The Big Easy: Part Lewis and Clark excursion, part mellow meander, the Big River invites the exploration of a wide tree-lined estuary with resident river otters, sea lions, and kingfishers. The water vehicle of choice is a handcrafted, wooden outrigger canoe that's as smooth and steady as it is swift and fun. Rent your canoe at Catch a Canoe & Bicycles, Too!, where the good folks will let you know the best tide-tuned times to paddle out and back. However near or far you choose to go, the canoe's outrigger and push-pedal rudder will make steering a breeze.
TIP: If you'd prefer to pedal than paddle, rent a bike and cruise the wide dirt Haul Road on the north side of the Big River. Catch a Canoe & Bicycles, Too! has a map and tips on other rides in the area.
Catch a Canoe & Bicycles, Too!, Hwy 1 and Comptche Ukiah Rd., Mendocino; 707-937-0273. Canoe rentals start at $10 per hour per person. Bike rentals start at $12 per hour. Dog-friendly!
Green Dream: This is the North Coast, where rain and fog keep the greenery moist and the leaves looking velvety lush. See it for yourself on Mendocino's prized Fern Canyon Trail in Russian Gulch State Park, where the creeks bustle and the air smells like fresh mint pines. Hike for 2.5 miles along Russian Gulch Creek, through a steep canyon blanketed with ferns, passing second-growth redwoods and ancient tree stumps to a 36-foot waterfall. At the base of the cascade, walk out on a fallen redwood log for the King Kong of the Jungle photo op.
Russian Gulch State Park is 2 miles north of Mendocino on Hwy 1. To reach the Fern Canyon trailhead, drive east through the campground all the way to the end of the road.