Mendocino National Forest is a vast area of about a million acres with over 200 trails, some of them named, but most simply labeled with the forest service road they arise from. There are no major roads leading into the park, but many rugged forest roads, some of which require high carriage vehicles like trucks, jeeps and SUVs to pass safely.
Four designated wilderness areas are pawrfect for those who want an isolated, quiet experience with few other people around, but there are also trails for shorter day hikes that feature picnic areas, organized campgrounds and self-guided tours complete with written guidebooks. Some of the trails are relatively flat, crossing meadows and creeks and through canyons, but there are many crest hikes that feature steep, challenging climbs. Many lead to lakes, secluded riverbanks or hot springs where you and your fur-pup can relax before heading home or setting up camp.
The Chico Seed Orchard Trail on the Comanche Trail is an easy 1-mile self-guided walk through a botanical area where native trees and plants are cultivated to help maintain the flora and fauna of the forest, especially after fires and other natural disasters. Featuring picnic tables, benches and many informational signs identifying the various plants and trees, you'll see California wild grape vines, groves of bamboo and flowers everywhere. Bat and wood duck houses adorn tree trunks to provide safe haven for these creatures, and you'll no doubt spy rabbits, squirrels and other small mammals foraging in the undergrowth.
Traveler's Home Trail is a popular backpacking route of a bit over 3 miles and a climb of about 800 feet, out-and-back, that begins at a moderately high elevation at the Middle Fork Eel River trailhead on forest road 24N2. It takes you on a descent, sometimes quite steep down the mountain's face, to the valley floor and the Eel River. The rolling hills and tightly packed switchbacks can challenge, but you're rewarded at the end with a river swim and furtastic picnic and campsite spots.
These and the other trails and recreation areas in Mendocino provide an almost endless menu of outdoor activity sure to please you and your pup, and they're so close to San Francisco and Sacramento. Have fun!
This vast national forest is home to many forms of wildlife, including snakes, bears, mountain lions and even sometimes-aggressive elk, so be aware. If camping, keep all food supplies secured and maintain a secure hold on Fido's leash and/or tieout.