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Ride the World-Famous Skunk Train in Mendocino

Take a step back in time for a whimsical ride through the Mendocino Redwood Forest on the world-famous Skunk Train!  A ride on the Skunk Train is perfect for families and kids of all ages and not only will everyone love the train ride from Fort Bragg on the Pudding Creek Express, but the stop at Glen Bair Junction to explore the redwood forest will be a unforgettable experience.    

Skunk Train Overview

Step back in time for a magical ride through the redwoods on the world-famous Skunk Train. Since 1885 the historic Skunk has made its way through old-growth redwood groves, over scenic trestle bridges, through spectacular tunnels, and into the heart of the Noyo River canyon. Today’s riders enjoy the same pristine views that have remained largely unchanged for well over a century.

The Skunk Train is located in Northern California’s Mendocino County about 1.25 hours from Santa Rosa and 2.5 hours from Sacramento and San Francisco. 

Photo Courtesy of the Skunk Train

This historic railroad in the redwoods originated in 1885 and was formed as part of the early timber industry in Mendocino and served a vital role in transporting families and workers who set up various logging camps along the route.

The railroad’s historic name is California Western Railroad and the nickname “Skunk” originated in 1925, when motorcars were introduced (today sometimes referred to as railbuses or railcruisers). These single unit, self-propelled motorcars had gasoline-powered engines for power and pot-bellied stoves burning crude oil to keep the passengers warm.  The combination of the fumes created a very pungent odor, and the old timers living along the line said these motorcars were like skunks, “You could smell them before you could see them.” Although the smell is now much reduced, everyone still likes to think of the train as that little Skunk running through the redwoods.

Plan Your Visit

There are two locations to depart from, either Fort Bragg or Willits.

Train departure from Fort Bragg includes the Pudding Creek Express train ride.  On the Pudding Creek Express you'll enjoy a scenic 7-mile round trip that takes about an hour along the beautiful Pudding Creek Estuary, home to blue herons, ospreys, egrets, and more.  

Earlier trains make a stop at Glen Blair Junction for 15-20 minutes, which allows you to get off the train, stretch your legs and explore the Redwood Forest.  If you want to spend more time walking the trails amongst the redwoods, you can remain and catch the next train (roughly two hours later)

Current Prices: Adult - $41.95; Child (Ages 2 to 12) - $25.95; Infant (Ages 2 and under) - $10.95; Dogs - $10.95

Departure from Willits include the Wolf Tree Turn train ride, which is a scenic journey departing Willits and traveling over the highest point of the line.  The 2-hour round trip will take you over the Summit of the rail line (elevation 1,740 feet), through Tunnel #2, and down into the Noyo River Canyon, where you can get off the train at Crowley to explore the iconic Redwood Forest.

Current Prices: Adult - $49.95; Child (Ages 2 to 12) - $29.95; Infant (Ages 2 and under) - $10.95; Dogs - $10.95

There are also two other Railbike experiences you can choose from that include riding Railbikes along Pudding Creek or riding Railbikes along the Noyo River.  These unique two-person pedal powered (electric-assisted) railbikes have more stringent requirements (ages 3+, weight restrictions and other requirements) and are a lot pricier than the standard train rides starting at $195/person.  

On our recent visit, we departed from Fort Bragg on the Pudding Creek Express and enjoyed the entire experience, especially the stop that allowed us to explore redwoods.  As of right now, Covid-19 related protocols are still in place and masks must be work when on the train.

If you're traveling with kids it's good to note that there are bathrooms on board the train, as well as a concession stand with drinks and snacks. 

And after the train ride, be sure to check out the gift shop for some souvenirs.

If you're planning a trip to Mendocino, a ride on the Skunk Train should be on the top of your list!

Disclosure: The Skunk Train and their PR Firm (Chalkboard Communications) provided complimentary tickets as part of a Mendocino Family Travel Weekend for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.