Train Camping on the Noyo

Mendocino Camping Camp Noyo Skunk Train

As the sun sets on summer I’m finally getting around to talking about the trips I’ve been on. This past summer has been a bit of a lazy one. I planned on climbing something every weekend, but I can count the number of alpine starts I got on 2 fingers. Instead, I filled my schedule with backpacking and train camping.


Mendocino Camping Camp Noyo Skunk Train

In late July, I set off to Willits for my mom’s first camping trip in god knows how long. We were going to take the Skunk Train to Camp Noyo. No cell service and accessible only by train, it was like a more luxe version of car camping.

Mendocino Camping Camp Noyo Skunk Train

From the Bay Area, Willits is about a 3 hour drive. We left just before 6 to make it to the train station by 9am for check in and loading up our gear. Around 9:15, the Skunk Train backed itself down the tracks to the parking lot for us to toss all our things in. There’s no special storage for the gear; it all rides in the open air compartment. After all our stuff was on board, we walked back to the station to get in line for the train.

Mendocino Camping Camp Noyo Skunk Train

I’m no stranger to trains; I commute on one every day. The Skunk Train hearkens back to the old logging days and travels through second growth redwoods to Northspur, the midpoint between Willits and Fort Bragg. Once a bustling logging camp that included a store and post office, this is now a picnic area and the final destination on the train. We unloaded all passengers here and then unhitched the open air car to continue on to Camp Noyo.

Mendocino Camping Camp Noyo Skunk Train
Photo by Matthew Bennett.

Upon arriving at Camp Noyo, we were greeted by one of the campsite hosts. He outlined a few quick rules, pointed out available hikes and noted wildlife he’d seen, and then took us to our sites. The camp provided carts to haul all the gear to the site.

Mendocino Camping Camp Noyo Skunk Train

Each campsite holds 4-6 people. The only exception is the River Chalet, which holds 8 in a tiny cabin overlooking the river. The sites are all fully furnished with a picnic table, fire pit, gas lamp, stove, and cookware (full list available here). Don’t come here expecting seclusion and privacy. You can see at least one other camp area from your own. These aren’t as tightly packed as standard NPS or state park campgrounds, so despite having a party with six children near us, it was still relatively peaceful. We stayed at Shake City, which houses six people, and had the river gurgling peacefully behind us. The trees weren’t amazing for hammocking though.

Mendocino Camping Camp Noyo Skunk Train

Photo by Matthew Bennett.

The restroom is shared amongst all the campsites and has flushing toilets and showers. Hot water is available, but campers have to keep the stove burning. Behind the bathroom is an area to chop wood for the stove or for your own personal fires. Outside the building is a large sink area for doing dishes. Dish soap, hand soap, and sponges are available.

Mendocino Camping Camp Noyo Skunk Train

Photo by Matthew Bennett.

Camp Noyo is a sleepy, little place where time seems to slow, but there was still plenty of outdoor fun to be had. A seasonal dam creates a giant swimming area, deep enough for jumping off a tree and floating dock. A little further upstream, jump the plank, if you dare. If the water’s a little nippier than you’d like, float upstream in kayaks (single and tandem) or canoes. Supposedly there are fish too.

Mendocino Camping Camp Noyo Skunk Train

Photo by Matthew Bennett.

If you don’t feel like paddling, there are two hikes available. Hike the private road two miles up the hill. There are plenty of blackberries to be had, if in season. Keep your eyes peeled for bear scat. Though unremarkable in almost every way, this hike is a nice option if you want to get moving. The other option is to hike two miles down the tracks to a trestle. The railroad was damaged in previous winter storms, so trains are no danger to pedestrians from either end.

Mendocino Camping Camp Noyo Skunk Train

Photo by Matthew Bennett.

We were there for 3 days and 2 nights, but I found myself wishing we were staying longer. Every day, we paddled until our arms and backs were tired. We swam until we were shivering so hard our teeth threatened to fall out. We napped in hammocks until the mosquitoes came out and started biting. We cooked elaborate camp dinners. Time slowed down in the idyllic redwoods. It was incredibly relaxing.

Mendocino Camping Camp Noyo Skunk Train

On our last day, we gathered all our things and the Skunk Train picked us up around noon to take us back to Willits. I was sad to end our mini-vacation.

Tickets for the Skunk Train cost $84 for adults, $42 for young children, $10 for tiny children and $10 for dogs. Train tickets are separate from campsite fees. Campsites are $110 (4 people) or $140 (6 people) per night, with a two night minimum. The River Chalet is $220 per night. Camp Noyo is dog friendly. The camp is only open from April through October.  For more details, please click here.

Thank you to the Skunk Train and Camp Noyo for hosting us this summer. We can’t wait to come back.