Mendocino Headlands State Park is directly adjacent to the village of Mendocino, and it actually surrounds the village on three sides. Trails follow the ocean all the way around the headlands, and this is a prime location for whale-watching during the season (late December through April). At the southeast corner of Mendocino, you’ll find one of the few white sand beaches in the area. Big River State Beach is situated at the mouth of Big River, and is subject to constant reshaping due to the strong tides and large waves here. This area was home to the Northern Pomo tribe for millennia before the arrival of European traders and settlers. Other inland tribes visited the coast annually to trade, hunt, and socialize with the coastal tribe.
The Headlands feature a blowhole, the original 1850 lumber mill site, and fantastic ocean views. Park at the west end of Main Street, or go north to Heeser Road. Turn left to circle around the Headlands, eventually ending up at Lansing Street. Trails are readily accessible from Main Street and several parking areas along the way. The section of headlands along Heeser Drive provides the best opportunity to seemigrating whales in the winter.
The Historic Ford House is the Visitor Center for Mendocino Headlands State Park. Inside find exhibits on local cultural and natural history, as well as visitor information regarding the town of Mendocino. Located on Main Street in Mendocino, it is a great place to begin your visit to the Mendocino Coast.
Access: Park at the west end of Main Street, and follow the path. There are also several parking areas on Heeser Drive as it winds around the headlands, including public restrooms at the north end of the park. You’ll also find public restrooms just east of the Ford House on Main Street. 707-937-5804
Big River State Beach
Bear left (east) from the parking lot behind the Presbytrerian Church, and walk down steep but solid stairs to a lovely white sand beach, rock cliffs, and the mouth of Big River. Because of tidal action and large waves, this beach can reshape itself dramatically from one day to the next.
Access: head east on Main St towards Highway One until you reach the historic Presbyterian Church. Drive back between the church and the gas station, and park in the lot behind the church. You can also reach the beach by driving south from Main Street on Highway One, and almost immediately turning left onto the road marked “Big River Beach”. This is also the entrance to the Big River Unit of Mendocino Headlands State Park. 707-937-5804