High on the list for consideration must be the California Wine Country in Napa & Sonoma counties. This part of California is great for a fall cycling vacation for several reasons:
- It is reliably dry and warm right into mid-November
- The vineyards have just completed their harvest so there is plenty to see in the wineries
- Fall is the warmest time on the coast – no more summer fogs
- Both Napa and Sonoma have some fantastic riding and are distinct in character
Napa Valley Bike Tours
Wine lovers looking for some gentle riding will stick to the valley floor meandering their way up from glitzy Yountville to quirky Calistoga. Within a few miles of riding you pass several of the world’s best wineries. There are also some fantastic places to eat.
More aggressive riders will head up Howell Mountain Rd. This little-used lane heads straight up the side of the valley and has great views and steep grades. Either return to the Valley down Deer Park Road or continue across to Pope Valley for an epic ride. Sleepy Pope Valley gives a glimpse of what the Napa Valley was like before the wine boom.
Our favorite towns to stay in are St Helena and Calistoga. Both are at the quieter northern end of the valley. St Helena is the more polished but Calistoga probably has more raw charm.
- Our favorite places to stay are Luxe (in Calistoga) and the Inn at Southbridge (in St Helena). However, if money is no object, book yourself into the Meadowood Resort – just outside of St Helena.
- The best place to eat is The French Laundry (Yountville) though the Meadowood is now giving them a run for their money.
- For something a little different, visit the Culinary Institute of America in St Helena for a cooking demonstration.
- Fans of the movie Bottle Shock will want to visit Chateau Montelena Winery just outside Calistoga.
Sonoma Bike Tours
Sonoma County is quieter and a little less brash than Napa Valley. Wineries tend to be smaller and many are family run. There is also a fantastic range of riding: from rolling wine valleys to towering Redwood groves to a rugged coast. In fall the coastal fogs have gone and the ocean breeze is gentler.
Our favorite riding is out of Healdsburg and Guerneville. Beginners and intermediate riders will love the quiet Dry Creek Valley. More aggressive riders will want to head into the coast range and along the coast. Occidental makes a great lunch stop.
- Our favorite places to stay are Hotel Healdsburg, Applewood Inn and the Haydon Street Inn.
- For food, we like the Madrona Manor (Healdsburg) for a special occasion. We also love the Applewood Inn (Guerneville). For more casual dining, you can’t go wrong with Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar.
- For something different, take a kayak from Guerneville or Duncans Mills down the Russian River to the Ocean. When you reach the mouth of the river you’ll likely be paddling by seals and sea lions.
- And finally, don’t miss the chance to ride under 300-foot Redwoods trees in the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.