Our spring break road trip to historic Fort Bragg and the spectacular Northern California Mendocino Coast was jam-packed with fun activities!
- DAY 1: We walked the trails at Pomo Bluffs Park and Noyo Headlands Park, including the Pudding Creek Trestle, explored the Guest House Museum, downtown Fort Bragg, and Glass Beach, and went tidepooling at MacKerricher State Park.
- DAY 2: We checked out the Mendocino Bay Overlook, Van Damme State Beach, Greenwood State Beach, Point Arena Pier, Moat Creek Beach, the Point Arena Lighthouse, Manchester State Beach, and B Bryan Preserve.
- DAY 3: We visited Russian Gulch State Park, Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park, and Pudding Creek Beach, and went sand sledding at Ten Mile Dunes Natural Preserve.
- DAY 4: We toured Mendocino Village and the Van Damme Pygmy Forest, visited Glass Beach one more time, went to the International Sea Glass Museum, and checked out the driftwood forts at Big River Beach.
We were going to ride the Skunk Train, but we have done it before, a giant storm was heading into town, and we knew the kids were coming back to Fort Bragg this summer with my in-laws and they wanted to do the train together. So instead, we just stopped by the train station so Carter could get a pressed penny from the machine for his collection.
Riding The Skunk Train
Our first ride on the famous Skunk Train was back in 2010, when Natalie was six and Carter was almost four, and we took a “spare change vacation” to Fort Bragg. Just a few days earlier we broke a full piggy bank that had been accumulating spare change for years and with almost $600 in hand, we made reservations the next day for a hotel in Fort Bragg for a last minute weekend getaway to the Mendocino Coast. We visited the village of Mendocino and the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, explored Fort Bragg and Glass Beach, went tidepooling at MacKerricher State Park, and rode the famous Skunk Train. The entire trip, including the train, food, and our hotel was paid for with that $600!
The nickname “Skunk Train” originated in 1925, when self-propelled rail motorcars were introduced. Using gasoline engines for power and stoves burning crude oil to keep passengers warm, the motorcars’ fumes created a pungent odor, and those living along the rail lines said the motorcars were like skunks because you could smell them before you could see them.
With two little kids, the Skunk Train was the perfect activity for our family, especially since the kids were allowed to eat on the train — there is a snack car! The kids were also excited to get up and walk around the train, from railcars with seats to open air railcars, and talk to the other passengers and the conductor, and Brian and enjoyed the live music and entertainment.
Our ride on the historic Skunk Train began at the Fort Bragg Skunk Train Depot, traveled through the Pudding Creek Estuary and into the gorgeous Northern California redwood forests. Halfway throughout ride, we stopped at Northspur and got off the train at a small camp selling a barbecue lunch and souvenirs, then boarded once more for the ride back to town.
About The Skunk Train
Built as a logging railroad in 1885, the world famous Skunk Train continues to follow the coastal “Redwood Route” as it has for more than 130 years, but instead of transporting lumber company families and workers to the logging camps along the route, the train now carries tourists to the majestic redwood forests.
The nickname “Skunk Train” originated in 1925, when rail motorcars were introduced. The self-propelled motorcars used gasoline powered engines for power and pot-bellied stoves burning crude oil to keep passengers warm. The combination of the fumes created a pungent odor, and those living along the rail lines said the motorcars were like skunks because you could smell them before you could see them.
Natalie and Carter, on their annual summer vacation with my in-laws, once again rode the Skunk Train, this time choosing a shorter trip that explored the Pudding Creek Estuary. If you’re thinking of taking a ride on the Skunk Train, with historic restored railcars and dramatic views of redwood forests, there are two main options to choose from:
- Northspur Flyer: A four hour, 40 mile round trip train ride, taking you through a tunnel at the Summit and descending into the Noyo River Canyon. You’ll see the magnificent redwoods of Northern California and the track you’ll pass over is so crooked that in one spot it stretches 8.5 miles to cover a straight line distance of less than 1 mile.
- Pudding Creek Express: A scenic one hour, seven mile round trip train ride, taking you along the Pudding Creek Estuary to Glen Blair Junction, and traveling over some of the first tracks laid by the California Western Railroad.
The Skunk Train also offers half day trips, overnight trips, sunset barbecue excursions, trips that include camping or kayaking, and holiday-themed train rides. Plus, if you make your reservations far enough in advance, you can even ride in the engine’s cab with the engineer and the fireman.
Know Before You Go
- The Skunk Train Fort Bragg Depot is located at the foot of Laurel Street at 100 W Laurel Street, Fort Bragg, California 95437 in Mendocino County.
- The Skunk Train Willits Depot is located at the Willits Chamber of Commerce at 299 East Commercial, Willits, California 95488.
- There is a concession car on the train, so no outside food is allowed on the train unless you have dietary restrictions or are traveling with a child.
- There is currently no food vendor at Northspur. While you can no longer purchase a meal there, you are invited to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy during the stop.
- Dogs are the only pets permitted on the Skunk Train and they must have a reservation.
- Advance reservations are recommended, but you can usually purchase tickets at the depot in the mornings.
- Passengers are not permitted to carry on or transport alcohol on the trains.