Northern California hosts some of the most iconic and historic cannabis farms within the Emerald Triangle, making up Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties.
Author’s note: This tour was in October of 2021, on the anniversary of my nine years of using cannabis oil in Humboldt County, putting breast cancer into remission, forcing me to cross over from mainstream media into the cannabis publishing space. On a personal note, it was a surreal and bittersweet return after being away for six years, leaving before legalization, when the region was still covert. One of my most surreal memories was being taken up into the hills in Southern Humboldt to the covert hill farm where the cannabis that put my cancer into remission was grown. Still in mainstream media, known for my work in the county, I was blindfolded, and the sim card removed from my iPhone. I had no issue with this hill policy. Me being high profile and in media posed the most threat to them, not me. Today, there are still covert hill farms, and visitors are not encouraged to traverse off-trail in search of weed. Respect to privacy still prevails.
But, for most who have traveled the five hours beyond the Redwood Curtain above San Francisco in search of the soul of the cannabis community may have been disappointed in the past.
This was due, in part, to the covert nature of an established industry fearful of Federal persecution. The healing and caregiving community surrounding the plant peeked out from the legal, but unregulated, medical cannabis market in 1996, with California the first to legalize the plant as medicine. But, the people to the north have historically hidden in the shadows; until legalization was voted for in 2017, then enacted in January of 2018.
Ordinances for tourism vary from county to county, with Mendocino being the most progressive so far, where tourism is concerned, allowing consumption, delivery and sales in lodgings. In Humboldt County, a farm can get a permit for tours, but they can’t offer consumption or sales. Up in Trinity County there are no specific ordinances to cannabis tourism, per say.
Most consumption being done in all counties so far is mostly on private properties, including hotels, cabins in the woods, camping and AirBnB options.
Cannabis lounges are popping up in the most unlikely of places – such as the old KMart in Eureka, smack dab on Highway 101 – now home to Pappa & Barkley’s 10,000 square feet mixed-use facility, complete with a farm, manufacturing facility, dispensary, and an outdoor lounge where the nursery used to be.
The historic Scotia Inn, located in the formerly privately owned company town of the Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO), has been taken over by the Humboldt Bay Social Club, also running a bed and breakfast on the spit of Samoa – it too, the former home of a lumber town.
After living many years in Humboldt, this writer never dreamed that my old Bank of American in historic, downtown Eureka would now be occupied by one of the oldest and most respected dispensaries, The Humboldt Patient Resource Center (HPRC). But, the times have changed in the Emerald Triangle, to be sure.
Following are details from each county, with a reference list at the bottom of the story.
Mendocino has the most progressive approach to cannabis tourism to date, with permits available for cannabis consumption in dispensaries, on farms, and at events with consumption areas allowed, including cannabis farmers markets.
It’s newly updated Ordinance 4491 allows all forms of cannabis to be offered to overnight guests of lodgings, via a non-storefront cannabis retailer, in conjunction with accommodations. Cannabis can actually be included in the room rate – in a bundle-type purchase, or have it delivered to the room by a service.
The historic MacCallum House is not a private residence, therefore you can’t smoke in the rooms, but is allowed on the room’s private deck or yard areas. According to the ordinance, the hotel offers cannabis bundles via an “Everything But the Bud” package, with the room reservation, so you can have your weed waiting for you or delivered upon arrival.
The hotel encourages visits to nearby Leonard Moore, with two sister storefronts in scenic Mendocino Village, located on a cliff along the Pacific Ocean. Nearby Spark offers up a good variety of handcrafted, locally made glass and paraphernalia.
Do a 420 friendly search of AirBnB stays in this county and you’ll find many offering up accommodations, including private farms and homes.
Emerald Farm Tours began in the Bay Area of San Francisco, offering up private and group tours of multi-day adventures in California’s wine country. It’s tours cover the Emerald Triangle from Mendocino, to Trinity County at the top of the state, and Humboldt County, including the Lost Coast – the last bit of undeveloped coast along scenic Highway 1.
Southern Humboldt is where the cannabis industry really began, and where many of the cultivars we enjoy today were developed, and continue to be developed to this day. It’s farmers are some of the best in the world, with the organic flower they grow outdoor in the sun in loamy redwood composted soil envied around the world.
Humboldt Cannabis Tours organizes tours of farms and cannabis entities in Southern Humboldt and throughout the Triangle, including the local hub of Garberville (contact below).
Five Sisters Farm, located on Highway 101 in Garberville, has opened its doors to visitors, with bookings on Hipcamp.com and BudandBreakfast.com. They’ve lined up cultivars along the path to your own private bell tent, steps away from its licensed cannabis crop. An outdoor hot bath is nearby, with many camping options.
Second generation cannabis farmer, John Casali and his partner Rose, of Huckleberry Hill Farms were the first to acquire a permit for daytime farm tours from the county. Casali’s beautifully landscaped farm includes a bountiful vegetable garden and flowers throughout. Mother plants are displayed along the pathways, with each story and tribute noted on markers.
If you ever wanted just a taste of what Humboldt or the Emerald Triangle feels like on a farm, Casali’s little bit of paradise is a good example of the magic of the north coast cannabis family.
Stroll along Garberville’s downtown and stop in at the Hemp Connection, the first hemp clothing store in the U.S., opened in 1990. The shop was the first business to be named a Cultural Landmark in 2021, along the newly established Northern California Historical Cannabis Trail.
Co-founded by Marie Mills, with her daughter, Teresa, they have the largest selection of hemp clothing and accessories in one place, with hemp paraphernalia, smoking glass, and educational materials via books and magazines.
This writer had a good cry with mother, Marie, over the hundreds of small farmers lost to legalization, and the passing of a lifestyle in the hills many may never see again.
I was hosted at 420 friendly, The Inn of the Lost Coast, with a jacuzzi tub in the room overlooking a spectacular cliffside view of the Pacific Ocean.
Located on the Lost Coast in the infamous town of Shelter Cove in Southern Humboldt, the historic town has one road in and out; hosting an airstrip used for decades in the black market as a fly-in for small planes moving poundage. Its beautiful Black Sands Beach was also an infamous drop-off by sea to the remote area, but it’s also where you’ll find a trailhead to the stunning 20-mile Lost Coast Trail.
The black market, though illicit, thrived and provided for the community for decades in many ways in a true trickle-down to commerce, schools, food banks, and more. With the price per pound at an all-time low, causing many farmers to head back into the hills, it’s hard to say what the future looks like for SoHum.
Fortuna is one of the more conservative cities in Humboldt County, and has been slow to welcome cannabis businesses into the community, with nary a dispensary in the entire town.
That said, the Redwood Riverwalk boutique hotel located along the Eel River, that winds down through Southern Humboldt, is now offering up 420 friendly accommodations.
My suite had a jacuzzi tub and I was able to partake in the room. I also enjoyed the Riverwalk’s indoor pool, able to medicate at poolside early in the morning for a swim.
As a fulltime cannabis patient, I can’t tell you how freeing it is to be able to medicate on the road in a nice hotel. There were even CBD products available for purchase at the register, and a lobby full of snacks, books, and games for play.
Across the street is the welcoming Eel River Brewery, where the locals hangout. I was able to strike up a lively conversation with an OG who grew black market weed in the 1970s. Hill stories ensued, as she relayed Humboldt’s colorful history in a way only someone who’s lived the life can. It’s the stuff Emerald Triangle folklore is made of, and it comes at the cost of a good craft beer, if you can sit a while and listen like a local.
Downtown Fortuna is home to the Humboldt Distillery, established in 2013, owned by Abe Stephens. Makers of organic sugarcane vodka, rum, spiced rum, malt whiskey; and favorite spirit, Humboldt’s Finest, a gin made with locally grown hemp (non-psychoactive).
Its vodka is dubbed the best selling organic vodka in the State of California, earning the “Spirit of the Year” award in 2019 from the Bartender Spirits Awards. But, its Hemp gin is a favorite in the cannabis community, said to be a “refreshingly herbaceous spirit that presents notes of pine, cucumber, green tea, lemon grass and basil.”
There’s a vintage tasting bar set up in front of the downtown storefront, which doubles as its manufacturing plant. Tours are given upon special request, with its spirits available at most retailers in the area (international orders via its online site, link below).
Another conservative town not allowing cannabis, but worthy of a stroll down it’s Victorian lined main street, is Ferndale, with the entire town named a historic monument. Not to be missed is a trek up to the top of the cemetery for a sesh with a view of the town and pastures to the sea, where the Lost Coast begins. (The Majestic and Outbreak were filmed here.)
Note: Humboldt County has many surviving Victorian homes, hotels and structures, partly due to its never having had any major fires since its inception in the mid 1800s. Restoration of many of the Victorian buildings was further inspired when Restoration Hardware opened it’s first retail shop in downtown Eureka in 1979 (closed 2009).
Many of the historic hotels and AirBnB’s have strict fire codes for this reason, and management may require that you smoke outside, on a patio, or provide vaporizers for use indoors. Please be respectful of the reason behind this rule and proceed accordingly by reducing the risk of fire.
Pappa & Barkley’s 10,000 square foot multi-use facility on Highway 101 coming into town from the south, hosts a spa where you can indulge in a variety of treatments using cannabis products made on site and sold in its dispensary. You can also indulge in its outdoor lounge, then order a meal from the gourmet food truck parked within its private sesh garden area.
Founder Adam Grossman developed Pappa & Barkley’s first product of topical, Releaf Balm, for his father who suffered from debilitating back pain. As the story goes, the balm got his father out of hospice care and back up on his feet. The name comes from Grossman’s papa and his dog, Barkley.
Take a walk in Humboldt’s County seat of Eureka’s historic downtown that runs along Humboldt Bay, and enjoy the Victorian architecture. There are many collectible shops, food and libation options, as well as dispensaries.
This writer enjoyed a pre-roll along the boardwalk overlooking Woodley Island across the bay, with its rows of fishing boats and a view of the fisherman’s statue, commissioned by the wives of fishermen honoring those “whom the sea sustained… and those it claimed.”
(Admission: While working as the Lead Feature Writer at the Times-Standard a few blocks away, I took many a medicating break along the boardwalk, allowing me to focus on writing throughout the day.)
Not to be missed is a stroll north up Third Street to the historic and private Ingomar Club overlooking Humboldt Bay. Built by lumber baron William Carson, completed in 1886 – said to be one of the most photographed homes in the world. Across the street, note the pink painted lady, built for Carson’s daughter.
Take the bridges across Humboldt Bay to Samoa, a historic lumber town developed in the mid-1800s. This town with 80 homes is where the families of the lumber mill lived, and where I made my home for nearly ten years.
Its Samoa Cookhouse is where the lumbermen used to eat, and where they still serve Americana meals family style on it’s long rows of redwood hewn tables. There’s even a mini-museum on-site, with lumber and kitchen artifacts.
An equally historic Round House below the Cookhouse is home to the Timber Heritage Association, and a collection of historic trains. Visit its website below for hours and information.
Samoa is also home to the Humboldt Bay Social Club, a 420 friendly bed and breakfast and event hall. Take a drive down to the end of the Spit and park like a local to partake.
Continue north along Navy Base Rd (Hwy. 255) to the Arcata, otherwise known as 60s by the Sea, and park near its town square. Here you’ll find many shops and eateries. It’s not uncommon to make a picnic lunch on the green, but don’t be surprised if you see some colorful passers-through, otherwise known as Trimagrants, or traveling cannabis farm workers.
A must-do is a soak in the 420 friendly Finnish County Sauna & Tubs, with your own tub. Located blocks off the plaza, with its Cafe Mokka, serving nosh, coffee and teas. Reservations required (707) 822-2228
Take a walk around the Plaza and visit Humboldt Infuzions, where they have myriad blends and products infused with plants. Here, you can even get your own personal terpene profile done.
On Saturday’s the infamous Farmers Market is in full swing, offering up locally grown organic produce and homemade products, with its own foodcourt. But, there are many options for food around town.
For glass, Humboldt Glassworks is a must go. Humboldt has produced an enormous amount of glass paraphernalia for years. You can order online from many of the shops.
Herb & Market, located just up the road from the Finnish Spa, is a lovely dispensary with a history. It’s owner, Crystal Ortiz is a second generation cannabis farmer and remedy maker/caregiver who emerged from the illicit, then medical market, to go big, now owning her own shop. She’s one of the success stories in the county today.
The furthest outpost of the Emerald Triangle, Trinity County is often left out of the equation when it comes to cannabis, even though its farmers are equally historic, working the land, tending to and developing cultivars for decades.
Walter Wood and Judi Nelson run Sol Spirit Farm and Sol Spirit Retreats, respectively. Located in the heart of Trinity, the couple have opened its gates to overnight glamping. The small, family run craft cannabis farm has operated for more than 20 years, and offers tours and workshops given by locals on cannabis farming.
Guests stay in luxurious bell tents, complete with real mattresses and linens, and enjoy farm to table meals made with fresh organic, locally sourced ingredients. The tents are in a field surrounded by trees, and at night the stars were plentiful, with the scent of lovely craft cannabis wafting in the breeze.
Retreats can be customized to suit your needs, with excursions given by locals with a deep knowledge of the area. Activities include rafting on the Trinity River, yoga, meditation, forest hikes and more.
Its Five night, six day extended package includes three nights at Sol Spirit Retreats in Trinity; two nights at The Inn of the Lost Coast; guided redwoods tour, guided river rafting on the Trinity with an official guide of the Hoopa Valley Tribe; farm tour and hosted dinner at Huckleberry Hill Farm in SoHum; farm tour and hosted breakfast at Five Sisters Farm in Humboldt, farm tour at Emerald Queen Farms, and wine tasting and tour at Miles Garret Wines dry viticulture farm in Willow Creek. Visit its website to reserve. www.solspiritretreats.com
All Images Credited to Sharon Letts
If you go:
Note: There are many 420 friendly listings for Emerald Triangle counties on Airbnb.com.
Emerald Farm Tours https://emeraldfarmtours.com/
Inn of the Lost Coast https://innofthelostcoast.com/
Visit Mendocino https://www.visitmendocino.com/listing_tag/cannabis-friendly/
Maccallum House Inn & Suites, Mendocino http://maccallumhouse.com/
Thatcher Hotel, Hopland http://www.thatcherhotel.com/
Yokayo Ranch weddings/events https://www.yokayoranch.com/
Campovida farm & working vineyard http://campovida.com/
Leonard Moor dispensary https://thelmc.org/
Mendo Experience farm tours + https://mendoexperience.com/
Humboldt Cannabis Tours https://humcannabis.com/wine-and-dine/
Humboldt County Visitors Bureau https://www.visitredwoods.com/things-to-do/cannabis/
Humboldt Bay Social Club (Samoa & Scotia Inn) https://www.humboldtbaysocialclub.com/
Southern Humboldt Business & Visitors Bureau https://www.elevatethemagic.com/
Hemp Connection 412 Maple Ln. Garberville https://www.hempconnectiongarberville.com/
Five Sisters Farm tent glamping https://www.hipcamp.com/en-US/california/eel-river-escape/five-sisters-farm-deluxe-bell-tent#group_size=4&adults=4
Inn of the Lost Coast https://innofthelostcoast.com/
Scotia Lodge (Humboldt Bay Social Club) https://www.scotia-lodge.com/
Cookies Tree Lounge https://www.cookiestreelounge.com/
Wonderland Nursery/Humboldt Seed Co. https://wonderlandnursery.com/
S.T.I.L. (glass) 2940 Broadway St.
Dispensaries, Lounges, Shops:
EcoCann Dispensary 306 F Street
Heart of the Emerald 103 5th St
Humboldt County Collective 1670 Myrtle Ave Ste B
Humboldt Patient Resource Center (HPRC), 445 4th St
Humboldt’s Premium 1131 Broadway St
Kiskanu 2200 4th St
Papa & Barkley Social 4325 Broadway
Proper Wellness Center Dispensary 517 5th St
Social Nature 524 5th St
Zen Humboldt 437 F St
Humboldt Bud & Breakfast https://humboldtbudandbreakfast.com/
Humboldt Bay Social Club (Samoa & Scotia Inn) https://www.humboldtbaysocialclub.com/
Humboldt Patient Resource Center (HPRC) 980 6TH sT.
Pacific Paradise Cannabis 1087 H St. https://www.pacificparadisedispensary.com/
Heart of Humboldt 601 I St. https://www.theheartofhumboldt.com/menu
The Fireplace 1041 F St. https://www.thefireplacearcata.com/
Livity 5000 Valley W Blvd. https://www.livitycannabis.com/
Herb & Market 427 H St. https://herbandmarkethumboldt.com/
Humboldt Glass Blowers 815 9th St. on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/humboldtglassblowers/?hl=en
Timber Heritage Assoc. https://timberheritage.org/history-of-the-samoa-shops/
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