Winter in Ukiah

July 2019

Mid-February, recovered from the Holidays and well established into the new year, we decided to get away for President’s Day Weekend. A short 2 hour drive from San Francisco up highway 101 are quaint Hopland and then shortly after the city of Ukiah, the county seat for Mendocino County.

February can be rainy in Northern California, but we arrived just after a number of days of rain. The land was wet but beautiful, with a dusting of snow on the surrounding peaks and everything green in the Ukiah valley.

Upon arriving in Ukiah, we started with a walk at the Lake Mendocino walking and bike trail, to get out and stretch our legs after the drive. This paved half-mile trail on the top of the earthen Coyote Dam on the Russian River provides a great views of Ukiah on one side, and the beautiful Lake Mendocino on the other. There are more extensive trails around the lake but we didn’t venture too far off the paved trail due to the winter mud.


The northern part of Ukiah is also home to its cannabis dispensaries, some of the finest in Mendocino. Kure Wellness, Revolution Emporium, and Sundialed are all in fairly close proximity in this part of town. Kure is known for its distribution of quality Mendocino marijuana from many local growers. Revolution Emporium is a small but well-stocked facility. Sundialed is a larger space and has comedy nights, “Paint & Puff” painting events, as well as coffee and doughnuts every Sunday from 11 to noon.

As it was getting late, we went into downtown Ukah and had dinner at Cultivo, a popular spot with good Neopolitan-style pizza, salad, and beautiful braided breadsticks. Some good local brews on tap, make a reservation or get there early.


After dinner we drove over to do some shopping at the Ukiah natural foods coop, which had a great selection of local and organic foods, as well as Mendocino wines and beers.

The next day we went for a hike in Low Gap Park, a city park on the western side of Ukiah with a dog run, large frisbee golf course, and hiking trails throughout several hills. It is a surprisingly extensive park, and we were able to quickly get some altitude for views of the valley and solitude in nature. Swollen streams from all the rainwater made for a picturesque scene.


We stopped for lunch at Stan’s Maple Cafe, a popular if pretty standard American diner serving breakfast and lunch.


In the afternoon, we visited the jewel of our trip, Montgomery Woods State Reserve. About half an hour west of Ukiah on a winding mountain road, this state park features some beautiful stands of old growth redwoods. One 367.5” redwood tree there was once thought to be the tallest tree in the world, apparently (we couldn’t figure out which one was the tallest from the ground, of course.


This beautiful preserve feels like going back in time, rather remote and full of huge, ancient redwoods. Parts of the trail were flooded from all the recent rains, so we couldn’t go too far, but gave it the quality of a secret forest lake with giant trees rising all around. A bit out of the way but worth the trip.


Our final day, heading back to San Francisco, we stopped in Hopland at Brutocao Cellars. Brutocao has always been one of my favorite Mendocino wineries, with a great selection of zinfandels, cabernet sauvignon, and Italian varietal blends, at pretty fair prices. With tasting rooms in both Philo and Hopland in Mendocino, the Hopland space is pretty special — the old Hopland High School was purchased by Brutocao, and is a cool building, complete with Bocce courts on site. Wine tasting at 10 AM is a strange thing, but we always want to grab a case of Brutocao wine to take back home.


Hopland is also home to the EmeraldPharms Hopland dispensary, which is housed on the grounds of EcoTerra, an amazing 12 acre compound with gardens, the Solar Living Institute. No visit to Hopland is complete without a stop there, one of Mendocino County’s best attractions besides nature. Plus, in April 2019 the Solar Living Center and Real Goods store were sold to Mendocino’s own Flow Kana, so no doubt more interesting changes are in store for the visitor and those interested in sun grown, organic cannabis from Mendocino.