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North America > United States of America > California > North Coast (California) > Mendocino County > Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg

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Aerial view of Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg
Aerial view of Fort Bragg's harbor district at the mouth of the Noyo River
Fort Bragg
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Fort Bragg is a small, isolated town on California's North Coast and serves as the economic hub of the area despite the demise of its historic logging and fishing industries at the end of the 20th century. Long regarded as the "Beast" to the neighboring village of Mendocino's "Belle," it has slowly been shedding its inhospitable, blue-collar reputation and begun to warm to the new reality of a tourism-based economy with art galleries, microbreweries and gastropubs of its own. In several aspects it has already eclipsed the appeal of Mendocino as a tourist destination, as being an order of magnitude larger in population grants it the ability to support several beloved American franchises like Starbucks, McDonalds, Best Western and Motel 6, suddenly making vacations to the Lost Coast accessible to those whose budget scoffs at the minimum $300/night lodging costs of its southern sibling. The 2018 Census Bureau population estimate was 7,359 within the city limits and 14,799 when including the adjacent unincorporated area claimed by the local school district, increasingly dominated by retirees and vacation rental operators as the collapse of the natural resource industries and very high property values leave few opportunities for families and younger people.

Understand[edit]

See also: Fort Bragg at Wikipedia

History[edit]

Nestled between the chaotic peaks and valleys formed during ~200 million years of one tectonic plate demanding another give way, and sandwiched between the planet's largest ocean and largest temperate rainforest lies Fort Bragg. 15,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, the first indigenous inhabitants, the Hokan, found it and called it home, amazed at the scale of nearly everything they saw. The trees averaged nearly 200 feet in height and 15 feet in diameter, the result of being among the oldest living things anywhere and an extremely mild climate with average annual rainfall over 100 inches. Among them lived elk almost as big as a moose, Olympic black bears, cougars and timber wolves in practically boundless number, fed by the lush, verdant terrain and the fish found teeming in the rivers as much as in the mighty Pacific. Millenia passed like this, so long that the Hokan as well became so abundant that they gave rise to three great Native American nations, the Yuki, Pomo, and Wintun. It was they who saw the first Europeans weigh anchor just off the coast in 1542, representatives of the Spanish Empire. After the Spaniards came the English, then the Russians, and eventually the Americans, but the landscape remained a testament to a grandeur almost always reserved for legends. Valiant efforts were made to exploit each natural resource many times, but the difficulty of transporting goods and people over endless rugged hills and rivers always won out. That's how it earned the nickname The Lost Coast, a place forgotten through the Gold Rush, the Industrial Revolution, and the rise of Silicon Valley, still wild and ready to bewitch all who brave the journey there.

Fort Bragg is the largest town on the Lost Coast, a position of honor nearly guaranteed by the grace of having the largest natural harbor for over 100 miles in either direction. On today's maps it is seen to lie within the borders of Mendocino County, named for Antonio de Mendoza, the Viceroy of New Spain who had sent that ship full of Spaniards sailing north up the California coast in 1542.

Get in[edit]

By car or motorcycle[edit]

Two state highways, California Routes 1 and 20, are the sole safe conduits for vehicle travel to the area. Route 1 serves as Fort Bragg's Main Street and widens to two lanes in each direction with a center turn lane while it's within the city limits. Route 20 carries the vast majority of locals and visitors in and out of the area and is almost always referred to as the "Willits Road" by locals rather than its official number. Many long-time residents are quick to remind anyone who will listen that in "their day" it was still a winding dirt road unfit for use by anything but pickup trucks. The addition of the paved road surface was done in stages as CalTrans funds became available starting in 1958 and was completed in 1964, shortly thereafter being added to the state highway system as the final leg of the "Ukiah-Tahoe Highway" as Route 20 was then known.

Factoring in the other state highways that merge into or intersect one of them, there are a total of five potential routes by which to visit if you're travelling by automobile or motorcycle. All are entirely two-lane state highways devoid of artificial illumination with posted speeds of 55 MPH, average quality pavement the entire way, and lead to an eventual junction with U.S. Highway 101. If you're not coming from somewhere with obvious access to U.S. 101 any route planning should begin with determining how you'll first reach that thoroughfare. Listed with starting points from north to south the five routes to Fort Bragg are:

Routes to Fort Bragg via automobile/motorcycle
Route (Bearing) Distance Travel time Joins US 101 (1961 cutout).svg at Services on route (farthest from F.B. first) Hazards / Notes
California 1.svg CA Route 1
(North)
45 miles (72 km) 1 hour,
20 minutes
Leggett
(Postmile T91.25)
Stop sign controlled
Westport Fuel Toilets Convenience store icon MUTCD W1-5L.svg
  • Lowest average speed, very sporadic cellular service and longest wait for emergency services
  • South of Hardy Creek mostly follows the coast with amazing ocean views
  • Only route with sections lined on both sides by old-growth redwood stands
California 20.svg CA Route 20
(East)
35 miles (56 km) 1 hour Willits
(Exit 568)
Camp 20 Toilets (Outhouse) MUTCD W1-5R.svg
  • Shortest and fastest route available
  • Cellular service is intermittent but consistent traffic at all hours
California 253.svg CA Route 253
(Southeast)
70 miles (113 km) 1 hour,
40 minutes
Ukiah
(Exit 546)
None MUTCD W1-5L.svg
MUTCD W7-1.svg
  • Compound route: Joins California 128.svg at Boonville
  • Shortest path through the Coast Range mountains but entails the most extreme grade as well
  • Recommend at least six-cylinder engine (≥ 2.5L) and brakes in peak working order to manage the ascent/descent safely
  • Flooding: When Navarro River flooding prevents traffic on Route 128 from reaching the Route 1 junction, this route is also unusable
California 128.svg CA Route 128
(Southeast)
85 miles (137 km) 1 hour,
50 minutes
Cloverdale
(Exit 522)
Yorkville
Boonville
Philo
Navarro
Fuel Toilets
Fuel Toilets Convenience store icon Food
Fuel
Fuel Toilets Convenience store icon
MUTCD W1-5L.svg
MUTCD W8-22.svg
MUTCD W8-18.svg
  • Compound route: Joins California 1.svg south of Albion
  • Highest average speed and several wineries available to visit while passing through Anderson Valley
  • Flooding: Prone to sudden closures from winter to mid-spring when heavy rains cause the Navarro River to flood
California 1.svg CA Route 1
(South)
170 miles (274 km) 4 hours,
30 minutes
Marin City
(Exit 445B)
≈4.5 mi (7 km) north of Golden Gate Br.
Pt. Reyes Station
Bodega Bay
Gualala
Point Arena
Elk
Fuel Convenience store icon Food Lodging EV Charger
Fuel Toilets Convenience store icon Food Lodging
Fuel Toilets Convenience store icon Food Lodging
Fuel Toilets Convenience store icon Food Lodging EV Charger
Convenience store icon Food Lodging EV Charger
MUTCD W8-17R.svg
MUTCD W1-5R.svg
MUTCD W8-22.svg
  • Truly exhausting drive: It barely meets the state minimum highway width of 25ft, is non-stop < 20MPH turns (many of which are blind and/or banked contrary to good road design), can be engulfed in a fog bank with no warning and regularly places you just a hard sneeze away from a 100ft+ plunge into the ocean with no guardrails. Stop often, budget an entire day for the drive, and switch drivers when possible; the stress sneaks up on you.
  • Exceptionally unique stretch of road, combining spectacular vistas with ample waypoints offering unexpected services and amenities for such a remote locale (e.g. golf in Bodega Bay & Sea Ranch, EV charging station in Elk, movie theater in Pt. Arena, casino in Stewarts Point) that can easily fill the journey with entertainment sans any genuine "destination."
See also: Routebox below

By bus[edit]

  • Mendocino Transit Authority: The only provider of public transit in Mendocino County, +1-800-696-4682. Service within Fort Bragg and between F.B./Willits/Ukiah is quite affordable and reliable, if not especially frequent.
  • Amtrak Thruway Bus Service: Stops four times a day in Willits at the Skunk Train depot parking lot en route northbound to McKinleyville/the Arcata airport and southbound to the Amtrak rail station in Martinez. You can easily walk from the depot to the junction of CA Routes 1 and 20 where a covered MTA bus stop is located to complete the trip to Fort Bragg. Fares vary but average ~$30 one way in either direction. +1-800-872-7245
    • Bus 6314 (Southbound): Willits stop at 8:25AM, arrives in Martinez at 11:55AM
    • Bus 6318 (Southbound): Willits stop at 12:50PM, arrives in Martinez at 6:05PM
    • Bus 6311 (Northbound): Willits stop at 2:30PM, arrives in McKinleyville at 5:25PM
    • Bus 6313 (Northbound): Willits stop at 5:10PM, arrives in McKinleyville at 8:15PM

By boat[edit]

The Noyo River leads to one of the very few harbors between San Francisco and Eureka.

By bicycle[edit]

Fort Bragg is on the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route.

Get around[edit]

Public Transit[edit]

  • Bus #5: The BraggAbout: Bus service within the city limits by Mendocino Transit Authority, +1-707-462-1422. Runs hourly costing $1.50 per ride, making a loop through the busiest parts of town.
  • Bus #60: The Coaster: Coastal bus service also by MTA, +1-707-462-1422. Runs three times daily up and down the coast from Fort Bragg to Albion through Mendocino and Little River, costing $3-$4 per ride.
  • Dial-A-Ride: Curb to curb/taxi service by MTA, +1-707-964-1800 direct dispatch. Mon-Fri: 8AM-6PM, Sat: 10AM-5PM, no Sunday service. $6/ride within Fort Bragg, price goes up quick if you need to get any meaningful distance out of town.

Rentals[edit]

  • 1 Enterprise Rent-A-Car, 200 E Chestnut St (inside Sport Chrysler Jeep Dodge), +1-707-964-4300, toll-free: +1-855-266-9289. Mon-Fri 8AM-5PM. The only game in town for rental cars.
  • 2 Fort Bragg Cyclery, 301 North Main St (inside Union Lumber Company Store), +1-707-964-3509. Mon-Fri 9:30AM-5:30PM, Sat 9:30AM-5PM. Offering rental bikes for those who want to pedal through town or go mountain biking, as well as a full repair shop should your bike need servicing while here.

See[edit]

Flora[edit]

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
  • 1 Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 18220 N Highway 1 (West side of CA Route 1, ¾mi south of the CA Route 20 junction), +1-707-964-4352, fax: +1-707-964-3114, . Daily 9AM–5PM (Fri & Sat 9AM-7PM, June-August only). One of only a handful of public gardens with ocean frontage in addition to more 47 acres of manicured gardens, fern-ringed ponds, intimate pocket gardens, coastal pine forests, and wildflower-strewn bluffs at the ocean’s edge. The mild maritime climate of the Mendocino Coast offers ideal growing conditions for rhododendrons, heaths and heathers, dahlias, heritage roses, succulents, conifers, and many other plants. $15. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (Q6816681) on Wikidata Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens on Wikipedia

Beaches[edit]

Aerial fly-by footage over Fort Bragg from DJI Mavic Pro drone

History[edit]

  • 4 Guest House Museum, 343 North Main St, +1-707-964-4251. Thu-Sun 11AM-2PM. Artifacts and pictures telling the history of the forest products industry on the Mendocino Coast.
  • 5 Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, 45300 Lighthouse Rd., Mendocino (Head south on Highway 1 and halfway to Mendocino turn right on Point Cabrillo Dr. right after the Caspar Bridge. Follow it as it winds down by the beach and then climbs back up on the bluffs, once you're back on level ground Lighthouse Road will be on your right.), +1-707-937-6123, . Daily 11AM-4PM. A California State Park and National Historic Site with guided tours of the lighthouse and rooms for rent in the old lightkeeper's quarters. $5. Point Cabrillo Light (Q5321418) on Wikidata Point Cabrillo Light on Wikipedia

Do[edit]

  • 1 California Western Railroad (Skunk Train), 100 West Laurel St, +1-707-964-6371, toll-free: +1-866-457-5865, fax: +1-707-964-6428. Everyday 9AM-3PM. The California Western Railroad ran between Fort Bragg and Willits before the collapse of Tunnel No. 1 halted end-to-end rail traffic; 2 hour half-trips from the Willits depot to the Northspur junction and back and 1 hour excursions from the Fort Bragg depot to the Glen Blair junction and back still run during the summer. Nicknamed the "Skunk Train" because it originally ran on gasoline engines (rather than diesel), with the corresponding odor of long-chain hydrocarbons washing over most of the town center when it would open the throttle to build momentum for departure. While the railroad attempts to finance the tunnel's reconstruction, rentals of "railbikes" are offered allowing patrons to pedal (with electric assist) 3.5 miles along the track from the Fort Bragg depot and back in guided groups safely. Adult: $50, Child (< 12 y/o): $30, Infant/Dog: $12, Railbike: $79 (1–2 riders). California Western Railroad (Q5021182) on Wikidata California Western Railroad on Wikipedia
  • 2 Pomo Bluffs Park (Todd's Point Pedestrian & Bike Trail), Ocean View Drive and Cliff Way (From CA Route 1 (Main Street) turn west on Ocean View Drive; at terminus turn right and continue north on Cliff Way, park is at the road's end). Daily: Dawn to Dusk. Very convenient place to do some whale watching or just stroll along the bluffs and watch boats travel in and out of the harbor. Free.
  • 3 Jug Handle State Natural Reserve (Ecological Staircase Trail), 15499 Caspar Rd, Caspar, CA 95420 (Three miles south of town on west side of Highway 1; park has its own parking lot along highway, just prior to the signed Caspar off-ramp.), +1-707-937-5804, . Daily: Dawn to Dusk. A one-of-a-kind natural feature, the park offers a 5 mile loop trail that travels through three distinct steps of a natural terrace created by tectonic plate activity. Each step has been lifted from beneath the ocean 100,000 years after the next higher step showing the process by which newly exposed continental accretion areas are converted to fertile, productive areas for plants and animals. The loop begins and ends at Jug Handle beach from the lowest step which is mostly coastal prairie, to the second with its young redwood forest, up to the oldest step which emerged before modern humans evolved and showcases a rare pygmy forest of conifers and coastal shrubs that rarely grow taller than 10-12ft due to the highly acidic soil and lack of adequate drainage. Jug Handle State Natural Reserve (Q14682540) on Wikidata Jug Handle State Natural Reserve on Wikipedia
  • 4 Ricochet Ridge Ranch, 24201 North Highway 1 (A few minutes north of town on Highway 1 in Cleone, on the corner of the intersection with Mill Creek Dr.), +1-707-964-7669, toll-free: +1-888-873-5777, . Daily 9AM-6PM. Trail rides on the beach & in the redwood forest from as short as an hour for $60 up to six hours for $350+. English or Western horses for all experience levels, heavy riders mostly accomodated. Starts at $60 for 1 hour ride.

Buy[edit]

Eat[edit]

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget $15
Mid-range $20
Splurge $30
  • 1 Egghead's Restaurant, 326 North Main St, +1-707-964-5005. Everyday 7AM-2PM. Omelettes, crepes, sandwiches and burgers, all with a Wizard of Oz theme. Splurge.
  • 2 D’Aurelio and Sons, 438 South Franklin St, +1-707-964-4227. Daily 5PM-9PM. Italian comfort food. Pizza, pasta & sandwiches in an unfussy, dinner-only restaurant with a relaxed vibe. Local favorite, off the beaten path. Splurge.
  • 3 Piaci Pub and Pizzeria, 120 West Redwood Ave, +1-707-961-1133. Mon-Thu 11AM-9:30PM, Fri-Sat 11AM-10PM, Sun 4PM-9:30PM. Hopping spot presenting thin-crust "adult" pizzas, baked pastas & other casual eats, plus craft beers. Expect to wait for seating; accepts cash only with ATM on-site. Splurge.
  • 4 Django’s Rough Bar Café, 32096 North Harbor Dr, +1-707-962-0100. Thu-Sun 11AM-8PM. Very casual setting with a pool table, jukebox, lots of locals and occasional live music. Tight seating inside but plenty of space on the deck. Average service, good food, but the ambience is quintessential Fort Bragg. Mid-range.
  • 5 Noyo River Grill, 32150 North Harbor Dr (On N. Harbor Dr., turn left at North Noyo Park sign; restaurant is in far corner of mobile home park), +1-707-962-9050. Daily 11AM-9PM. Great outdoor patio, and right on the river almost underneath the bridge where you can watch boats coming in. Frequent live acoustic music and friendly service. Splurge.
  • 6 Princess Seafood Market & Deli, 32410 North Harbor Dr, +1-707-962-3123, . Wed-Mon 10AM-6PM. Locally-caught fresh seafood. Budget.
  • 7 Sea Pal Cove, 32390 North Harbor Dr, +1-707-964-1300. Sun-Thu 11AM-10PM, Fri-Sat 11AM-11PM. Very limited indoor seating (< 12 seats total) but ample picnic benches with propane heaters at the end of the pier, with a 180° view of two-way river traffic. Preparations are extremely simple, the freshness of the ingredients is the highlight. Budget.
  • 8 Mayan Fusion, 418 North Main St, +1-707-961-0211. Daily 11AM-9PM. Many of the town's Latino residents hail from the Yucatan peninsula, including the owner of Mayan Fusion. Quite different from other Mexican cuisines, they are liberal with many kinds of citrus and spice. Often busy but wait times are seldom overlong. Splurge.

Drink[edit]

Sleep[edit]

Lodging[edit]

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget $140
Mid-range $180
Splurge $220
  • 1 Best Western Vista Manor Lodge, 1100 North Main St, +1-707-964-4776, toll-free: +1-800-780-7234, fax: +1-707-964-4779. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. No pets allowed and too far from town to walk anywhere but very safe and extremely professional staff. Mid-range.
  • 2 Colombi Studios & Suites, 647 East Oak St, +1-707-964-5773, . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. This place is like staying with relatives while on vacation: not all that comfortable, no tolerance of shenanigans of any sort, and if you want something done best to do it yourself. However, like family, this place will always have a few rooms available for you even if you drive here on a whim for on a summer weekend with no reservation and learn that, like the baby Jesus, there's no room for you at the inn you'd hoped to stay at. Have no fear, Mama Colombi will fluff a pillow for you and tell you to come in, relax and offer to make you a sandwich at her grocery store across the street. Budget.
  • 3 Holiday Inn Express, 250 West Highway 20, +1-707-964-1100, toll-free: +1-888-HOLIDAY (4654329), . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Newest hotel in town and fantastic amenities but sadly no view to speak of and situated less than 300 yards from the intersection of the only two highways serving the area, in fact less than 30 feet from the shoulder of one of them. (Read: You will hear every police car, fire truck and ambulance with sirens blaring, up close and personal, on their way to every emergency call in a 20 mi radius, to say nothing of the omnipresent bikers that flock to the area to cruise its endless winding roads.) If you're a sufficiently deep sleeper/lifelong city dweller such that the noise won't drive you mad, and you care more about a clean room with fast WiFi and breakfast in the lobby than an ocean view then look no further, you want to be here. Splurge.

Camping[edit]

  • 4 MacKerricher State Park (Ten Mile Campgrounds), Mill Creek Dr & N Highway 1 (Three miles north of town on the west side of Highway 1, just as the posted speed drops to 35 MPH look on your left; Mill Creek Dr. can also get you to the park entrance (the long way 'round).), +1-707-964-9112, +1-707-964-8898, toll-free: +1-800-444-7275, . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 12PM. This is the major natural attraction for visitors: 2,300 acres of coastal forest, sand dunes, estuaries, tide pools and over nine miles of virgin coastline to explore on foot or horseback. Campsites are well-maintained and very closely monitored for disruptive/illegal behavior; reservations made months in advance are nearly mandatory anytime during summer and early autumn. Budget ($55/night). MacKerricher State Park (Q6721972) on Wikidata MacKerricher State Park on Wikipedia
  • 5 Jackson Demonstration State Forest Camp One (Egg Take), W Highway 20 & Road 350 (Six miles east of town on Highway 20 (Postmile 5.85, specifically) turn north onto Road 350 which quickly turns to dirt and switchbacks down the side of Observatory Hill. As long as you're still headed downhill you're doing fine, the campgrounds are along both banks of the Noyo River's south fork (< 50ft above sea level) it just takes a while to shed the necessary elevation), +1-707-964-5674. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 12PM. Budget ($15/night). Jackson Demonstration State Forest (Q6117074) on Wikidata Jackson Demonstration State Forest on Wikipedia

Stay safe[edit]

Official seal of the City of Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg is a relatively safe city. Just be aware and take normal precautions as you would in any urban area. Dial 9-1-1 to contact a dispatcher for an emergency.

Stay healthy[edit]

  • 7 Mendocino Coast District Hospital, 700 River Dr (From Main Street head east on Cypress or South Streets, hospital is six blocks east, past the police station), +1-707-961-1234. Emergency Department: 24hrs. 25 bed critical access rural hospital with 24-hour emergency room, modest surgical suite, maternity ward and an endless rotation of out-of-area physicians and staff. Those in poor health are urged to have contingency plans in place for managing their care without reliance on local providers. Mendocino Coast District Hospital (Q43895413) on Wikidata
  • 8 Mendocino Coast Clinics, 205 South St, +1-707-964-1251 (Practitioner available 24/7), . Mon-Fri 8AM-6PM. The major full-service alternative to the hospital's emergency room, complete with dentistry staff and several varieties of therapists (behavioral, physical, occupational, etc.) and good at fitting in urgent appointments

Healthy pets[edit]

Fort Bragg is generally a very safe place to bring your pet to experience. The climate is too cool to support the more notorious threats such as rattlesnakes, scorpions and the like. If you take Fido out and about with you, however, you do need to keep him from sampling the local flora unsupervised, as both ivy and azaleas/rhododendrons are thoroughly ubiquitous throughout both the natural landscape and local gardens and are known to cause potentially severe distress to dogs who ingest them. Furthermore the proximity of wild animals (bears, mountain lions, possums, raccoons, foxes, and many more) to all of the human-inhabited parts of the area produces an indomitable population of common fleas and ticks looking for their next meal. As of 2019, many residents find that the fleas/ticks are quite impervious to the more common over-the-counter treatments such as fipronil (Frontline), imidacloprid (Advantage/Advantix) and permethrin (BioSpot), requiring prescription treatments to gain any leverage over. If your dog is prone to sensitive skin or does not tolerate fleas/ticks well, you may want to reconsider his accompanying you.

Fort Bragg has four veterinary clinics, all of which are relatively "full-service" considering the nearest proper veterinary hospital is over two hours away in Santa Rosa. Three of the four have a memorandum of understanding that arranges for the staff of one to handle all of the emergency calls that come in during the weekend regardless of who regularly sees the pet. The fourth, Covington Creek, has a single veterinarian who takes their own weekend emergency calls and usually arranges for a visiting veterinarian to come to the area and do so in the event they need to travel out of the area.

  • 9 Covington Creek Veterinary Hospital, 30303 State Highway 20 (3 mi (4.8 km) east of town on Highway 20, 0.5 mi (0.80 km) past Leisure Time RV Park on the right-hand side), +1-707-964-6109, . M-F 9AM-5PM. Equipped for dentistry, anesthesia and surgery, on-site radiology (X-rays) and electrocardiography (EKGs) as well as in-house lab analysis. Can board animals on request.

Go next[edit]

Routes through Fort Bragg
EurekaGarberville ← Junction US 101.svg  N California 1.svg S  MendocinoSan Francisco
END  W California 20.svg E  WillitsYuba City
Ends at California 1.svg  W California 128.svg E  BoonvilleCloverdale
Ends at California 128.svg  W California 253.svg E  BoonvilleUkiah


This city travel guide to Fort Bragg is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.