You want to know the real motivation behind our trip to Mendocino? It was these railbikes! The minute I heard about them I was obsessed and determined to ride them!
Skunk Train Railbikes
These railbikes follow the famous Skunk Train tracks for a 7 mile out-and-back adventure.
We arrived at the Skunk Train Depot in downtown Fort Bragg 30 minutes early to check-in and get set up on our bikes. Each motorized bike holds 2 riders: the driver, who has control of motor-assisted pedals and the brake, and the passenger who has regular old man-powered pedals. As the passenger, I learned that when the motor is turned on, the driver does all the work. While I pedaled out of habit, I really contributed nothing to the bike moving forward! And no need to steer as the bikes just follow the tracks!
We first had to cross Highway 1. The railroad gates came down, signals blaring and lights flashing as we pedaled across the busy highway and waved to all the stopped cars! As soon as we crossed the street, the city noise fell away and we were on quiet tracks in the middle of the forest. We began downhill which was a good way to get acquainted with the brake! My 2 sons were in front of my 13-year-old & I and Mike brought up the rear of our group.
It was really peaceful winding along the tracks through the forest. My favorite part was going across the wooden trestle bridges and over the creek. The best part of being the passenger was being free to take lots of pictures & videos and enjoy the scenery. The worst part was giving my daughter complete control of the bike – she liked to slow our bike down to let our boys get ahead and then speed up as fast as she could to catch them. Not looking forward to her driving a car.
About 2 miles into the ride we entered a redwood grove. I loved this part as it made me feel so small among these magnificent giants!
Glen Blair Junction
We disembarked at Glen Blair Junction for a 50-minute layover. It’s a great time to hang out and enjoy the scenery, have a picnic lunch, or follow a 1-mile Skunk Trail that winds through the redwoods.
For such a short hike, there were certainly a lot of interesting spots to stop. We loved this little bridge among a sea of ferns & greenery.
At the Junction
As we were hanging out at the shaded picnic tables enjoying a snack, the Skunk Train arrived at the junction. Passengers briefly disembarked to take pictures and then the train headed back out. About 10 minutes later we left on the railbikes. We had to be a little careful on the way back because, in order to reduce sparks, the train sprays the track with water which made our bikes skid on the tracks in a few places.
The Way Back
Doesn’t the way back always go by so much faster than the way there? We just tried to soak it all in as we headed back.
- $250 per bike (accommodates 2 riders) – no discount for single riders
- Single riders must be 18 years old
- All riders must be at least 6 years old with a minimum height of 31″ hips to floor
- Closed-toe shoes required
- Masks required at all times (except when on the Skunk Trail) & social distancing enforced (as of September 2020)
- ~2 hours roundtrip
- Rain or shine!
- Book online here
First the good: This was voted the favorite family activity of our weekend in Mendocino. It was different than anything we had ever done before which made it exciting. Our two teens loved being the drivers and having control of the speed. It was also really easy to book online. I’d suggest booking in advance – I booked about 3 weeks before our trip and there was limited availability.
The not so good: Despite having a really great time, I honestly thought it was a bit overpriced especially since we had an odd number of riders and would have benefitted from a single rider discount on our third bike. There was nothing included in the price besides the ride (no water, snacks, lunch during the layover) which I think would have helped to justify the higher price. Our guide mentioned that they are in the process of building out a trail that will go from Fort Bragg to Willits (40 miles away) and will offer a 3-day hiking package where the train meets you each night with your stuff and there’s also the option of sleeping on the train. They were also building a new handicap accessible train platform at the Junction. I’m not sure if the higher price for railbikes is subsidizing building out these new features.
The Verdict: I would recommend this adventure, but I also acknowledge that it’s a splurge, especially if you need multiple bikes like we did. It was worth it for us because everyone loved it (5 thumbs up!), but it’s something I’d only do once. There was a hiking trail that parallels the tracks so you could opt to hike to Glen Blair Junction instead. I think this is part of the new trail system they are building out.