Why are people in L.A. flocking to Mendocino? Two words: Mushroom season

Fort Bragg's Skunk Train with illustrated mushrooms leaning in from either side of the frame.
Fort Bragg’s Skunk Train follows a 19th century rail route through redwood forests.
(Photo by Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times; illustration by Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times)

Death cap. Pine spike. Shaggy mane. Hideous Gomphidius.

No, these aren’t the names of punk bands from your local high school — they’re just some of the mushroom varieties that grow in Northern California.

Mushroom season is underway in Mendocino County, home to roughly 3,000 mushroom varieties (500 of which you can safely eat!). In other words: If you needed an excuse to make the 500-mile journey from L.A. to Mendocino’s stunning stretch of coastline, this is it.

In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find a few ways to embrace the cottage-core vibes of mushroom season and become a fungi expert.


Where are you traveling this fall? Send me your travel stories and recommendations, and I may pass them along in a future edition of Escapes.

🍄 Become a mushroom expert

A woman walks through a lush section of a botanical garden filled with trees, ferns and other greenery.
More than 160 species of mushrooms grow at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens during the fall and winter months.
(Brendan McGuigan

Why do mushrooms love Mendocino so much? What’s the difference between an amber-staining Agaricus and a gemmed Amanita? And what’s so special about mushrooms, anyway?

You’ll receive a crash course on all things fungi if you attend one of the many mushroom tours offered throughout Mendocino County this month and beyond.

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, home to more than 160 species of mushrooms during the fall and winter months, is a great place to start your mushroom education. Every Monday from Nov. 14 through Dec. 26, naturalist and mycologist Mario Abreu will lead guests on a two-hour “mushroom walk” around the grounds. On the tour, guests will learn how to identify different types of mushroom and hear mushroom lore.

Reservations are required. Tickets cost $15 per participant and include gardens admission for the day. Note: There is no tour on Dec. 5.

Can’t make one of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens’ mushroom walks? Other Mendocino institutions such as the Stanford Inn, Brewery Gulch Inn and the Jug Handle Creek Farm and Nature Center also host mushroom education programs.

🍽️ Eat your fill of mushrooms

An exterior shot of a two-story building with wood shingles and red trim, surrounded by shrubs and trees.
The Michelin-starred Harbor House Inn is just one of many Mendocino County restaurants with mushrooms on the menu.
(Brendan McGuigan)

After learning the ins and outs of Mendocino’s mushrooms, you’ll likely be hungry and eager to sample the region’s wild bounty yourself.


Here are a few places where you can find mushroom-forward dishes around the county right now:

  • Harbor House Inn: The Michelin-starred restaurant includes candy cap mushroom ice cream on its sample menu.
  • Fog Eater Cafe: Find fried blue oyster mushrooms on the menu at this vegetarian restaurant. The Mendocino Village spot also hosts a special Mushroom Dinner on Nov. 10.
  • The Bewildered Pig market: Stock up on “medicinal mushroom cookies” on your way through Philo, Calif.
  • The Stanford Inn: A perfect jumping-off point for experiencing mushroom season, this inn offers a “medicinal mushroom breakfast” and a mushroom tasting menu for dinner. More info on the inn’s mushroom programming here.

🚂 Ride the Mushroom Train

Two people look out a window of a train as it chugs through a wooded hillside area.
On Nov. 12, the Skunk Train will transport travelers along its redwood route to a celebration in honor of Mendocino’s mushroom season.
(Visit Mendocino County)

If you enjoy traveling in Northern California, chances are you’ve heard of Fort Bragg’s Skunk Train, a staggeringly photogenic rail route through the redwood forest that dates back to the 1800s.

On Nov. 12, the famous Skunk Train will transform into the Mushroom Train in honor of Mendocino’s mushroom season. The train will whisk passengers through the giant trees, beginning at Fort Bragg Depot and ending at Glen Blair Junction. Guests will get the chance to try mushroom dishes, taste wines, enjoy s’mores around a campfire and more.

Reservations are required. Tickets cost $150 with a $50 additional whiskey upgrade, with proceeds benefiting MendoParks.

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🚗Road trip tip

A man carries a full cardboard box to an Airstream with the word "Outdoorsy" on it.
Staff member Ryan Quinn carts a box to an Outdoorsy Airstream.
(Brant Ward / Associated Press)

Love the idea of camping in an RV but nervous about driving one all the way to Mendocino or beyond? Here’s some good news: You don’t need to maneuver a hulking vehicle along California’s freeway system to enjoy the RV experience.

Companies such as RVshare and Outdoorsy operate like an “Airbnb for RVs,” Sally French reports for the Associated Press. Many of their offerings can be dropped off at the site of your choice — with the caveat that some campgrounds may ban RV delivery (so check beforehand). Learn more here.

🌭 One last thing

Two smiling, waving young women sit atop a yellow and red vehicle shaped like a hot dog.
Hotdoggers Keila Garza and Abbey Rank sit atop the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
(Julia Carmel / Los Angeles Times)

Speaking of road trips, few know the freeways of the Golden State better than Keila Garza and Abbey Rank, two “hotdoggers” responsible for driving the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile up and down the West Coast.

They’re part of the meat company’s hotdogger program, which enlists recently graduated college students to drive Oscar Mayer’s six Wienermobiles and make appearances at grocery store openings, weddings, funerals and other events.

It’s a tough gig to score. “Thousands of people apply every year, but only 12 are chosen to drive the massive hot dogs, which means the job is harder to get than an acceptance letter to Harvard University,” my colleague Julia Carmel reports.

I’ll leave you with this fun fact: More people have been to space than have driven the Wienermobile, Carmel notes in the story. Read more here.

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