Why We Love Willits
The Skunk Train – A rolling piece of American history
No trip to Mendocino County would be complete without a ride on the Skunk Train. The California redwoods provide an awe-inspiring backdrop for this rolling piece of American history.
The train begins in Willits (also out of Fort Bragg). Take your seat; it is time to make memories as you travel through the majestic redwood forests! Read more about the Skunk Train.
Mendocino County Museum – Celebrating the stories and places of Mendocino County
The Mendocino County Museum in Willits is definitely a must see! The Mendocino County Museum at 400 East Commercial street collects, conserves and celebrates the stories, artifacts, archives and lives of the people and places of Mendocino County.
The museum has a community focus with well-loved displays telling the story of racehorse legend Seabiscuit; a mysterious and forgotten 1850 shipwreck; and memorials to county residents who gave their lives in battle. The museum also has a commitment to preserving and celebrating living history.
The Museum also hosts several events throughout the year. Check out their website for more details. Remember Baechtel Creek Inn is one of the best hotels in Willits and we would be pleased to provide accommodations! Open Wednesday – Sunday 10:00 to 4:30 www.mendocinomuseum.org
Seabiscuit – The little horse that could
Ridgewood Ranch, off hwy 101 about 7 miles south of Willits, was the home of and is the final resting place for the great racing legend, Seabiscuit.
Visitors can tour the working ranch Seabiscuit called home and experience the spine-tingling excitement of watching his head-to-head triumph over War Admiral in the race known as the “match of the century!”
Seabiscuit’s descendants, affectionately dubbed Lil’ Biscuits, are being raised at the ranch and typically can be seen around the ranch during a tour. More information is available at seabiscuit.org.
Frontier Days – The oldest continual rodeo in the state of California is in Willits
For almost 90 years the premier celebration in Willits has been Frontier Days, featuring several weeks of themed activity leading up July 4th with an Independence Day parade, BBQ and rodeo. The festival has something for all ages, from the excitement of professional bull riders matching skills against the meanest and toughest bulls to youngsters entering his or her first junior rodeo competition. There are free dances, a carnival with rides and an arcade, a free parade, an old-fashioned BBQ and even free gunfights where the good guys (and gals) always win!
Don’t miss the heart-pounding high-horsepower truck pulls featuring everything from colorful high-octane professional rigs to local cowboys and cowgirls showing off their souped-up trucks. For this year’s date and information check out http://www.willitsfrontierdays.com/events.html. Book your stay at the Baechtel Creek Inn early as we usually sell out during this time.
Roots of Motive Power – Preserving rail heritage of the north coast
The Roots of Motive Power organization is partners with and neighbors of the Mendocino County Museum. For almost 30 years an enthusiastic group of Roots volunteers have been busy collecting and preserving the North Coast’s rail heritage for future generations. They create, maintain and operate a working steam museum of vintage railroad and logging equipment.
At select times each year, the Roots crew invites the public to join them as they stoke the fires and operate their vast array of vintage equipment. During these steam-ups, visitors can marvel at an operating five-story 750-ton steam shovel, scooping dirt and creating piles that dwarf the operators; a chrome-plated, wood-fired steam roller; or a donkey engine once used in the deep woods to move logs before the start of the last century. Find out more at www.rootsofmotivepower.com.
Willits – A little bit more
The Willits Arch, located on Main Street near the City Center, heralds the town’s role as “Gateway to the Redwoods” and makes Willits the perfect place for your redwood vacation. Willits serves as the hub of Mendocino County, located within easy driving distance of redwood groves to the north and south, the North Coast and world renowned wineries.
Willits is a friendly little country town nestled at the western edge of the Little Lake Valley at 1,350 feet above sea level. Surrounded by the forested mountains of the coastal range, Willits is centrally located in the heart of Mendocino County at the juncture of Highways 101 and 20 West, approximately halfway between San Francisco and Eureka. Willits tree-lined streets with its vintage Victorian and Craftsman-style homes transports visitors to the small-town ambience of yesteryear. Much of Willits’ architectural heritage dates back to its early years as a timber industry center with several buildings featured on the national historical registry.
We invite you to “Discover Willits” and the surrounding area of Mendocino. The region’s diversity offers everything from unique wilderness and rural adventures to top-notch cultural treasures, cuisine, wines and brews. Photographic opportunities abound along the rural byways, from ancient weathered barns somewhat hidden in early morning mist, to active cattle drives or newborn lambs frolicking in the spring grass. Willits has diverse cultural and educational amenities offered through the Mendocino County Museum, the Willits Community Theater and the Willits Center for the Arts. A state-of-the-art teaching hospital with some of the best orthopedic doctors is also available.
Exploring the country roads around Willits can be a surprising and rewarding experience for drivers, bicyclists and motorcyclists. Motorcyclists flock to rural Mendocino County back roads. There are great paved loops, whether along Highway 20 from Willits to the coast and returning to Willits by Branscomb Road, or south on Highway 101.Little Lake Valley is home to many horse, cattle and sheep ranches, some still owned by families of early settlers. In spring, colts, calves and lambs frolic in the fields, and in the early summer the scent of mown hay permeates the valley. Biking around Little Lake Valley on country roads is also a good way to experience these bucolic sights. The country roads provide easy loop rides with only minor elevation changes. The pastoral route takes riders along fields of horses, sheep and cattle, with the occasional llama and goat thrown in. Highway 163, which curves along the Eel River to Covelo, offers bikers a chance to view beautiful vistas and ride challenging terrain. And even a quick dip into the Eel River!
The northern half of the valley floods each winter, and by late spring blooms into a carpet of intense blue camas lilies. Migratory birds have stopped in the Little Lake Valley for eons and can be viewed easily from the roadside. Hawks, cranes and egrets routinely patrol the area. Herds of deer and flocks of turkeys are common sights, sharing the grassy fields with livestock. A small group of elk have migrated back into the valley.In recent years, there has been a resurgence of producing locally grown food. Several small local farms sell produce, cheese and meats to local restaurants and at the Willits Farmers Market.
Baechtel Creek Inn – Gateway to Willits and Mendocino County
The Baechtel Creek Inn welcomed our first guests in 1991. We are a family-owned business, and are proud to be one of the best hotels in Willits and the gateway to Mendocino County. Our hotel is nestled on a quiet creek-side setting, just one turn off Highway 101. We will be delighted to help you plan your Mendocino County adventure experience, including drives through the Redwoods, Skunk Train tickets, wine tasting tours, hiking, biking and more.