If you don’t happen to have a time machine, the next best thing would probably be a trip on Mendocino County’s famous Skunk Train. From the restored historic rail cars to the dramatic views of majestic redwood forests, scenic upland meadows, and the pristine mountain waters of Northern California, what you will experience is largely unchanged from the way things were in the late 1800s.
The Skunk Train offers a wide selection of rides, including half-day trips, overnight trips, a sunset BBQ excursion, trips that include camping or kayaking, and even — if you make your reservations enough in advance — a chance to ride in the engine’s cab with the engineer and the fireman! There are also special event trips, some of them holiday-themed. Excursions begin in Willits or Fort Bragg, and depending on which trip you choose, will either bring you back to your starting point or all the way to the end of the line. Departing from Fort Bragg, the first few miles are along the Pudding Creek estuary, where you might sight blue heron, egrets, osprey, ducks, and the occasional lounging turtle. After passing through Tunnel No. 1, the Skunk Train snakes its way along the Noyo River, zigzagging through the redwood-thick Noyo River Canyon. If you continue past Northspur (the midway point), your train will descend the Eastern slope of the California Coast Range, cutting through it at Tunnel No. 2 (Summit); this is the mountainous part of the railroad line, in which 8.5 miles of track cover a straight-line distance of less than one mile.