**UPDATED October 2023**
Fort Bragg Rail Bike Adventure in the Redwoods
Looking for something totally different and unique to do on your Mendocino getaway? Take a ride on the Fort Bragg Rail Bikes and follow the famous Skunk Train route for a 7-mile out-and-back adventure. This family-friendly ride through the California Redwoods will delight younger kids while providing a thrilling experience for older kids & teens in the driver’s seat.
Rail biking along this scenic route was the motivation behind our trip to Mendocino County! The minute I heard about the Fort Bragg rail bikes I was obsessed and determined to ride them!
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What is Rail Biking?
Rail biking is growing in popularity in the US with new tour operators & routes popping up all the time. Rail bikes are custom-built recumbent bikes that slot onto train tracks. Most are motor-assisted to make pedaling a breeze. Many rail bike routes use old defunct railroad tracks – giving the tracks a new life and providing passengers with a unique perspective of the landscape as they bike on railroad tracks!
The motorized Fort Bragg rail bikes hold 2 riders: the driver, who has control of motor-assisted pedals and the brake, and the passenger who has standard human-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’s forward motion! And no need to steer as the bikes just follow the tracks
Skunk Train History
The Skunk Line opened in 1885 as a logging railroad and moved massive redwoods from the Mendocino backcountry to the sawmills in Fort Bragg where the lumber was processed and then shipped to San Francisco by steamship.
By 1887, the railroad had been pushed nearly 7 miles east to Glen Bair where another mill was located. Passenger service started on the Skunk Line in 1904. Construction of the Skunk Line was completed in 1911 – running 40 miles from coastal Fort Bragg inland to Willits. Eventually, trucks became the primary way to transport logs and the Skunk Train relied solely on passengers & tourists. Today, the tracks cross approximately 30 bridges & trestles and pass through 2 mountain tunnels.
So how did the Skunk Train get its name? When motorcars were introduced along the line in 1925, the mixture of fumes from the gasoline-powered engine and oil-burning stoves onboard created a strong odor prompting the locals to start calling the trains “skunks”.
Today, the rail bike tours cover part of this historic Skunk Line route from Fort Bragg to Glen Bair junction – through the majestic redwoods, along Pudding Creek. and crossing over bridges.
Rail Biking in the California Redwoods
When we did this several years ago, only the route along Pudding Creek to Glen Bair junction was available. Now there are more options from which to choose.
We arrived at the Skunk Train Depot in downtown Fort Bragg 30 minutes early to check in and get set up on our rail bikes.
The ride begins by crossing Highway 1. The railroad gates came down for us with their signals blaring and lights flashing and we pedaled across the busy highway waving 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 redwood forest. The route begins downhill which is a good chance to get acquainted with how the brake works! My 2 sons were in front of my 13-year-old & me, and my husband 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 Pudding Creek. The best part of being the passenger was I 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 Bair Junction
Glen Bair Junction is the halfway and turnaround point for the Pudding Creek route. We had a 50-minute layover where we could hang out and enjoy the scenery, have a picnic lunch, or follow the 1-mile Skunk Trail that winds through the redwoods.
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 sprayed the track with water which made our bikes skid on the tracks in a few places.
The Skunk Trail
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.
Fort Bragg Railbikes Fares & Reservations
Here’s what you need to know if you want to ride the Fort Bragg Railbikes:
Rail Bike Tickets
- $265 per bike (accommodates 2 riders) – no discount for single riders
- Dog Trailers are now available for $30! Includes complimentary dog bandana & treat.
- 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
- Helmets are required (you can bring your own)
- ~2 hours roundtrip
- Rain or shine!
- Book this exact rail bike adventure along Pudding Creek here!
Rail Bikes on the Noyo
Since we rode the rail bikes, they’ve added another rail bike adventure! This longer & more strenuous route along the Noyo River is 25 miles and takes approximately 4 hours. It departs from the Sherwood Road property, beginning with a short hike to the bikes. You’ll pass by some historic stops along the Skunk Train route and cross 12 wooden trestle bridges over the river. After 11 miles you’ll reach Camp Noyo where you’ll have an hour break to enjoy a complimentary picnic, swim in the river, explore the redwoods, or just relax.
Noyo Fare Details:
- $495 per bike (accommodates 2 riders) – no discount for single riders
- No dogs are allowed on this route (yet)
Ride the Skunk Train
Not up for railbiking, but still want to enjoy the scenery? You can ride the Skunk Train!
Skunk Train: Fort Bragg
The Skunk Train Pudding Creek Express is available throughout the year. It departs from Fort Bragg and follows the same 7-mile route as the Pudding Creek railbikes, including a 30-minute stop at Glen Bair Junction.
- Standard Fare: $49.95
- VIP Fare: $89.95 (includes advanced boarding, priority concessions & lunch at The Glen)
- Dogs: $10.95
Skunk Train: Willits
For a longer train ride, catch the Skunk Train in Willits and ride the Wolf Tree Turn route. This 16-mile route is named after one of the oldest trees along the route, The Wolf Tree, which you will have a chance to admire. You’ll ascend from Willits to the highest point on the line, pass through a tunnel, and experience the magic of the redwood forest.
- Standard Fare: $64.95
- VIP Fare: $99.95 (includes advanced boarding, priority concessions & lunch at The Glen)
- Dogs: $10.95
Seasonal Skunk Train Tickets
The Skunk Train also offers some seasonal train rides like the Pumpkin Express, the Christmas Tree Train, and the Easter Express.