Where is Willits, California? Discover This Hidden Gem in Mendocino County

Where is Willits, California? Discover This Hidden Gem in Mendocino County

Nestled in the heart of Mendocino County, Willits, California, offers a charming escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Known as the “Gateway to the Redwoods,” this small town is surrounded by towering trees and natural beauty, making it a perfect destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

As you explore Willits, you’ll discover its rich history and vibrant community spirit. From the iconic Skunk Train to the picturesque Mendocino Coast, there’s no shortage of attractions to pique your interest. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or just curious about this hidden gem, Willits promises a unique blend of tranquility and excitement.

Key Takeaways

  • Location and Geography: Willits, California, is situated in Mendocino County, about 30 miles north of Ukiah, providing a serene escape with its picturesque landscape and proximity to the Eel River watershed.
  • Historical Significance: Originally inhabited by the Pomo Native American tribe and later developed through settlements during the California Gold Rush, Willits has a rich history, highlighted by the iconic Skunk Train and agricultural development.
  • Major Attractions: Key attractions in Willits include the Skunk Train, offering scenic journeys through redwood forests, and the Mendocino County Museum with exhibits on Native American culture and local history.
  • Economy and Demographics: The town’s economy revolves around agriculture, logging, and tourism. With a population of around 5,000 residents, Willits reflects a diverse heritage and has a balanced demographic composition.
  • Travel Tips: The best time to visit Willits is during late spring and early fall for optimal weather conditions. Accommodation options range from cozy bed-and-breakfasts to hotels, with dining options catering to a variety of tastes.

Exploring Willits, California

Geography and Location

You’ll find Willits nestled in the picturesque Mendocino County of Northern California. Located about 30 miles north of Ukiah, it’s accessible via U.S. Route 101. Surrounded by the majestic redwoods of the coastal range, Willits is at an elevation of 1,391 feet, offering a serene escape from urban life. The town extends over an area of 2.803 square miles, characterized by a mix of forested areas and open spaces. Notably, it’s close to the Eel River watershed, contributing to its lush landscape.

Brief History

Willits boasts a rich history dating back to its early founding in the mid-19th century. Originally inhabited by the Pomo Native American tribe, it later saw settlers during the California Gold Rush. The town was officially incorporated in 1888. Since then, it developed into a center for agriculture, particularly for its thriving orchards and later logging industry. The arrival of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in the early 20th century spurred further growth. The Skunk Train, established in 1885, remains a historical highlight, offering a glimpse into the town’s logging heritage.

Key Attractions in Willits

Key Attractions in Willits

The Skunk Train

The Skunk Train offers a memorable experience through the stunning redwood forests. Established in 1885, it showcases Willits’ logging heritage. The train provides scenic journeys that highlight the beauty and history of Northern California. You’ll find various tours available, such as the Pudding Creek Express and the Northspur Flyer. Each tour features different routes and durations, allowing you to explore the wilderness at a comfortable pace. Special events, like holiday-themed rides and wildlife tours, add excitement to this iconic attraction.

Mendocino County Museum

The Mendocino County Museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts highlighting the region’s rich history. You’ll see exhibits on Native American culture, early settlers, and the county’s development over the years. The museum also hosts rotating exhibits and educational programs throughout the year. Interactive displays engage visitors of all ages, making history accessible and enjoyable. Additionally, the research library provides valuable resources for those interested in genealogy or local history. Accessible to all, the Mendocino County Museum is a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

Economy and Demographics

Major Industries

Willits, California, has diverse major industries including agriculture, logging, and tourism. Agricultural sectors, such as organic farming and livestock, play a crucial role in the local economy. Logging remains prominent, with the redwood forests providing valuable timber resources. Tourism is significant due to attractions like the Skunk Train and proximity to the Mendocino Coast, drawing nature enthusiasts. Small businesses and retail shops in downtown Willits complement these core industries by catering to residents and visitors.

Population Insights

Willits has a population of approximately 5,000 residents based on recent census data. The demographic composition includes various age groups and ethnic backgrounds, reflecting the town’s diverse heritage. The median age in Willits is around 39 years, indicating a balanced mix of young families, professionals, and retirees. Most households are family units, and the town sees a steady population growth rate. Educational facilities, healthcare services, and community organizations support the local population, contributing to the overall quality of life in Willits.

Travel Tips for Visiting Willits

Travel Tips for Visiting Willits

Best Time To Visit

Willits, situated in Mendocino County, offers pleasant weather year-round, making it an attractive destination for any season. However, the best time to visit is during late spring and early fall. From May to October, temperatures range between 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, providing comfortable conditions for outdoor activities like hiking and sightseeing. During these months, you’ll also avoid the higher rainfall common from November to February, ensuring clearer skies and drier trails.

Accommodations And Dining

Willits has a diverse selection of accommodations ranging from cozy bed-and-breakfasts to more conventional hotels. Consider staying at the Baechtel Creek Inn for a charming experience, or the Best Western Willits Inn for modern amenities. For those who enjoy camping, the nearby William’s Grove Campground offers a rustic escape surrounded by redwoods.

Dining options in Willits cater to varied tastes and preferences. For a farm-to-table experience, visit the Patrona Restaurant and Lounge, known for its seasonal offerings and local ingredients. If you prefer something more casual, Lumberjack’s Restaurant delivers hearty American fare in a rustic setting. For vegetarian and vegan options, the Loose Caboose Café provides a delicious array of plant-based dishes.


Willits, California, offers a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and modern amenities. Whether you’re drawn to its rich Gold Rush heritage or the scenic allure of the Mendocino Coast, there’s something for everyone. The town’s welcoming community and diverse industries create a vibrant atmosphere that’s hard to resist.

With excellent educational facilities, healthcare services, and community support, Willits is a great place to visit or call home. The travel tips provided ensure you’ll make the most of your trip, enjoying comfortable accommodations and delightful dining experiences.

Discover Willits and immerse yourself in its charm and character.

Willits, California, located in the heart of Mendocino County, is known for its quaint charm and scenic beauty. Learn more about what makes Willits a must-visit destination on Visit Mendocino. For those interested in exploring local attractions like the famous Skunk Train, additional details can be found on Skunk Train’s official site.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Willits, California located?

Willits is located in Mendocino County, approximately 30 miles north of Ukiah.

What are some popular attractions in Willits?

Popular attractions in Willits include the Skunk Train and the Mendocino Coast.

What is the historical significance of Willits?

Willits has a rich heritage dating back to the Gold Rush era.

What industries are prominent in Willits?

Prominent industries in Willits include agriculture, logging, and tourism.

How many people live in Willits?

Willits has a population of around 5,000 residents.

What educational facilities are available in Willits?

Willits offers various educational facilities to cater to its residents’ needs.

Are there healthcare services in Willits?

Yes, Willits provides essential healthcare services for its community.

When is the best time to visit Willits?

The best time to visit Willits is during late spring and early fall for pleasant weather.

What are some recommended accommodations in Willits?

Recommended accommodations include the Baechtel Creek Inn.

Where can I find good dining options in Willits?

The Patrona Restaurant and Lounge offers a farm-to-table dining experience in Willits.