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Things may have changed in the Mendocino area, but it used to be hazardous to hike too far off the established trails because those who grew illegal crops in the area protected them with guns. Better check with a local before hiking.

Also, be aware that the coast and the inland valleys above SF have very different climates, so you'll need both warm and cool clothing -- think a nippy day at Pebble Beach and the hot day in deep Carmel Valley.

The coast north of SF is beautiful, but not quite Big Sur beautiful, if that's your reference. The Benbow Inn and Sea Ranch are both great places to stay. Fort Bragg is an interesting stop, but I wouldn't make it my base.

Disclosure: My experience is at least 15 years old, and may be very out of date.

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