackson State Demonstration Forest.
Best bathroom breaks/pit stops: Refuel if your tank is low at Hopland, Ukiah or Willits. If time allows, pick up some ideas for eco-friendly living at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, learn about local arts and history at the Grace Hudson Museum, enjoy the quietude of the City of 10,000 Buddhas in Ukiah, grab delicious food and beer at the Ukiah Brewing Company. There are public restrooms in the business and attractions described above, as well as a rest area half way between Willits and Fort Bragg on Highway 20 if you need a quick break during the home stretch.
From San Francisco via Highway 1 (The scenic coastal route)
175 miles – 4.75 hours
One of California’s most stunning seaside drives follows Highway 1 along the Sonoma and Mendocino coastlines. This is a longer drive up than Highway 101 to Mendocino County, but it’s well worth the time. Head north on the Golden Gate Bridge and cut over to Highway 1 from Highway 101 at several locations. You could take the Highway 1 West/Muir Woods exit in Marin County. Or take the “River Road” west off of 101 just north of Santa Rosa to drive along the lower reaches of the Russian River. When you reach the Sonoma Coast, turn north to reach Fort Bragg and the North Mendocino Coast.
Best bathroom breaks/pit stops: Any of the cute little coastal towns, known for selling saltwater taffy and windsocks, will provide great photo opportunities, must-have kitschy seaside souvenirs, as well as opportunities to buy gas, a meal, or snacks. Look for public restrooms in the businesses you support.
189 miles – 4.25 hours
Take Highway 5 north to Williams, then Highway 20 west to Highway 101. Take Highway 101 to Willits, then take Highway 20 west again to continue to Fort Bragg and the North Mendocino Coast.
Best bathroom breaks/pit stops: Many travelers find Granzella’s in Williams, or one of the cafes on Main Street in Upper Lake good spots for snacks or a meal to send you on your way. Refuel in any of the lakeside communities along Clear Lake; if you miss the opportunity, you’ll have more chances in Willits. Public restrooms are plentiful in the businesses you support along the way.
From Humboldt County and the North
Take US 101 south to State Rte 1 (at Leggett). Take State Rte 1 south, until it becomes Main Street in Fort Bragg.
Best bathroom breaks/pit stops: Refuel before you leave, as gas stations are few and far between on long stretches of this route. If you’ve never stopped at Confusion Hill, it’s worth checking out. It’s an entertaining diversion, a good spot to get a snack, and a convenient place to use the restroom. Once you reach Highway 1, stop at the Westport Hotel for a meal or a quick break. It’s only 15 miles north of Fort Bragg, and there are no other services, so you’ll soon be on the home stretch.
From Gold Country (Redding, Chico, Yuba City)
From Redding, Chico and surrounding communities, travel US Highway 5 south, and turn west on Highway 20, which takes you to Fort Bragg and the North Mendocino Coast. From Yuba City take Highway 20 west to Fort Bragg.
Best bathroom breaks/pit stops: Many travelers find Granzella’s in Williams, or one of the cafes on Main Street in Upper Lake, good spots for snacks or a meal to send them on their way. Refuel in any of the lakeside communities along Clear Lake; if you miss the opportunity, you’ll have more chances in Willits. Public restrooms are plentiful in the businesses you support along the way.
Fort Bragg enjoys a coastal Mediterranean climate, with temperate weather year-round. You can call for California Road Conditions: 800-427-7623.
WHERE TO STAY
Fort Bragg has an excellent selection of lodging properties of all types.
WHAT TO BRING
Be sure to pack the following items…
- Sweater/Jacket – even though you are coming to the coast, it can get chilly
- Binoculars – there is SO much to see
- Motion sickness medicine if you get car sick; getting here involves some twisty roads
- Rain boots/umbrella/water resistant jacket – if you are traveling anytime other than summer, you may want to be prepared for some wet weather
- Hiking boots – the most beautiful places often involve some trekking through nature
- Swimsuit – even if the Pacific ocean is too cold for you, you may want it for your hotel/motel pool or the CV Starr Aquatic Center
- Camera, phone, laptop charger – don’t you hate it when you forget these!
- Skates/skateboard and gear to use at the Fort Bragg Skate Park
If you have forgotten any of these items, don’t fret – you can buy them locally in Fort Bragg.
WHEN TO VISIT
There is something to see and do year-round. July-October are the busiest months in Fort Bragg. November-June usually features lower lodging prices and fewer visitors. So when is the best time to visit? Anytime! Off months can be great with welcoming weather and quieter streets while prime time is host to lots of events and festivals.