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Overview

Willits doesn't look like much at first glance: a few hippie stores strewn along Highway 101 and some country roads leading up the redwood-covered mountains. Upon closer inspection, the moniker "Heart of Mendocino County" begins to make sense. Since the mid 1800s, the rich soil of this valley has become known for growing plentiful grain and grapes (and more recently, illicit "mary jane"). But it wasn't until the Skunk Train connected Fort Bragg to Willits that industry really sprouted. Soon, weary travelers from San Francisco began making Willits a stopping point. Today this is still the case; however, Willits has more to offer than a bed ...

Willits doesn't look like much at first glance: a few hippie stores strewn along Highway 101 and some country roads leading up the redwood-covered mountains. Upon closer inspection, the moniker "Heart of Mendocino County" begins to make sense. Since the mid 1800s, the rich soil of this valley has become known for growing plentiful grain and grapes (and more recently, illicit "mary jane"). But it wasn't until the Skunk Train connected Fort Bragg to Willits that industry really sprouted. Soon, weary travelers from San Francisco began making Willits a stopping point. Today this is still the case; however, Willits has more to offer than a bed and a cup of joe. As the gateway to the Redwoods, Willits draws tourists who don't want to trek all the way up to Redwood State and National Park — the tallest tree in the world was once thought to be in Mendocino County's forests. Top off the endless trails with access to horse racing star Seabiscuit's home, some of the greenest wineries in the world and the longest standing rodeo in California, and Willits begins to look a lot more interesting.

Michele Bigley
About the Expert

Michele Bigley is the author of Northern California: An Explorer's Guide and Great Destinations Kauai from Countryman Press.

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Michele Bigley for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    If you don't mind sweltering heat, join the summer masses. Or enjoy the quiet in fall and spring.