[imagebrowser id=80]

Visitors to Mendocino know that it’s more than just a quaint town. It also is right in the middle of excellent hiking opportunities.

For the most part, the nearby parks (over a dozen in Mendocino County alone) aren’t overly strenuous workouts, but they are scenic, largely coastal and diverse enough to provide plenty for all types of trailheaders. On a recent visit to the area, among the parks I checked out was Mendocino Headlands State Park, which is the collection of seaside bluffs and beaches that stretch out in a coastal ring around the town of Mendocino itself. It’s the kind of park that you just stumble across if you’re exploring the town’s motley mix of galleries, chocolate and coffee shops and restaurants.

The 347 acres of coastal bluffs can be explored in a hour or two, or you can head down to the Big River Beach where the park also stretches.

We hiked for about 3 to 4 miles on the bluff trails, but the real attraction is heading down to the Pacific Ocean itself, either on the rocky outcroppings or to beach areas. Once down there, there’s plenty to explore, or just places to sit and watch the waves roll in, and later, the sun go down. A popular spot not to miss is the so-called “Blowhole”, a small cove of water encircled by rocks. But better blowholes are to be spotted out on the ocean as this is whale-watching territory. We saw several in the distance, even without binoculars, which would be helpful on this kind of hike.

All in all, a pleasant setting for an easy, low-impact scenic hike. Be prepared for windiness and occasional fog, but that’s life up on the North Coast.