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California Cycling Guide

Introduction

At LifeCycle Adventures we are passionate about cycle touring and believe there is no better way to experience the sights, sounds and scents of an area than on two wheels. After years of cycling the globe, we are convinced that the Californian Wine Country offers some of the best cycling in the world and it is our privilege to share it with our guests. We wish you the very best for your ride and please let us know what extra we can do to help you enjoy this special part of the world. Thank you for choosing to explore with us! Request Itinerary

Background on the Area

NAPA AND SONOMA Vineyards, Redwoods, and the Pacific Shore. Welcome to a cyclist’s paradise.Silverado_TrailSILVERADO TRAIL Shade Oak trees, world class wineries. Quintessential Napa.Napa_ValleyWORLD CLASS VINEYARDS “Bottled Poetry” – ride bucolic roads and visit vineyards along most every mile. Find one of the two Napa signs for a pic!Alexander_ValleyALEXANDER VALLEY Visit the largest and most widely planted wine region in Sonoma – from small family-owned to world class vineyards.California_RedwoodsARMSTRONG REDWOODS SNR Coast Redwoods grow only on the Pacific Coast, from Big Sur to Southern Oregon. Take a hike in these giant beauties!Pacific_CoastPACIFIC SHORE Jenner, Goat Rock Beach, Picturesque overlooks and sea life meet you along famous Hwy-1, known as one of the world’s most scenic routes.

Overview

With great weather, breathtaking scenery and over 900 vineyards, the wine valleys of Napa and Sonoma are a cyclist’s paradise. Ride in the rolling valleys or head into the surrounding mountains.  In just a few days you can ride fertile wine valleys, majestic redwood forests, open pastureland, forested mountains and the rugged Pacific coast.

In addition, off the bike, there is a lot to see and do: hot springs, mud spas, massive redwood groves and quaint old-style country towns.  On the western boundary of the Wine Country, you will find the little populated Sonoma Coast with its pristine sandy bays and rugged cliffs.

Our favorite things to do in the area include:

Choosing a Tuscan-like picnic spot in the shade of oak trees and gazing out over a vast expanse of vines.  A drop of Pinot Noir completes the picture.

Mud baths (for two) in Calistoga.  We cannot attest to their rejuvenating effect, but the experience of being covered from head to toe in mud is something you’ll not forget in a hurry.

Getting high above the valleys in the Mayacamas Mountains on deserted back roads to nowhere.  These rides have great views looking down on Northern Napa and the Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys beyond.  Pine Flat Rd and Geysers Rd are both great for this if you’re up for the challenge of some well-graded extended climbs.

Dinner at one of the Michelin starred restaurants: Madrona Manor, Meadowood, Single Thread Farm, and The French Laundry.

Canoeing down the scenic Russian River.  Our favorite stretch is around Jenner.  If you’re lucky, you’ll be joined by seals and you’ll see sea lions basking on the sand spit at Jenner.

Riding under towering redwoods of the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.  On a hot day, these majestic trees offer some welcome shade.  And, whatever the weather, the 1,400-year-old Armstrong Tree is awe-inspiring.

Hammering down the Sonoma Coast, with the wind at our backs and the surf crashing at the base of the cliffs below.  On a warm summer’s day, you can’t beat it.  Though, beware, the fog can roll in at any time and drop the temperature by 10 degrees.

Climate

In winter, you will have bright crisp days under clear skies – though the occasional storm will dampen the fun.  If you are lucky, you will experience the best cycling days of the year.  However, you also need to be prepared for cooler, wetter conditions.  In spring, we see the temperatures rise and the pastureland becomes carpeted with a rainbow of wildflowers.  The temperatures are still mild, and by April, the risk of rain is lower.  Summersare hot and sunny, and the grapes begin to ripen on the vines.  The massive redwood groves, and numerous other shady forests, offer perfect relief from the midday sun.  Fall (autumn) is, of course, grape-picking season.  The wineries are buzzing, and the fields are sweet with the smell of the crush.  This is also the warmest time of the year on the coast.

On your trip, the weather will also change as you cycle from east to west.  In just a few days, you will cycle through three distinct weather zones.

The Wine Valleys have a hot dry climate.  In summer, daytime temperatures can reach into the high 90s Fahrenheit (mid 30s in Celsius) but it tends to cool down in the evening.  Summer can see a marine layer of cloud moving in at night and then burning off in the early morning.  Rain is very rare in the summer.  Most rain falls in winter, often as storms that move in from the coast.  In winter, there will be the occasional overnight frost.  However, winter is also a time when there are many beautifully bright and crisp days – perfect for cycling and clear mountaintop view.

The Pacific Coast has mild temperatures year-round (between 40ºF and 70ºF – 5ºC/20ºC).  September and October tend to be the hottest with December and January the coolest.  In summer, the coast is particularly prone to fog (a marine layer of cloud that is sucked inland as the air rises off the hot land).  The good news is that the fog typically burns off through the morning.  The fog can cause temperatures to drop quickly, however, and it is best to be prepared.  Like the Wine Valleys, most of the rain falls in winter storms.  Prevailing winds are from the Northwest.

The Russian River has a climate somewhere in-between the wine valleys and the Pacific Coast.  In summer, daytime temperatures tend to be high but cool off at night.  In both winter and summer, the temperatures drop, and the wind picks up as you get closer to the coast.

Below are monthly climate averages – temperature (Fahrenheit) and rainfall (inches) – for the wine valley towns of Calistoga & Healdsburg, the coastal town of Fort Ross, and, something in-between at Occidental:

Average Monthly Temperatures in Fahrenheit

Data Source: Western Regional Climate Center, see http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/

Average Monthly Rainfall in Inches

Data Source: Western Regional Climate Center, see http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/

Vineyards & Wines

Introduction

There are over 900 vineyards in the northern California Wine Country.  They vary from large internationally known and owned businesses to small family-run concerns whose wines are made in lots of just one to four barrels.

Typically, the larger and more commercial wineries are found in the Napa Valley and the smaller – often family-run – wineries are in Sonoma County.  But there are many exceptions to this rule of thumb.

Winery Listing

We have organized our list of wineries by areas that correspond to your cycling routes rather than strict appellation or terroir.

There follows a selection of some favorite wineries.  Any directions assume you are cycling east to west.  For example: Napa – St Helena – Calistoga – Healdsburg – Guerneville.

Wineries are typically open 7-days a week from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.  However, if you’ve set your heart on a particular winery, it’s worth calling ahead to check.

And to clarify, this is far from a comprehensive list and the accuracy might change as soon as we send this to print. Your best and most current resource will always be the tourist guides available at many establishments. Your hotel concierge and your local handler will always have good suggestions as well. Enjoy!

Napa Valley South

They are typically visited on rides from Napa to St Helena or Calistoga.  The area includes the Stags Leap appellation that brought international recognition to the Napa Valley in 1976 by producing the Cabernet Sauvignon that beat the French Bordeaux at the noted “Judgment of Paris” tasting.

Napa Valley North

These vineyards are visited on loop rides from St Helena or Calistoga as well as rides from Napa to St Helena or Calistoga.  This area is warmer than further south in the valley and less prone to fogs.

Pope Valley

These wineries are relatively remote and only accessibly on longer loop rides out of St Helena and Calistoga.

Alexander Valley

Alexander Valley wineries can be visited on rides from St Helena/Calistoga to Healdsburg as well as on the Chalk Hill loop out of Healdsburg. Gravelly soils produce some of the county’s richest Cabernet Sauvignon, along with flavorful, ripe Chardonnay.

Chalk Hill

Chalk Hill wineries can be visited on the Shiloh Ranch to Healdsburg ride or on the Chalk Hill loop out of Healdsburg.  Chalk Hill is named for its unique, volcanically derived, chalky white ash soils.  These mildly fertile soils lend themselves to the production of excellent Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Dry Creek

Dry Creek wineries are typically visited on a loop ride out of Healdsburg or on a Healdsburg to Guerneville ride.  One of the smallest enclosed American Viticultural Areas yet produces a diverse selection of wines ranging from the renowned Zinfandels to Bordeaux and Mediterranean varietals.  The history of grape growing and winemaking here dates back more than 130 years.

Russian River

Russian River wineries are most often visited on rides from Healdsburg to Guerneville.  However, it is also very practical to visit them on loop rides out of Guerneville.  Regular fogs drop the temperature by 35 to 40 degrees from the daytime high.  The cooler temperatures mean grapes develop to their full flavor maturity over an extended growing season – often 15 to 20 percent longer than neighboring areas

Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Valley wineries are most accessible on rides out of Glen Ellen or Sonoma.  This area is in the shadow of Sonoma Mountain that protects it from the wet and cool influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean.  In addition, the daily wind prolongs hang time and promotes natural balance in the wines.

The Wine Making Process

Growing & Harvesting

Grape production and selection is perhaps the most definitive of the wine production phases.  Of course, wine can also be made from many fruits, but in this Wine Country the grape is king.  Grape quality is affected by variety as well as weather during the growing season, soil minerals and acidity, time of harvest, and pruning method.  The combination of these effects is often referred to as the grape’s terroir – a posh (French) word for local.  Here, grapes are harvested in September & October.

Vine pruning and harvesting here are typically manual activities and automation is not as common as in Australia, New Zealand or Europe due to a seasonal influx of labor from south of the border.

The Crush

Once harvested, the grapes are crushed and allowed to ferment.  Red wine is made from the must (pulp) of red or black grapes that undergo fermentation together with the grape skins, while white wine is usually made by fermenting juice pressed from white grapes and can also be made from must extracted from red grapes with minimal contact with the grapes’ skins.

A corkscrew shaped machine feed the grapes into a crusher/de-stemmer.  Stems exit at one end while juice and skins exit the bottom.

Fermenting

The first fermentation typically often takes one or two weeks.  In this time, yeast converts most of the sugars in the grape juice into ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide.  After the primary fermentation, the liquid is transferred to vessels for the secondary fermentation.  Here, the remaining sugars are slowly converted into alcohol and the wine becomes clear.  Yeast occurs naturally on the grape skins, but most producers will add cultured yeast to make the process more predictable.

Pressing

After the first fermentation, the mixture is pressed to separate juice or wine from grapes and grape skins.  This is an optional step – high-quality wine makers will often just use the “free-flowing” juice – but pressing is common as it adds up to 20% to the amount of wine produced.  The more pressing is done the more tannins are extracted from the skins.  After a period for which the wine stands, the wine is separated from the dead yeast and any solids that remain.

Aging

The wine is then aged in oak barrels, which add extra aromas to the wine.  In California, French Oak (sometimes old sherry barrels) is often preferred though stainless-steel tanks are also often used.  How long the wine is left to age will have a large influence on the wine.  Beaujolais nouveau – as the name implies – takes just a few months while some big reds can take up to twenty years or more.

With sparkling wines an additional fermentation takes place inside the bottle, trapping carbon dioxide and creating the characteristic bubbles.  With sweet wines residual sugar remains after fermentation is completed.

Blending

Often, winemakers will blend various batches of wine to achieve their desired effect.  At this stage, a winemaker can correct perceived inadequacies.  Fining agents may be used at this stage to remove tannins and small particles that could cloud the wines.  Gelatin is a common fining agent.  Preservatives, such as sulfur dioxide, may also be added to prevent bacterial spoilage.

Bottling

The wine is now filtered before being bottled.  In this area, most wineries outsource their bottling; either using central bottling facilities or having specialist bottlers come to their winery.  The final step is corking the bottle.  Most wineries here use natural cork though synthetic cork is becoming more popular as well as screwcaps for some white.

A History of Winemaking

[This section was edited from materials supplied by William Heintz and the Sonoma County Wineries Association.  It is reproduced with the kind permission of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association.  For more information, visit their website at www.scgga.org.]

As early as 1812, Russian colonists planted and cultivated grapes at Fort Ross on the Coast.  But it was the Spanish Franciscan Fathers who laid the foundation for our wine industry in 1824 when Padre Jose Altimira planted several thousand grape vines at their northernmost mission, San Francisco Solano in Sonoma.  In 1834, political upheaval brought an appropriation of all missions by the Mexican government.  During this period of disarray, cuttings from the Sonoma mission vineyards were carried throughout the northern California area to start new vineyards.  By the time of the “Bear Flag Revolt” and the subsequent annexation of California by the United States in 1854, the vineyards of General Mariano Vallejo, the military Governor of Mexican California, were producing an annual income of $20,000.

California_vineyardOther areas in the county were developing at this time: The widowed Senora Maria de Carrillo carried 2,000 Sonoma cuttings to Santa Rosa in the 1840s and became, perhaps, California’s first female winemaker, certainly its first female grape grower.  Rocky Mountain trapper Cyrus Alexander in northern Sonoma first planted grapes in what would be Alexander Valley.  Captain Nicholas Carriger, probably the first American settler, had vineyards in the Valley of the Moon (Sonoma Valley).  His neighbor William Hill planted the first non-mission grapes in the county near Glen Ellen in 1852.  About the same time, Davenport Cozzens cut into the rich earth in Dry Creek Valley and planted vines.

All this Viticultural activity took place prior to the arrival in 1855 of the man considered “The Father of California Wine Industry,” Agoston Haraszthy.  The spectacular and mysterious Hungarian who claimed to be a count purchased the Salvador Vallejo vineyard in Sonoma Valley, renamed it Buena Vista, and soon was producing fine wines from the vineyard.  In 1861, he was commissioned by the California legislature to study viticulture in Europe.  He returned to Sonoma County the following year with over 100,000 cuttings of prized grape varietals from France, Germany, Italy and Spain.  For some reason or another, the legislature refused to pay Haraszthy for his work, perhaps because he was a Rebel sympathizer during the Civil War.  Haraszthy is credited with first promoting the concept that fine table wines could be produced in Sonoma County as well as Europe.  But it was General Vallejo with the aid of a winemaker he employed from France who usually won more medals for his wines at the California State Fair.

But vines were not the only resources that Europe provided the California wine industry.  Between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Prohibition, European immigrants brought winemaking knowledge and techniques to the fertile soils of Sonoma.  Bundschu, Foppiano, Korbel, Simi, Gundlach, Quitzow and Sebastiani established wineries that exist and flourish a century later.

A worldwide outbreak of phylloxera, American root louse, occurred in 1873 and nearly destroyed the young vineyards.  Finally, vines disease-resistant to the soil parasite were found and varietal shoots grafted to these hardy stocks.  The wine industry then continued its expansion to such a magnitude that the San Francisco Chronicle, October 22, 1876, noted: “As a wine growing region, Sonoma stands at the head of the list.”  Indeed, in 1920, there were 256 wineries and Sonoma County had surpassed Los Angeles in total wine acreage with more than 22,000 acres in production (in 1998 there were 194 wineries and 44,700 acres of grapes).

In 1919 the United States government accomplished what nature could not – it shut down the commercial wine industry with the 18th Constitutional Amendment and passage of “The Volstead Act.”  An interesting sidelight to this is that there was some ambiguity about the application of the Volstead Act to the wine industry.  As a result, San Francisco Judge Van Fleet was asked to rule on exempting wineries.  He did not.  However, the Sonoma County Grape Growers, many of whom helped raise what was to become the California state flag in the “Bear Flag Revolt,” voted to go ahead with the crush and make wine anyway.  Eventually the wineries not making “sacramental” or “medicinal” wine were closed but grape growers flourished.  The demand for grapes from home winemakers was so great in the early years of Prohibition that grape prices reached highs not equaled until the last years of the 1960s.  Thanks to a loophole allowing 200 gallons of wine yearly for home production, more than 150 million gallons were produced in hundreds of thousands of households in 1930.  The grape production reported for Sonoma County totaled 21,300 acres in 1930.California_wine

The year 1933 brought the election of Franklin Roosevelt and the repeal of Prohibition, but not in time for many wineries.  Only 160 of California’s 700 wineries remained.  These wineries endured by producing sacramental wine and grape juice or by planting other crops.  Some pulled out their vines; others planted other fruit crops between the wine rows.  The wine industry in Sonoma County underwent a slow revival in the late 1930s.  Many of the wineries that began producing wine immediately produced bulk wines that went to bottlers outside the county.  Small to medium sized wineries sprang up in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley and the Russian River area, places that had experienced limited growth in the earlier years.

The 1940s were tumultuous years for the California wine industry.  Post-war years were characterized by severe overproduction of grapes and wine bringing government mandated programs of pro-rations and set-asides to cope with the overproduction.  Adversity brought a new group of winegrowers from business, commerce and industry to work beside second-generation Sonoma County wine industry pioneers.  They were still in the rebuilding process when the nationwide wine boom hit in the 1960s.  Orchards were pulled out and grazing land plowed under for vineyards and, for the first time, white grapes were predominant.  The winemakers were heeding the tastes of the American consumer.

Technical changes were also taking place within wineries as stainless steel fermenters and crusher-stemmers appeared.  Viticulturists were retiring to labs and creating exciting new varietals.  The Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms set about to clarify and more strictly define wine labels in 1975, and by 1978 “appellations” were beginning to be an important part of the marketing of Sonoma County wines.

California_winemakingBy 1997, in Sonoma County alone, grew 174,000 tons of grapes valued at $273 million.  These grapes were produced on about 36,000 acres of bearing vineyards and there was another 5,000 non-bearing.

Today there are over 300 vineyards in Sonoma County, many just a short distance from your cycle route.  These oases of viticulture are charming places to stop for a tasting and many having beautiful, shaded picnic spots – and a history dating back to the early 1800s.

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Towns & Cities

Bodega Bay

Overview

Bodega Bay is a working fishing port with a large fleet catching salmon, crab and shrimp.  You get an excellent sense of the town, as well as some great views, if you take a flat detour down Bay Flat Road to Bodega Head.  A short hill at the end of this road will offer spectacular views of waves crashing into the rocks below.Bodega_Bay

Both Bodega Bay and Bodega Village (6 miles away) were featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds – see box on Page 13 below.  If you do the side trip to Bodega Village, you may well recognize Bodega Church and Schoolhouse.  From a practical perspective, Bodega Bay is quite strung out with Hwy 1 as the main thoroughfare.  If you’re staying at the southern end of town – at the Bodega Bay Lodge & Spa – a nice evening walk takes you down to Doran Beach Regional Park.

History

Bodega Bay was discovered in 1775 by Jun Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. He was a Spanish naval officer born in Lima, Peru and on assignment to the Pacific Coast Spanish Navy. His navigation had him exploring the Northwest Coast of North America as far north as Alaska. Before the Spanish, the Pomo and Coast Miwok natives were the inhabitants of this region. Russian settlers also left their mark along the coast and within Sonoma County.  In 1842, Stephen Smith, a New England sea captain turned Mexican citizen established Rancho Bodega in the Bodega Bay area.  Smith started a sawmill and a hotel, his efforts helped establish a shipping center on the Bay.  In the late 1800s, Firman Camelot founded the town of Bodega Bay, although he named the town “Bay” it was later changed to Bodega Bay.

The area’s fishing industry received a boost when rail lines were created between Sonoma County and San Francisco in the 1870s.  These rail lines opened a large market to the area’s fishers.  Bodega Bay’s commercial fishing industry took off during World War I.  The industry, primarily focused on salmon, drove the local economy and structured local life.  The fishing industry’s sustainability was threatened by the deposition of silt on the Bay’s floor in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  The Bay was dredged in 1943 and the industry bounced back.  By the early 1980s the fishing fleet grew to 300 boats and the value of commercial landings reached more than 15 million during this period.

After record catches in the late 1980s the salmon industry came upon hard times as the number and volume of landings plummeted.  Human induced landscape changes in the area and regional drought are thought to have contributed to habitat degradation and resultant low spawning numbers of salmon.  During this period many fishers left the industry as their livelihoods were jeopardized.  The areas salmon population resurged in the middle 1990s.  Contemporary commercial fishers harvest albacore, Chinook salmon, halibut, rockfish, Dungeness crab, sole, and more recently sea urchin.

In recent years, the deposition of silt has become a problem again, as the depth of Bodega Bay’s channel has been decreased to five feet in some areas.  Numerous vessels have run aground in the channel’s shallow waters.  The siltation problem is paramount to the community as Bodega Bay is the only port between San Francisco and Fort Bragg that is large enough for many of today’s ocean-going vessels.

One of the highlights of your visit and stay in the Bodega Bay area is the Sonoma Coast State Park. The park encompasses 17 miles of magnificent coastline from Vista Trail (4 miles north of Jenner) to Bodega Head, just outside Bodega Bay. Perhaps one of the most spectacular sections of Pacific shoreline in all of California, Sonoma Coast is a land of magnificent beauty and extensive natural and geological history. The extensive geological activity and history of the Sonoma Coast is in part due to the San Andreas Fault. Extending 800 miles from Southern California to the Mendocino Coast (north of Sonoma County) the San Andreas Fault travels an invisible line from Tomales Bay (South of Bodega Bay) through Bodega Head and out at sea to touch land again at Fort Ross State Historic Park. Windswept cliffs, isolated beaches, rising sea stacks, surging tidepools, crashing surf, and awe-inspiring sunsets will greet and capture you as you travel from Jenner to Bodega Bay.


The Birds

The article below is based on information from The Bodega Bay Navigator.

In 1961, Alfred Hitchcock needed a remote coastal location for his next film – The Birds.  The movie was to star Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy and Veronica Cartwright.  Given the subject matter, Hitchcock was looking for a location that would give him clear shots of sky, without interference from trees and mountains.

He picked the towns of Bodega and Bodega Bay to serve as the setting for his thriller because of the foggy weather and skyline, which at that time was subdued and open.  When the time came for shooting, however, Hitchcock despaired at the clear and sunny skies.

The ancient Potter School had already been condemned and abandoned as a schoolhouse when Hitchcock discovered it in Bodega.  Film crews shored up and rebuilt it for the filming.  Except for the gazebo featured in the party scene, the school is the only original building used in the film that still stands to this day.  The schoolhouse is a private residence now, though it has been used as a bed and breakfast in the intervening years.  A famous photograph by Ansel Adams has made the church well known beyond its appearance in “The Birds.”

The Tides Wharf Restaurant and parking lot in Bodega Bay were used for the gas station, cafe and boat dock scenes though The Tides complex has been expanded and remodeled several times since then.  The 1960’s owner of The Tides, Mitch Zankich, allowed Hitchcock to use the restaurant in “The Birds” providing 1.  the town in the movie would be called “Bodega Bay;” 2. the male lead played by Rod Taylor would be named “Mitch;” and 3. Zankich would receive a “speaking part.”  If you are listening at the right moment, you can hear him say the words: “What happened, Mitch?”


Eating & Drinking

Where you dine will probably depend on where you stay.

If you are staying in Bodega Bay itself, for example at the Inn at the Tides, you will likely eat at the Tides Wharf Restaurant, 800 Highway 1.  It is down the hill from the hotel. (707) 875 3652. Open daily at 7:30 AM (Saturday and Sunday at 7:00 AM) / https://www.innatthetides.com/tides-wharf-restaurant/ 

If you are staying at the Bodega Bay Lodge and Spa, you will likely choose to dine at the Inn’s Drakes Sonoma Coast Kitchen (707) 875-3525.Open daily 7:30 – 11:00 AM / 6:00 – 9:00 PM / https://drakesbodegabay.com

Terrapin Creek Café – 2 miles out at the northern end of town – is reputed to be excellent and has earned a One Michelin Star. If you’re into slow food and eco-gastronomy, then this organic restaurant is the place to try. It is a bit of a walk along the highway – about 2 miles (not recommended in the dark), but a worthwhile visit. 1580 East Shore Rd, Bodega Bay, CA 94923 (707) 875-2700. Please note, reservations are suggested, and taxi service is not available for local transport in Bodega Bay. Open 4:30 – 9:00 PM (Closed Tuesday and Wednesday) / http://www.terrapincreekcafe.com 

For a simpler atmosphere, you could try the Lucas Wharf Restaurant – about a ¾ -mile walk from either the Bodega Bay Lodge or the Inn at Tides hotels. Open daily at 11:30 AM (Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 AM) / https://lucaswharfrestaurant.com

Fishetarian Fish Market offers good honest fish tacos, seafood and clam chowder. They are known to cater to gluten free, vegan, vegetarian needs.  599 Highway 1. Offerings change seasonally. (707) 875-9092. Very casual. Ideal for takeaway and enjoying your meal at your hotel enjoying the sunset. Open daily 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM / https://fishetarianfishmarket.com 

If you take a detour down Bay Flat Road, you can visit Gourmet Au Bay for wine, beer, bites and sunset views. 1412 Bay Flat Rd (707) 875 9875 – Open daily by noon – or Spud Point Crab Company at the Spud Point Marina.  1910 Westshore Road (on RHS 1½ miles along the road that runs around the bay).  (707) 875-9472‎ Open daily 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

Things to Do

From January through May whales can be spotted from up on the cliffs at Bodega Head.  For whale watching, sportfishing, or a day of sailing,you could try any of the following trips. They all tend to be rather more casual than organized so phone ahead to plan. You will need to plan your travel to these outfitters by bike or foot, as taxi service for the short travel radius is not available.

Sportfishing can be arranged with the following charter companies:

Bodega Bay Sports Fishing Center (707)-875-3344 / http://www.bodegabaysportfishing.com

Bodega Charters (707) 875-3495 / http://www.bodegacharters.com

Sailing trips can be booked with Bodega Bay Sailing Adventures.  They have a 3-hour tour of the Bay on their 33’ sailboat.  Cost is $100.00 per person and is tax deductible as the profits go to charity! (707) 318-2251 / https://www.bodegabaysailing.org

The Links at Bodega Harbor is the local golf course.  It’s an 18-hole Scottish links style course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.  Open 7 days a week, year- round.  Call for starting times.  21301 Heron Dr., Bodega Bay, (707) 875-3538  / https://www.bodegaharbourgolf.com 

Chanslor Stables (Horse N Around) offers horseback riding on the Beach and along the cliffs.  2660 Coast Highway One, Bodega Bay, (707) 589-5040 / https://chanslorstables.com

Kayak on the Bay with Bodega Bay Kayak.  Tandem and single kayaks available.  Guided or unguided.  Located at the blue whale shopping center on east shore drive in Bodega Bay.  (707) 875-8899 or (707) 875-3944 / http://www.bodegabaykayak.com

Rent a surfboard or take a surfing lesson at Bodega Bay Surf Shack.  Wetsuit available – and recommended!  Open 7 days a week.  Overlooking the Bay at Pelican Plaza, Bodega Bay.  (707) 875-3944 / http://bodegabaysurf.com 

Beach: Take a walk out to Doran Regional Park and do your own exploring along the bird-watching trail and the white sand beach. This park is ideal for playing in the sand, kite flying, surfing and enjoying a picnic.

Exploring Sonoma Coast State Park: There are over 16 miles of coastline to be explored from Bodega Bay to just beyond Jenner. Taking time to explore the sandy beaches, bluffs and trails will showcase the unique geological and natural treasures of this region. Connect with your local handler for additional details on some of the trails accessible by foot around your lodging.

Useful Contacts

Bike Shops: None in town.

The next nearest bike stores are in Windsor and Sebastopol.

Stores: There are two general stores.  Pelican Plaza Grocery & Deli: 1400 Highway 1, Bodega Bay (707) 875-2522.  Diekmann’s Bay Store: Highway 1, Bodega Bay.  (707) 875-3517.  The former has sandwiches and the latter often has hot pizzas.

Spa treatments: Most convenient are the spa facilities at the Bodega Bay Lodge and Spa (707) 875-3525.  Less convenient, but perhaps a little more unique is Osmosis 209 Bohemian Highway in Freestone: (707) 823-8231.  Osmosis is a Japanese-style spa is located on a secluded five acres with beautiful bonsai and bamboo gardens.  Osmosis is open daily from 9 :00 AM. Closing hours vary / https://bodegabaylodge.com/

Transportation: This is a small fishing port and there is no cab service to service the local town radius. Cab services are sparse yet will gladly take you 20 to 30 miles inland to Santa Rosa or farther, for a good fee, of course! Consult with your hotel concierge for assistance.

Calistoga

Overview

Calistoga was named a Distinctive Destination by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2001.  It allows visitors to see the wine country as it was before freeways and fast food – only a two-lane road leads you to Calistoga and fast food franchises are banned by law.  Things are low-key and down to earth here and that’s how the locals like to keep it. Don’t let that fool you though, as there are good restaurants and excellent wineries and a brewery to enjoy in town.

The town is situated on top of underground reservoirs that break through the earth as hot springs supplying the town’s many spa facilities.  The spas are famous for their mud baths.  Many spas include facilities for couples. Spa treatments are best planned on your stay-over day if you are here two nights.

At over 4,000 feet, Mount St Helena dominates the mountainous backdrop to the town.  Robert Louis Stevenson, perhaps generously, described Mount St Helena as “the Mont Blanc of the Californian Coast Range.”

History

The Upper Napa Valley was once the home of a significant population of Indigenous People, called the Wappo.  With abundant oak trees providing acorns as a food staple and the natural hot springs as a healing ground, Calistoga was the site of several villages.  Following Mexican Independence, mission properties were secularized and disposed of by the Mexican government with much of the Napa Valley being partitioned into large ranchos in the 1830s and 1840s.  The first American settlers began arriving in the 1840’s, with several taking up lands in the Calistoga area.

Incorporated as a town in 1885, Calistoga was founded by Samuel Brannan, California’s first millionaire.  Brannan was the leader of a settlement expedition on the ship Brooklyn landing in Yerba Buena (San Francisco) in 1846.  He published San Francisco’s first English language newspaper, the California Star.  He was also fascinated by Calistoga’s natural hot springs and purchased 2000 acres to develop a spa reminiscent of Saratoga, New York.  His resort (originally located where Indian Springs Resort is today) opened to California’s rich and famous in 1862.

With the completion of the railroad in 1868, Calistoga became not only a destination but the transportation hub for the upper Napa Valley. Calistoga’s economy was based on mining (silver and mercury), agriculture (grapes, prunes and walnuts) and tourism (the hot springs).  One of the early visitors was Robert Louis Stevenson before he had written his great novels.  He met Fanny Vandegrift in France, followed her to San Francisco and, after she had obtained a divorce, married her in May of 1880.  Three days later they were on their way to honeymoon at the Calistoga Hot Springs Hotel.  Wanting to stay longer in the area, they moved from the hotel to an abandoned cabin at the nearby Silverado Mine on Mount Saint Helena.  While working on other stories Stevenson kept a journal which became the Silverado Squatters describing many local features, residents and characters – see box below.

In 1920, Giuseppe Musante, a soda fountain and candy store owner in Calistoga, was drilling a cold water well at the Railway Exchange when he tapped into a hot water source.  In 1924 he set up a bottling line and began selling Calistoga Sparkling Mineral Water.  The company became a major player in the bottled water business after Elwood Springer bought the small bottling plant in 1970 known today as the Calistoga Water Company.

Scenes from the Disney movie “Bedtime Stories” starring Adam Sandler were filmed in Calistoga in June of 2008.

Local folklore holds that the town supposedly got its name from a garbled Spoonerism uttered by Sam Brannan.  He is alleged to have said (perhaps after sampling the local vintages) that the location would become the ‘Calistoga of Sarifornia’.  He had meant to say the ‘Saratoga of California’, comparing it to the famous hot springs of that New York town.

Eating & Drinking

Calistoga Kitchen (Lovina) offers casual dining with locally sourced ingredients. 1107 Cedar Street, Calistoga, CA. 707-942-6500.Saturday-Sunday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Monday, Thursday-Friday at 11:00 AM. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday / https://www.lovinacalistoga.com 

The Calistoga Brewery & Inn has a relaxed outdoor dining area and often has live music on weekends. They also have a cozy indoor dining area.  1250 Lincoln Avenue / (707) 942-4101.  Open daily by 11:30 AM / https://www.calistogainn.com/brewery

Evangeline. Bistro serving French and Creole fare in a relaxed patio and cozy indoor seating. A welcome addition to the Napa Valley food scene. 1226 Washington St, Calistoga. (707) 341-3131. Open daily for lunch until 2:00 PM / Dinner served 5:30 – 9:00 PM / https://www.evangelinenapa.com 

The Hydro Bar & Grill 1403 Lincoln Ave serves good bar food in a bar.  (707) 942-9777. Open 8:30 AM – 11 PM (Thursday open at noon) / https://hydrogrillnapavalley.com 

Johnny’s Restaurant & Bar offers two distinctly different dining options in the historic Mount View Hotel in downtown Calistoga. Bar Side seating and intimate Table Side dining. The offerings featuring classic Italian, German & Mexican dishes. 1457 Lincoln Avenue Calistoga, CA 94515. 707-942-5938. Open Friday-Sunday 7:30 AM – 2:00 PM / 4:00 – 10:00 PM. Monday-Thursday 4:00 – 10:00 PM / https://www.johnnyscalistoga.com 

Sam’s Social Club offers New American fare in a bright eatery with a fireplace, a bar for local drinks & a patio. 1712 Lincoln Ave. (707) 942-4969. Open daily 7:30 AM – 9:00 PM (Thursday-Sunday until 9:30 PM) / https://www.samssocialclub.com

The Michelin Star rated Solbar bar and restaurant at Solage Resort are excellent, offering an indoor or outdoor setting. Play a round of Bocce pre or post meal. Nearly a mile from the center of town.  Worth the walk if you want to eat in chic style.  755 Silverado Trail.  (707) 226-0860. Open daily 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM / https://aubergeresorts.com/solage/dine/solbar/

Pacifico Restaurante Mexicano, delivers some of the usual classics and good cerveza and Margaritas if you’d like a change of pace from all the wine! 1237 Lincoln Ave (707) 942 4400. Open daily 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM (open Sunday at 10:00 AM) / http://pacificomexicanrestaurant.com 

Veraison is a contemporary, French inspired farm-to-table bistro and partner restaurant to Johnny’s in the Mt View Hotel. 1457 Lincoln Ave (707) 942 5938. Open for dinner daily 5:00 – 9:30 PM /https://www.veraisoncalistoga.com 

There are many other cafes, restaurants and bars along Lincoln Ave including Café Sarafornia at 1413 Lincoln Ave. Yo el Rey Roasting at 1217 Washington, and the Calistoga Roastery 1426 Lincoln Ave where we usually grab lunch when we are in town.

If you want a picnic lunch, pick up a sandwich at CalMart (Lincoln & Fair Way) or get a sandwich from The Palisades Deli & Café at 1458 Lincoln Ave.

Things to Do

Farmers’ Market: every Saturday, 8:30am-noon, through October at Sharpsteen Plaza on Washington Street, across from City Hall.

Wine Tasting: Enjoy a walk around town and visit the tasting rooms sprinkled around the downtown area along Lincoln Avenue.

Ballooning: In Calistoga: Calistoga Balloons.  One of the smaller operators and the only company flying as far north as Calistoga. (707)-942-5758 / https://www.calistogaballoons.com. In Yountville: Napa Valley Aloft (including Above the West Ballooning, Adventures Aloft and Balloon Aviation) – Probably the largest operator in the Napa Valley.  1-800-627-2759 / https://nvaloft.com . Napa Valley Balloons.  (707) 944-4408 / https://napavalleyballoons.com

Cooking Courses: The Culinary Institute of America offers public cooking demonstrations, mostly seasonal and on weekends, at Greystone in nearby St. Helena CA.  [Seasonal]

Spas and Pools:  Many and various.

Large pool and full spa treatments at the north end of town at some great spots:

The Indian Springs Resort 1712 Lincoln Avenue (707) 709-8139 / https://www.indianspringscalistoga.com

The Solage Resort just outside of town, also offers a full menu of spa services. 755 Silverado Trail.  (707) 226-7531 / https://aubergeresorts.com/solage/

A little further north on Lincoln Avenue. is the more basic and cheaper pool and spa facilities at the Calistoga Village Inn and Spa – proving you get what you pay for!  1880 Lincoln Avenue (707) 942-0991.

Closer into town with four good pools in a motel-style facility is the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs:  1006 Washington Street (707) 942-6269 / https://www.calistogaspa.com/

The Mount View Hotel has nice spa facilities (but no mud baths) at a very central 1457 Lincoln Av. (707) 942-1500 / https://mountviewhotel.com

Dr. Wilkinson’s specializes in mud baths (a mix of volcanic ash and hot spring water).  Back in the 1940s Dr. Wilkinson would give a mud bath, mineral bath, steam room, blanket wrap and massage all for $3.50.  You can now expect to pay around $149 for the same relaxing service.  1507 Lincoln Ave.  (707) 942-4102 /https://drwilkinson.com/

Golden Haven Spa has reasonably priced mud baths for couples as well as mineral pools.  It is a little way outside of the center of town at 1713 Lake Street.  (707) 942-8000 / http://www.goldenhaven.com.

Useful Contacts

Visitor Information: Calistoga Chamber of Commerce at 1133 Washington St.  707-942-6333.

Bike Shop: Calistoga Bike Shop at 1318 Lincoln Ave.  (707) 942.9687.  Brad and his crew are a wealth of knowledge about biking in the area and always happy to lend a hand to our clients.

Stores: There are bookstores, antique stores and many other shops along Lincoln Avenue as well as CalMart (at Lincoln and Fair Way), a small-town supermarket offering fresh fruits and produce, a salad bar and a deli counter.

Glen Ellen

Overview

Glen Ellen is a small and peaceful town partway along the Sonoma Valley – AKA the Valley of the Moon.  After a young life of hardship and what seemed endless adventures in search of the next big one, the author and innovative farmer, Jack London settled in Glen Ellen at what became known as his Beauty Ranch. Today, the Jack London State Historic Park is one of the main highlights for visitors to this town offering trails, a museum, a bookstore and a visit to the Jack London Cottage – the only place he actually lived (and consequently where he passed away in 1916).

Here the pace of life is gentler than the more travelled areas of Sonoma and Napa.  And, while it may not be the liveliest town in the Wine Country it is a real charmer and there are great places to visit, stay and eat.

History

In 1859, Charles Stuart (the farmer not the king) purchased a part of the Rancho Agua Caliente land grant and in 1868 began building a house there.  In time he developed a 1,000-acre vineyard that he named Glen Ellen after his wife.  The town that grew up around the vineyard also came to be called Glen Ellen, and Stuart’s home was later renamed Glen Oaks Ranch.

The story of the town is also bound up with the story of Jack London.  London is variously described as oyster pirate, socialist, gold prospector and internationally renowned author.  Jack London wrote:

“I ride over my beautiful ranch.  Between my legs is a beautiful horse.  The air is wine.  The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame.  Across Sonoma Mountain, wisps of sea fog are stealing.  The afternoon sun smolders in the drowsy sky.  I have everything to make me glad I am alive.”

Replace “beautiful horse” with “carbon-forked road bike” and we think he hit the nail on the head.

Eating & Drinking

For a small town, there are many great places to dine in Glen Ellen.

Glen Ellen Inn Oyster Grill & Martini Bar.  They say, “Oysters are a Grill’s Best Friend.”  A strange claim but they certainly slip down easily along with the Martinis.  The half shots are cheekily named, “The Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Glen Ellen Inn Martini.”  Most of the other dishes are best described as California-Fusion.  Small dining room and small garden.  13670 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen.  (707) 996-6409. Open 11:30 AM – 9:00 PM (Wednesday dinner only, open at 5:30 PM) / https://www.glenelleninn.com 

The Fig Café is a local favorite with a good reputation for simple but delicious food.  Menu includes thin-crust pizzas, pot roasts and salads.  Free corkage.  13690 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen.  (707) 938-2130. Open daily 5:00 – 9:00 PM (Friday and Saturday until 9:30 PM) / https://www.thefigcafe.com 

Glen Ellen Star offers dinner Sunday to Thursday 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm and Friday & Saturday from 5:30 – 9:30 PM. 13648 Arnold Drive. (707) 343-1384 / https://glenellenstar.com

For a simple but fresh lunch head to the Garden Court Café 13647 Arnold Drive.  (707) 935-1565.  Open daily 8:00 AM (ish) – 2:00 PM.

Les Pascales Patisserie et Boulangerie is an honest French bistro offering good classics for breakfast and lunch. Croissants and Quiche Lorraine included – oui, oui! 13798 Arnold Dr. Closed Wednesdays.  Open 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM on weekdays and 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday. (707) 934 8378 / https://www.lespascalspatisserie.com 

Things to Do

Hiking: There are many excellent trails to explore in Jack London State Historic Park as well a visit to the House of Happy Walls museum and Wolf House ruins – London’s dream house that burned to the bare walls in 1913 due to spontaneous combustion of rags soaked in linseed oil and turpentine, just weeks before he and his wife Charmian were to move in.  Despite much controversy from naysayers, in 1995, various teams of forensic experts determined unanimously that indeed, the cause of the fire was spontaneously combustion. The Wolf House ruins, the recently updated House of Happy Walls museum, the Cottage and the extensive trails make this a must-not-miss destination worthy of a full day visit. There is an independent outfitter that offers horseback rides up to Sonoma Mountain Summit. 2400 London Ranch Rd.  (707) 938-5216‎.

Spa treatments: Most likely your hotel or B&B can arrange for a massage in your room.

The Gaige House + Ryokan offers a uniquely Zen experience with spa treatments, outdoor meditation classes and yoga sessions.  13540 Arnold Dr.  (707) 935-0237 /https://www.thegaigehouse.com/spa-wellness/

Kenwood Inn and Spa is perhaps the more complete facility with lodging, restaurant and spa offerings. 10400 Sonoma Highway. (707) 833-1293 / https://www.kenwoodinn.com/spa/

Olea Hotel, recently blooming from the 2017 fire damage, offers lodging and spa services. 5131 Warm Springs Rd. (707) 996-5131 / https://www.oleahotel.com 

Useful Contacts

Bike Shops: There is no bike store that we know about in Glen Ellen but there are plenty in Santa Rosa: NorCal Bikes, Echelon Cyclery, Performance Bike and Trek Santa Rosa.

Stores: There is also a General Store in Glen Ellen: Glen Ellen Village Market 13751 Arnold Dr. (707) 996-6728.

Guerneville

Overview

Sitting on the sandy banks of the Russian River, Guerneville is the gateway town for the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve (SNR)– a beautifully preserved redwood grove with trees over 1,400 years old.  Guerneville is both a thriving family getaway as well as being a popular gay destination.  The eclectic mix of visitors gives the town a quirky and relaxed atmosphere.  In high season – July to September – the town is bustling and lively.  Summer attractions include commercial beaches, kayaking and a jazz festival.

History

The local Pomo Indians used the area as a summer camp and called it “Ceola” which means “shady place.”  Much of that shade was logged in the 1800s, giving rise to the first English name for the place – “Stumptown.”  The present name Guerneville was introduced to honor Swiss immigrant George Guerne, a local businessman of the 1800s who owned the town’s sawmill.  The extensive redwood forests on the surrounding mountains are less than 200 years old, having been replacement plantings for much of the logging done in the 1800s.  The exception to this is the Armstrong Redwood State Reserve which is a primary growth redwood forest.

The area became popular with vacationers from San Francisco in the late 1800s.  The Northwestern Pacific Railroad (see box on Page 43 below) provided access to the town from its origin in Sausalito, just north of San Francisco.  Even with the demise of train service in the late 1930s, the area’s resorts remained popular with vacationers who now came by automobile.  A local movie theater, the River, was built near the beach and showed double features throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

The coming of jet travel in the 1960s marked a period of decline for many of these older resorts.  Winter floods in 1964 caused a further decline in business conditions.  Many housing units that were once summer-only cottages began to be used year-round by low-income households, and illegal drug use became more prevalent throughout the region.  However, a renaissance took place in the late 1970s as large numbers of gay men and lesbians from San Francisco identified the area as a prime recreational destination for weekends.  Many older resorts gained a new lease on life with the new visitors, and in general, the town’s businesses began to thrive again.

Eating & Drinking

Agriculture Public House at Dawn Ranch Lodge is the local’s favorite. More casual but the food is good and there is a pleasant outdoor terrace – though be warned there is sometimes loud, live music on Saturday evening in high season.  The restaurant is west of the center of town at 16467 Hwy 116, just beyond the Safeway and across from Fern Grove Cottages.  (707) 869-0656. Open Friday and Saturday 4:00 – 8:30 PM / https://dawnranch.com/agriculture-public-house/

Leaders in the dining scene in town include: Boon Eat + Drink (16248 Main St. (707) 869-0780 – no reservations taken. Closed Wednesday – Open rest of week 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM / 5:00 – 9:00 PM. Another option is Big Bottom Market, a unique gourmet delight and our favorite spot for lunch and coffee. 16228 Main St. (707) 604 7295. Open 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Closed on Tuesday) / https://eatatboon.com 

Betty Spaghetti offers Italian flare in Guerneville. 16390 4th Street (707)-869-1400. Open Wednesday – Sunday 5:30 – 9:00 PM / http://ther3hotel.com/restaurant/

For Tequila, Mezcal and Mexican appetizers visit El Barrio. 16230 Main St, (707) 604-7601 /https://www.elbarriobar.com

If you want a sandwich and a coffee, Coffee Bazaar is a good bet.  14045 Armstrong Woods Road (at the end of Third St).  (707) 869-9706. Open daily 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM / https://coffee-bazaar.business.site

Safeway, at 16405 Hwy 116 also has good value sandwiches made fresh at the deli counter: 707-869-9433.

Things to Do

Hiking: Worthy of a full day’s outing, the 805-acre Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve and 5000+-acres Austin Creek State Recreation Area offer a nature lover’s delight for exploring scenic trails, visiting the Coastal Redwoods and being witness to unique geological traces. Several picnic areas invite an explorer to stay the day and feast with nature’s giants. Plan water and food as there are no food amenities at the park. The volunteer staff at the Visitor’s Center (also a bookstore and gift shop) are available to answer all your questions and offer tips on how to explore the park(s).  (707) 869-2958.  Entrance to the park is free and there are bike racks available to park your bikes. The park is just over 2.5 miles north from downtown Guerneville along Armstrong Woods Road.

Canoeing: Burke’s Canoe Trips, Forestville (707) 887-1222 / http://burkescanoetrips.com or Johnson’s Beach and Resort at Beach Street.  (707) 869-2022 / https://johnsonsbeach.com

Kayaking: The most relaxed option is offered at Johnson’s Beach and Resort at Beach Street (see link above).  (707) 869 2022. Just drop in at your leisure. You can kayak or canoe for an hour, two, or more. Hourly and day rates. Kayaking at Johnson’s Beach is seasonal May to September. A great option on a loop day or if you travel to the coast on your last day is Water Treks in Jenner. Very casual self-guided rental or plan ahead and book a tour of this unique estuary. 10438 CA-1, Jenner, CA 95450. (707) 865-2249. Open 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM / https://www.watertreks.com

Getaway Adventures offers either a group or private tour along the peaceful Russian River – kayak to the mouth of the river and step out of the kayaks for a beach hike! Included in your tour is an overview of the flora and fauna you encounter along the way and a gourmet picnic lunch at the pullout. Call for rates and details regarding the private tour if you prefer that option. (800) 499-2453 / https://getawayadventures.com/kayaking/

Ballooning: Up and Away Ballooning (707) 836-0171 / https://www.up-away.com, Wine Country Balloons (707) 538-7359 /https://winecountryballoons.com.  Phone ahead to check if they will pick-up in Guerneville as they sometimes do and sometimes don’t depending on how busy they are.

Spa treatments: For guests of the Applewood Inn, the innkeeper will arrange for a massage in their private massage room.

Boon Hotel + Spa offers spa treatments. 14711 Armstrong Woods Rd. (707) 869-2721 / https://boonhotels.com/pool-spa/

Perhaps the most luxurious and worthy splurge for a spa day will be found at Farmhouse Inn in Forestville – a 10-minute drive outside of Guerneville. An Uber or cab ride are suggested so you can make the most of the relaxation. Spa hours 8AM to 8PM. 7871 River Rd in Forestville. (707) 887-3300 / https://www.farmhouseinn.com/spa

The Beach: Johnson’s Beach on the Russian River offers canoes, kayaks and paddle boats for rent as well as umbrellas, inner tubes and beach chairs.  There is a snack bar on the beach and beer is for sale at the boathouse though credit cards are not accepted.  Johnson’s is also home to several events throughout the season: The Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival takes place on the weekend after Labor Day in September.  Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm everyday weather permitting mid-May to early October.  Be warned, it can get crowded on hot days.

Useful Contacts

Visitor Information: Russian River Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center at 16200 First Street.  707-869-9000.

Bike Shop: The nearest bike store is in Healdsburg, The Spoke Folk Cyclery at 201 Center St. at the south end of Healdsburg (707) 433 7171.

There is reported to be a bike shop opening in Guerneville – but we have yet to see it!  An auto repair shop may be able to help in an emergency – for example, M D Auto Repair, 15644 River Rd.  (707) 869 1446.

Stores: There is a Safeway supermarket (16405 Hwy 116, Guerneville) as well as delicatessens and numerous stores along River Road (Hwy 116) in central Guerneville.

Taxi Company: Bill’s Taxi Service based out of Guerneville.  (707) 869 2177. Best reserved 24 hours in advance.

Healdsburg

Overview

HealdsburgHealdsburg is a prosperous but relaxed town that has evolved from its humble agricultural and farming-centric beginnings to a highly sought Wine Country destination. The focal attraction here is the central Plaza from which emanates a bounty of offerings in fine dining, casual café’s – including ice cream and pie shops, wine tasting rooms, boutiques, art galleries, and a pleasant small-town vibe that attracts both tourists and locals alike.

History

Early inhabitants of the local area were the Pomo people, who constructed villages in open areas all along the Russian River.  European settlement of the area commenced in the mid-1800s, with the establishment of Graton in 1836 downstream, along the Russian River, of present-day Healdsburg.

In 1857, Harmon Heald, an Ohio businessman who had been squatting on Cyrus Alexander’s Rancho Sotoyome since 1850, purchased part of the rancho—giving the city its official founding date.  In 1867, Heald’s eponymous small town was incorporated.

Farming, especially orchards and truck farms, was common within the present city limits from the 1890s to 1940s.

Eating & Drinking

Healdsburg has more great places to eat than we can reasonably list here. Your local handler will most certainly have their favorites – a most likely send you off-center to explore where the locals really eat. Fine dining is sweet, but local goodness at affordable prices is also very sweet.

Most of the best places to dine in Healdsburg are within a block of the central plaza – around Matheson St., North St., Center St., and Healdsburg Ave.  A few suggestions include:

Single Thread Farm takes the cake when it comes to special dining experiences in town. They offer an eleven-course tasting menu offering a California-Japanese fusion. Hyper-local provision sourcing is the key touch here. Michelin Guide awarded this fine establishment 3 Stars for 2019. 131 North Street. Closed Tuesdays from Christmas Day to Memorial Day. Special booking conditions apply so plan early. (707) 723-4646. Open Saturday and Sunday 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM / 5:30 – 9:30 PM and Monday, Wednesday-Friday 5:30 – 9:30 PM (Closed Tuesday) / https://www.singlethreadfarms.com

Valette. a rustic-chic wine-country eatery serves Californian cuisine & wine in an upscale space. The setting provides a canvas for local farmers, winemakers and artisans to showcase their crafts. 344 Center St. For Reservations call (707) 473-0946. Open daily at 5:30 PM / https://www.valettehealdsburg.com

The Dry Creek Kitchen.  This Charlie Palmer owned restaurant is in the Hotel Healdsburg and its simple, fresh and local ingredients make for excellent California food.  317 Healdsburg Ln. (707) 431-0330. Zagat rated. Open daily at 5:30 PM / https://drycreekkitchen.com

If you’re staying at the Madrona Manor you’ll likely want to eat at their award-winning restaurant, at least one night.  The emphasis is California-French.  We interpret this as rich and creamy but with some healthy options.  Whatever you choose, the food is well prepared and, not surprisingly, there is a great wine list. Michelin star rating. 1001 Westside Road.  (707) 433-4231 [NOTE: the Madrona is 1½ miles outside of town- a walk is not advisable. You will need to consider Uber or Lyft options if not staying here. Open Wednesday-Sunday 6:00 – 9:00 PM / https://www.madronamanor.com/healdsburg-restaurant/ 

Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar.  The tapas-style menu and the relaxed atmosphere make this a good choice if you’re done with Michelin stars.  403 Healdsburg Ave. (at North St.), Healdsburg, (707) 433-9191. They do not take reservations on weekends. Open at 11:30 AM through dinner / https://starkrestaurants.com/stark-restaurant/willis-seafood-raw-bar/

Barn Diva serves enticing menus prepared with locally sourced food from sustainable farmers, fishmongers and ranchers. They serve lunch, brunch and dinner. Town & Country Travel says, “This is fantastic cooking based on the finest ingredients ~ this was the most entertaining restaurant I’d found in some time.” Found at 231 Center St.  (707) 431-0100. Open Wednesday-Saturday 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM / 5:30 – 9:00 PM. Open at 11:00 AM on Sunday – Other hours are the same / http://www.barndiva.com/#greetings-1

For a toned-down Italian scene, Baci Café’ and Wine Bar, offers a good selection of food at reasonable prices. 336 Healdsburg Ave. (707) 433-8111. A fun Italian option, with Bocce ball court is Campo Fina at 330 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, (707) 395-4640. Open Thursday-Monday 5:00 – 10:00 PM / https://bacicafeandwinebar.com 

Chalkboard on 29 North Street (707) 473-8030 (next door to Hotel Le Mars) offers small plates and daily changing farm-to-table menus paired with wine flights and inventive cocktails. Next door to them, Healdsburg SHED Café offers all things local and fresh, including a fermentation bar at 25 North Street (707) 431-7433 / https://www.chalkboardhealdsburg.com

If you just want a burger and a beer, head for the Bear Republic Brewing Company 345 Healdsburg Avenue (just north of the Plaza).  (707) 433-2337. Open daily at 11:00 AM / https://bearrepublic.com 

If you want a gourmet sandwich, pizza or salad, one of the best options in Healdsburg is the Oakville Grocery at 124 Matheson Street (@ SE corner of the Plaza).  It also has a pleasant outside seating area but does not open late and service can be a little slow at peak times: (707) 433-3200. Open daily 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Friday and Saturday until 6:00 PM).

For great bread, pastries & sandwiches in the French tradition, Costeaux French Bakery & Café at 417 Healdsburg Avenue offers breakfast and lunch daily. This is an excellent option for planning your picnic too. (707) 433-1913. Open Monday-Saturday 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM (Sunday until 1:00 PM) / https://www.costeaux.com

The best espresso in town is served at the Flying Goat Coffee.  324 Center Street.  (707) 433-9081 / https://flyinggoatcoffee.com/419-center-street/  

If you haven’t already spotted the obvious, Healdsburg is a town with many options for the dining scene around the plaza – from Spanish Tapas, Gourmet Mexican, Portuguese, Italian pizzeria and even gourmet pie, cupcakes and ice cream! Good food & good wine abound in this town. If you want more suggestions, just ask your local handler. Your lodging hosts are also a wealth of information for last minute suggestions and reservations. The Wine Road map & brochure available at the Visitor Center on Healdsburg Avenue and at various establishments around town, is also a handy resource to explore all that is available in this town.

Things to Do

If you’re here on either Saturday or Tuesday, you can enjoy the Farmers’ Market.  On Saturdays, from 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM in early May to late November at the West Plaza parking lot on North and Vine Streets, one block west of the Plaza. The Tuesday evening market runs from late May to late September and is located on the Plaza in Downtown Healdsburg from 9AM to 1PM.

If you’re here Tuesdays, enjoy Concerts in the Plaza from late May through late August.  The whole town seems to turn out for these festive occasions, many using chairs and blankets to reserve prime spots from early in the morning.

Kayaking & Canoeing: for river excursions from 2 to 8 hours in duration, head to the bridge where you’ll find the River’s Edge Kayak & Canoe Company.  They rent canoes, single kayaks and double kayaks.  Shuttle ride is typically included in rental rates.  1 Healdsburg Ave.  (707) 433-7247. [Seasonal] https://riversedgekayakandcanoe.com 

Getaway Adventures offers either a group or private tour along the peaceful Russian River – they will even pick you up from your hotel in Healdsburg! Included in your tour is an overview of the flora and fauna you encounter along the way and a wine country picnic lunch in the redwood grove at the pullout. Call for rates and details regarding the private tour if you prefer that option. (800) 499-2453 / https://getawayadventures.com/kayaking/ 

Spa treatments: There are various day spas available in town. If you’re staying at any of the Hotel Healdsburg properties –H2, Harmon Guest House and Hotel Healdsburg – the spa at Hotel Healdsburg will be your destination for bliss.  You can ask your front desk concierge for assistance with bookings. 327 Healdsburg Avenue (707) 433-4747

Other Day Spa’s around town:

A Simple Touch Spa, 239 #C Center Street.  (707) 433-6856 / https://www.asimpletouchspa.com

Elements On the Plaza, 105 Plaza St, Suite A (707) 433-1270 / https://www.elementsskincarestudio.com

The Beach: If you want a cooling swim, head to the Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach at 1 Healdsburg Ave. “Beach” is a generous description but facilities include picnic tables, restrooms, and a man-made swimming area located on the Russian River.  The park is open for swimming from Memorial Weekend through Labor Day Weekend.  If you’re planning to walk over there you may want to call ahead to check the beach is open.  (707) 433-1625. [Open seasonally].

Tasting Rooms: Healdsburg is unique in the area for the number of tasting rooms within walking distance of the town center.  Should you so desire you could spend a whole day tasting in the town and still not have got around to sampling everything on offer.  Your B&B or hotel will, likely, have their favorites.

For the most accurate listing (or close to it), the Wine Road map and brochure are your best reference and are available at all lodging establishments. A simple walk around town will have you exploring a variety of varietals and tasting experiences.

Useful Contacts

Visitor Information: Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau‎ 217 Healdsburg Ave 707- 433-6935 ‎

Bike Shop: Spoke Folk Cyclery at 201 Center St. at the south end of town (707) 433 7171

Stores: Most of the town’s stores are within a block of the central plaza.  There’s a Safeway on the route out towards Guerneville at the Vineyard Plaza Shopping Center (corner of Matheson St. and Vine St.). The UPS store, also at this center, offers packing materials for those traveling with wine. There’s a CVS Pharmacy at the Mitchel Shopping Center, 455 Center Street.  707-433-3357.

Taxi Company: George’s Taxi, Santa Rosa also covers the Healdsburg area.  (707) 544 4444 or 707-546-3322. You may investigate any Uber or Lyft offerings available. Keep in mind that short travel distances are not typically serviced.

Occidental

Overview

Occidental sits at a saddle point at the head of Dutch Bill Creek where it nestles in the shade of towering redwoods.  This small town is home to some small shops, boutiques, galleries and a small cluster of eateries. Small and quiet dominate here.

The mural at Main St and Minna St lists 57 places of interest – though seven of these have been painted over and the remaining list includes a firehouse, an attorney’s office and a video store. You do not come to Occidental for the excitement, you come to visit a quiet and relaxed town with many well-preserved buildings.  The town is packed with history – in fact, there was a whole book written about the history of this eight-street town.  The church is a nice example of the white paneled churches you find across this area.

History

Founded in 1876, Occidental was a stop on the North Pacific Coast Railroad (see box on Page 43 below) connecting Cazadero to the Sausalito ferry.  The railway caused a rapid expansion of the timber industry, and by 1877 there were six sawmills in the Occidental area.  As the redwood forests were logged out, homesteaders built homes and planted orchards and vineyards in their place.  Homes in Occidental and nearby Camp Meeker were built as summer cabins by early developers “Dutch Bill” Howard and Boss Meeker.  In return for donating right-of-way to the railroad, “Dutch Bill” received a lifetime railway pass and the station was named after him.  Trains also brought vacationers up from San Francisco – escaping the cool summers down by the Bay.

In more recent time, Occidental was famous for its collection of bohemian writers and artists and was the hub of community-centered social movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s, giving rise to nearby communes such as Morningstar, Wheeler Ranch, and Star Mountain.  There was a point in the early 1990s when the town was also a center of the “neo-hippie” movement in Sonoma County, but high property prices and other economic pressures have since driven out the young families that fed this movement.

Today, artists and craftspeople live and work in the Occidental area and each October they open their studios for the Art Trails adventure.  Occidental’s Redwood Arts Council presents concerts of local artists and world-renowned musical performers featuring chamber music, international folk music and jazz.

Eating & Drinking

Surprisingly for such a small town, there is a good variety of places to eat.

Hazel offers rustic, Mediterranean inspired cuisine with two wood fired ovens as the focal point of the kitchen. Pastries here are a special treat. 3782 Bohemian Highway, (707) 874-6003. Closed on Monday. Open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday 5:00 – 10:00 PM. (lunch on Sunday from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM) / http://www.restauranthazel.com

Union Hotel Restaurant and Café serves Italian food and offers a nice outdoor terrace: 3731 Main Street at Minna St.  (707) 874-3555. Open 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM / https://unionhoteloccidental.com 

Negri’s Original Occidental offers more Italian food, family-style. 3700 Bohemian Hwy. (707) 823-5301. Open for lunch and dinner Friday-Sunday 11:30 AM – 8:30 PM. Monday-Thursday 4:00 – 8:30 PM / https://www.negrisrestaurant.com

Fans of health food might want to sample the salmon-rice burgers, the falafel plate or one of the salads at Howard Station Café’. Cash-only. 3611 Bohemian Hwy. (707) 874-2838. Open daily 7:00 AM – 2:30 PM (Saturday and Sunday until 3:00 PM) / https://www.howardstationcafe.com

Head to the Barley and Hops Tavern for a pleasant pre-dinner beer.  If you’re feeling settled, you can even stay for dinner.  They have a choice of over 50 craft beers and locally sourced and sustainable food focusing on cooking with beer.  Live Music Thurs-Sat.  3688 Bohemian Highway.  (707) 874-9037‎.Open at 11:30 AM Friday-Sunday. Monday-Thursday at 3:00 PM.

Finally, Mexican food can be found at El Mariachi Café. 3595 Bohemian Hwy (707) 874-2752. Open daily at 10:00 AM.

Things to Do

Spa treatments: The Osmosis Spa, in the nearby village of Freestone, is a Japanese-style spa is located on a secluded five acres with beautiful bonsai and bamboo gardens.  Osmosis is open daily from 9 AM to 8 PM and is located at 209 Bohemian Highway in Freestone.  707- 823-8231 (https://www.osmosis.com). Please note that taxi service is limited here – especially for a short travel radius. You would need to plan cycling to and from for the most practical option. Uber and Lyft offerings are also limited, but never hurts to check availability.

Hiking: Travel down to Guerneville to reach the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.  Worthy of a full day’s outing, the 805-acre Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve and 5000+-acres Austin Creek State Recreation Area offer a nature lover’s delight for exploring scenic trails, visiting the Coastal Redwoods and being witness to unique geological traces. Several picnic areas invite an explorer to stay the day and feast with nature’s giants. Plan water and food as there are no food amenities at the park. The volunteer staff at the Visitor’s Center (also a bookstore and gift shop) are available to answer all your questions and offer tips on how to explore the park(s).  (707) 869 2958.  Entrance to the park is free and there are bike racks available to park your bikes. The park is just over 2.5 miles north from downtown Guerneville along Armstrong Woods Road.

The Grove of Old Trees is tucked away a few miles outside of town at 17400 Fitzpatrick Lane. For a day off the bike, take on a walk and hike up this preserve that is publicly accessible and free to visit. The park offers 33 acres of old growth coastal redwoods on easy trails where you can also enjoy a picnic. To reach the grove, you must take on a couple of miles of climbing along Coleman Valley Road. You then follow Joy Road (straight at the intersection) Proceed slowly on this narrow winding lane for approximately 1.7 miles. The road banks to the left over a cattle grate, and up a moderately steep hill. Please remember to give right of way to vehicles traveling uphill. The Grove will appear on your right.

Horticulture: A horticultural treat is the Western Hills Garden.  This center has hundreds of varieties of exotic plants for sale and viewing.  This offers another pleasant off-the bike opportunity to walk. Open Saturdays from 10AM to 4PM in Spring and Summer. The garden is open for public tours and plant sales by appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  $15/person admission. 16250 Coleman Valley Rd. (707) 872-5463.

Zip lining: Sonoma Canopy Tours offers a unique way to experience the redwoods. Their zip line course is over 800 feet long. You will walk on sky bridges high in the air and marvel at the panoramic forest views and deep ravines. 6250 Bohemian Highway (888) 494 7868.

Useful Contacts

Stores: Bohemian Market 3691 Main St. (707) 874-3312.

MD Liquor and Food. 3707 Main St (707) 874-3315.

Olema

Overview

Olema“Olema” is the Miwok word for coyote.  This is a quaint, relaxed town with a few craft shops, galleries and cafés.  It is also an access town for the Point Reyes National Seashore.  The population is a little over 50 people – so don’t expect things to be too lively!

History

In the late 1800s, when logging was king on the Inverness ridge, Olema was a raunchy row of card rooms, saloons and establishments of even lesser repute.  It would never grow bigger.  In 1874, the narrow gauge North Pacific Coast Railroad (see box on Page 43 below) was laid to the north, bypassing the old stage road and giving rise to what’s now Point Reyes Station.  Olema’s nightlife, however, remained raucous because Galen Burdell, Point Reyes Station’s first developer, allowed only one bar in his new town.

Olema was once thought to be the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake due to the huge fault rifts still visible via a nearby hiking path.  There are historical references to this in and around the town, including at shops and restaurants.  However, more recent evidence suggests that a location near Daly City – south of San Francisco – is more likely the epicenter.

Olema was also the title subject of the late-1960s country-rock song, “Hippie from Olema”, The Youngbloods’ rejoinder to Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee”.

Eating & Drinking

Due West (formerly Farmhouse) at the Olema House serves seasonal menus with local ingredients. 10021 Coastal Hwy 1. (415) 663 –1264 / https://olemahouse.com/due-west-restaurant/

Things to Do

Hiking: There are great trails on the Pt Reyes National Seashore.  To get orented get a map at the Bear Valley Visitor’s Center near Olema.    (415) 464-5100.

Kayaking: Blue Waters Kayaking run some great trips out on Tomales Sound.  They use single and double, closed-deck (sit-inside) sea kayaks.  415-669-2600.

 

Point Reyes Station

Overview

Point Reyes Station owes its existence – and its name – to the North Pacific Coast Railroad that ran through it en route from Sausalito to the Russian River (see box on Page 43 below).  The railroad closed in 1933 but the town is still vibrant – part commercial center for surrounding farms, part gateway town to the Point Reyes National Seashore and part quaint and quirky destination.

Seismologists predict that seismic activity will cause the Point Reyes National Seashore to move 300 miles offshore from Oregon in the next 13 million years.  For those lacking that patience, you can fly to Portland and sign up for one of our Oregon Bike Trips.

History

Originally called Olema Station, Point Reyes Station still has the feel of a railroad town with many of the facades along Highway 1 dating back to the heyday of the Railroad.  Some think the architecture is vaguely Italianate – many of the early town fathers were Northern Italian immigrants or Italian speaking Swiss.

With a squint of the eyes and a muffling of the sound of cars you can glimpse the town of 100 years ago.

The nearby 80,000-acre Pt. Reyes National Seashore is a wonderful, wetland wilderness created under President John F. Kennedy, who declared that the peninsula should be saved as a “national treasure.”


North Pacific Coast Railroad (1871–1907)

The North Pacific Coast railroad (NPCR) carried redwood lumber, local dairy and agricultural products, post and passengers.  The NPCR was over 90 miles long and extended from a pier at Sausalito (which connected the line via ferry to San Francisco) and to Duncans Mills and Cazadero in the Russian River.

All the NPCR track has now been abandoned but remnants of the track can be seen all along its route – including bridge foundations on the ride from Tomales to Point Reyes Station and a passenger depot at Duncan Mills.

The stations along the route are as follows – with distance in miles from San Francisco, as was the convention for mileposts along the route:  San Francisco (0.0), Sausalito via Ferry (6.5), San Rafael Junction (16.5), Fairfax (18.3), Point Reyes Station (36.4), Marshall (45.4), Tomales (53.1), Valley Ford (59.5), Freestone (63.7), Occidental (67.6), Monte Rio (73.8), Duncans Mills (77.1) and Cazadero (84.3).

Your ride from Guerneville follows much of the route of this old railroad.


Eating & Drinking

The Station House Café has an interesting mix of robust food as well as lighter fish dishes. 11180 Hwy 1 (Main St): (415) 663-1515. Open 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM / 5:00 – 9:00 PM. Closed Wednesdays / https://stationhousecafe.com

Cowgirl Creamery at Tomales Bay Foods offers soups, salads and local cheeses. Open Wednesday to Sunday 10AM to 5PM. 80 4th Street (415) 663-9335 / https://cowgirlcreamery.com/pages/visit-us 

The Bovine Bakery is great for bread and pastries, and pizza.  11315 Hwy 1 (Main St) (415) 663-9420. Open Monday-Friday 6:30 AM – 5:00 PM. Saturday and Sunday 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM / http://www.bovinebakeryptreyes.com 

For a great organic espresso – and tasty treats – head across the road to Toby’s Coffee Bar – just inside Toby’s Feed Barn.  The Feed Barn is also great for picking up some fresh fruit and other delicacies such as jams & honey.  Feed, tack and hay also available!  11250 Hwy 1.  (415) 663-1223. Open daily until 5:00 PM / https://www.tobyscoffee.com/about 

Things to Do

Hiking: There are great trails on the Pt. Reyes National Seashore.  To get oriented get a map at the Bear Valley Visitor’s Center near Olema.  (415) 464-5100

Kayaking: Blue Waters Kayaking run some great trips out on Tomales Sound.  They use single and double, closed-deck (sit-inside) sea kayaks.  415-669-2600.

Useful Contacts

Stores: The Palace Market is a good general store in the center of town.  11300 Hwy 1 (Main St).  (415) 663-1016.  Whale of a Deli has basic foodstuffs but nothing gourmet.  997 Mesa Rd.  (415) 663-8464.

Bike Shop: Black Mountain Cycles.is a friendly bike store on the way out of town.  11101 Hwy 1.  (415) 663-8125.

St Helena

Overview

St_HelenaSt Helena is a charming country town with less than 6,000 people.  The well-preserved main street echoes back to the early 1900s and offers boutiques, café’s, antique stores, restaurants and galleries. Small town America – in a designer sort of way!  St Helena has several excellent places to dine including several with Michelin stars.

The town of St Helena shares its name with the 4,000- foot Mount St Helena – the hill that dominates the mountainous backdrop at the far end of the valley.

History

St Helena was originally home to Onastis people – the outspoken ones.  What once belonged to the Onastis people then became Spanish when the colonists arrived from Europe.  The Spanish renamed the local people Wappo – a corruption of the Spanish guapo meaning handsome.

What was Spanish then became Mexican and the Mexican authorities, in 1841, granted most of the Napa Valley to an English doctor, Edward T. Bale.  Bale in turn sold off smaller plots to American pioneers.

In 1846, what was Mexican then became the California Republic with the Bear Flag Rebellion in nearby Sonoma.  However, after less than a month, the Bear Flag was replaced by the Stars and Stripes and the town finally became American!

In 1854, an Englishman, Henry Still built a small wooden home on the site of modern-day St Helena.  He then added a general store and offered to donate lots to anyone willing to help him start a town.  Soon homes and small businesses sprouted up around what is now the intersection of Pope, Main, and Spring Streets.  The town was named after St. Helena – the mountain northeast of Calistoga.

Most of the first settlers were farmers but a few discovered that the soil was well suited to growing grapes.  Dr. George Beldon Crane and Charles Krug pioneered the Napa Valley wine industry.

By the early 1900s, St. Helena was a popular tourist attraction – helped by the arrival of the railroad and the nearby Sulphur Springs Spa resort.  However, prohibition, introduced in 1920 meant much wine and spirit production went underground.  Prohibition came to an end in 1933 and the wine industry rebuilt itself, but the winemakers were by then struggling with the Great Depression.  So, St. Helena languished as a quiet backwater until the early 1970s when there was a resurgence in domestic wine consumption.  Since then, the town has reinvented itself as a destination for wealthy visitors looking for some pampering in the context of the simplicity of small- town life

Eating & Drinking

St Helena, like our other Wine Country towns, also boasts a good selection of excellent restaurants and a cluster of good casual eateries as well.

The restaurant at the Meadowood tops the list.  It has three Michelin stars and while quite formal, the service is friendly and impeccable.  All the food comes with a story; many of them including local producers and sustainable and organic production.  Prepare to have your bouche amused and savor perfect pairings.  Also prepare to have a hand dip deep into your wallet.  900 Meadowood Lane.  (707) 967-1205‎. This does require a limo drive, unless you are up for a 2.5 mile walk each way. Consult with your hotel concierge for transportation suggestions. Open Tuesday-Saturday 5:30-9:30 PM / https://www.meadowood.com/dining

Goose and Gander gastropub is earning a good reputation offering craft cocktails & wines galore in its patio restaurant & basement bar. 1245 Spring St.  (707) 967 –8779. Open daily for lunch and dinner by 11:30 AM / https://www.goosegander.com/index.html 

Tra Vigne Pizzeria around the corner from Southbridge Napa Valley hotel serves good pasta, pizza and panini. 1016 Main St.  (707) 967-9999. Open daily for lunch and dinner by 11:30 AM / https://www.pizzeriatravigne.com

For views, it’s hard to beat the Culinary Institute of America on the northern outskirts of town.  A great place for lunch on the terrace. [Open seasonally] 2555 Main St.  (707) 967-1100. The better kept secret is the Illy Bakery Café’ inside the Greystone. They serve a lunch menu daily. The café’ is next door to the Culinary Shop and bookstore and offers a wine tasting bar as well. Open Friday-Sunday 10:30 AM – 6:00 PM. Monday-Thursday 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

Market Restaurant does not have a Michelin star but has reasonable prices and well-prepared American classics with a fresh seasonal approach and commitment to local organic farms.  1347 Main Street.  (707) 963-3799.‎ Open Sunday 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM, Monday-Thursday 11:30 AM – 9:00 PM (Friday and Saturday until 10:00 PM) / https://marketsthelena.com

Another good value restaurant is Cook.  The cuisine is Italian, the place small and service friendly.  1310 Main St.  (707) 963-7088.‎ Open 11:30 AM – 9:00 PM (Closed on Sunday and Monday) / https://cooksthelena.com

If you are a little “dined out,” Gott’s Roadside (formerly Taylor’s Refresher) is a very popular spot for burgers, shakes and all things healthy.  They also have an informal outside seating area so you can eat near your bikes if you’re having lunch here.  933 Main St, St Helena (707) 963 3486. Open daily 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM / https://www.gotts.com

Many other fine dining opportunities can be found along Main Street. If looking for more options, just ask us!

The Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company 835 Charter Oak Ave. – just off Main St at the south end of town – also has good picnic supplies.  (707) 963-4173 / https://www.nvoliveoilmfg.com After getting your cheese and olives, you could do worse than head up to Rutherford Hill Winery, 200 Rutherford Hill.  Turn east off the Silverado Trail just north of the intersection with Route 128 and after the turn to (and not to be confused with) Rutherford Ranch Winery.  The half-mile climb will bring you to great views across the valley as you sit in the shade of the olive groves.  A sign reads that picnic tables are reserved for customers of the winery – so you’ll need to taste some wine; shame!

Clif Family Bruschetteria Food Truck at the Velo Vino Tasting Room. 709 Main Street, St. Helena, CA. Open Tuesday-Sunday 11:30 AM – 4:00 PM.

Things to Do

Ballooning: In Calistoga: Calistoga Balloons.  One of the smaller operators and the only company flying as far north as Calistoga. (707)-942-5758 / https://www.calistogaballoons.com. In Yountville: Napa Valley Aloft (including Above the West Ballooning, Adventures Aloft and Balloon Aviation) – Probably the largest operator in the Napa Valley.  1-800-627-2759 / https://nvaloft.com . Napa Valley Balloons.  (707) 944-4408 / https://napavalleyballoons.com

Cooking Demonstrations: The Culinary Institute of America offers public cooking demonstrations at the Greystone building at the north end of St. Helena.  Live cooking is “performed” by the school’s renowned chef-instructors.  The one-hour events feature recipes that reflect the seasonal flavors of the Napa Valley wine country.  Saturday & Sunday: Seasonal.  2555 Main St.  (707) 967-1100. Call to verify scheduled times and topics.

Hiking: Visit the nearby Bothe-Napa Valley State Park for some pleasant hiking trails.

Spas and Pools:

The best spa in town is the Health Spa Napa Valley – next door to Southbridge Napa Valley hotel.  They have all the usual treatments as well as a large saltwater pool – perfect for just floating after a hard day in the saddle.  1030 Main Street, St. Helena CA (707) 967-8800 / https://healthspanapavalley.com

The Meadowood, nearly 2 miles outside of town, has an exceptional facility along with a golf course and tennis. As a guest of Southbridge Napa Valley, you have day access to some of these facilities. Enquire with your front desk concierge for information / https://www.meadowood.com/spa

Wine Tasting: There are good wine tasting options within walking distance of the center of town along Main Street (Hwy 29). Consult with your hotel front desk concierge or your local handler for some suggestions.

Useful Contacts

Bike Shop: St Helena Cyclery has a good selection of spares and kit.  They also have some cool cycling jerseys with a Napa Valley theme. 1156 Main St.  (707) 963-7736.

Stores:

Sunshine Foods 1115 Main St. (707) 963-7070. Safeway. 1026 Hunt Ave. (707) 968-3620.

Taxi Company: None in St Helena currently. Most transport is provided by private limousine companies. You can consult with your hotel concierge. Uber and Lyft might be available on a limited basis based on your travel radius.

Request Itinerary

Day-by-Day

Napa to Calistoga

Route Overview

The Intermediate Route ride starts with a van transfer to the town of Napa from where you meander up the gently rolling Napa Valley. Much of today’s riding is along the Silverado Trail with a winery every mile or so: from the world-renowned Stags Leap to the art-laden Clos Pegase. Along the way you have opportunities for lunch in Yountville, Oakville, or at a winery. With the easy terrain and numerous wineries to stop at, this route provides a gentle introduction to your tour.

Riders choosing the Easiest Route will be transferred to Yountville or Oakville, a little further along the route described above.

The Challenge Route explores the mountains around the Napa Valley along scenic, car-free lanes. Mount Veeder to the west includes plenty of tough-but-scenic climbing as well as spectacular views across the Napa Valley.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This ride begins with a van transfer to Oakville, home of the Oakville Grocery, one of the best places in the valley to pick up a picnic. 

From here you head east over to the Silverado Trail for the rolling stretch into Calistoga.  The Silverado Trail is a highway and designated bike route creating the eastern border of the Napa Valley.  You’ll enjoy pleasant vineyard views along your route. Yet, you are not alone. This route does carry steady traffic, but the wide shoulder offers plenty of space and visibility to navigate comfortably. Things calm down the further north you travel. Two miles outside of Calistoga, you will exit The Silverado Trail onto Dunaweal Lane before entering the Napa Valley Vine Trail to Calistoga.

Intermediate Route

This ride begins with a van transfer to Napa.

The route starts by travelling along the Napa Vine Trail to reach Yountville. The Vine Trail is a dedicated multi-use paved trail path for cyclists and walkers.  This allows for a pleasant, almost- car-free start to your day. There will be some intersections and street crossings to negotiate, but otherwise this leisurely start is a great way to get warmed up before taking on the rolling hills further north.

You arrive in the opulent and chic town of Yountville.  The eponymous George C. Yount was the founder of Yountville – and reputedly the first American settler to come to the Napa Valley.  Hence Yountville’s claim that, “this is where it all began.”  George is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery just across the street from the Yountville Park (corner of Washington & Lincoln) – a nice place for picnic (the park not the cemetery).

From Yountville, the ride meanders along to Oakville where you join the Easiest Route above.

Challenge Route

Challenge riders begin their day with a van transfer to Carneros, a former settlement in Napa Valley.

From Carneros, you ride north along the edge of Napa Valley to Redwood Road and then climb the length of Mt Veeder. The climbing here is gradual at first, and then the pitch increases steadily for the last 3 to 4 miles of climbing. You are rewarded with panoramic views of the Napa Valley below and a fast, twisty descent back to the valley floor. When you reach the stop sign at Oakville Grade you will turn right and continue to climb for over a mile.  Take care on the very steep and curvy downhill toward the town of Oakville.  You might consider pulling over to take some photos. At the stop sign, take a left onto Route 29 toward Oakville.  Here you will join the Intermediate and Easiest Routes above into Calistoga.

Lunch

There are many options for lunch.  Depending where you start, you could simply drop down to one of the towns on Route 29 when you are ready to eat – Yountville, Oakville, and Rutherford all have good options.  St Helena is also a good option for a late lunch, and if your destination is Calistoga, you have options there too. You’ll never go hungry here!

Yountville

Yountville is home to many fantastic restaurants, bistro’s, café’s, shops and the world-famous French Laundry.  This establishment has repeatedly been awarded Best Restaurant in the World (by Restaurant Magazine).  In recent years, it has remained in the top 100.  6640 Washington St. (707) 944-2380. Open for lunch Friday-Sunday 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM / https://www.thomaskeller.com/tfl#

One of our favorite stops (although often busy) is the Bouchon Bakery. 6528 Washington St. (707) 944-2253. Open daily until 7:00 PM / https://www.thomaskeller.com/yountville-california/bouchon-bakery/bakery

Bistro Jeanty will have you thinking you pedaled all the way to the Loire Valley to this French bistro. This gem gets repeated good feedback and has some outdoor seating. 6510 Washington St. (707) 944-0103.  Open daily at 11:30 AM / https://bistrojeanty.com

Another popular Parisian-style eatery, Bouchon Bistro, is owned by Thomas Keller – also owner of the $300+ per head French Laundry.  The three-month booking window at the French Laundry makes the line at Bouchon’s look very reasonable. 6534 Washington St. (707) 944-8037‎. Open daily for lunch by 11:00 AM / https://www.thomaskeller.com/bouchonyountville#

Alternatively, pick up a sandwich and head to one of the many wineries to enjoy a picnic lunch.  In town, you have the Velo Deli and Pizzeria at 6498 Washington St., next door to Bistro Jeanty. Further north, at the far end of town, you have newcomer Kelly’s Filling Station and Wine Shop. It’s a gas station with flare! 6795 Washington St. (707) 944-8165. Both open daily.

Oakville

The Oakville Grocery is a good choice for a sandwich or gourmet salads. 7856 St. Helena Highway (Route 29): (707) 944-8802.

Points of Interest

Wineries

There are many more wineries on your route today than there are hours in the day to visit them.  Here is a selection.  You can find more details on some of these wineries in the Vineyards & Wines – Winery Listing section at the start of this guide – they are listed under the Napa Valley North andNapa Valley South regions. Please note that some wineries do require reservations, especially for groups of 6 or more. There are many wineries that welcome walk-in visits. You also have tasting rooms that showcase different wineries when you reach your destination at Yountville, St Helena or Calistoga.

Because you are cycling at least 20 to 30 miles you do need to consider your ability and the timing. We suggest enjoying more cycling at the start of your day and then enjoying a stop at a winery closer to or at your destination. You can share tastings and as ever, the “sip and spit” method for tasting is highly encouraged.

Napa Valley South:

  • Cakebread
  • Conn Creek
  • Domaine Chandon
  • Mumm Cuvée Napa
  • Nickel & Nickel Vineyards
  • Opus One
  • Pine Ridge Winery
  • Robert Sinskey Vineyards
  • Rutherford Hill Winery
  • Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Napa Valley North:

  • Chateau Montelena
  • Clos Pegase
  • Duckhorn
  • Envy
  • Frank Family Vineyards
  • Lava Vine
  • Merryvale
  • Rombauer
  • Schramsberg Vineyards
  • Sterling Vineyards

Stores

In Napa, there are a couple of bike stores.  Bicycle Works is closest to your drop point at 3367 Solano Avenue.  (707) 253-7000‎.

A reasonable alternative – though a little off your route – is Napa River Velo at the Riverfront Plaza, 680 Main Street.  (707) 258-8729. Open daily by 10:00 AM. Open daily. Hours are variable.

In St Helena, St Helena Cyclery has very helpful staff. 1156 Main St. (707) 963-7756. Open Tuesday-Sunday by 10:00 AM.

In Calistoga, Brad and his crew at Calistoga Bike Shop are always ready to help as well. 1318 Lincoln Ave. (707) 942-9687.Open daily 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

In Yountville, Ranch Market Too, 6498 Washington St (between Oak Cir. and Mulberry St.)(707) 944-2662.

See Wine Country Towns – Calistoga at the start of this guide for more details on the facilities at your overnight destination.

 

Calistoga Loop Rides

Route Overview

The Intermediate Route starts with an easy cruise down the Silverado Trail. You then enjoy a moderate out and back challenge into the rolling and secluded landscapes of the Conn Valley and a visit to the shores of Lake Hennessy.  A quick mile downhill along Howell Mountain Rd brings you back to the multiple eating options in St Helena including the majestic Culinary Institute of America. The institute also has cooking demonstrations if you want a change from cycling! It is a flat cruise back to Calistoga with as many winery stops as you choose.

Those choosing the Easiest Route will loop between Calistoga and St Helena as described above but omit the out and back to Lake Hennessy.

Challenge Route riders head to the Pope Valley – a world of peaceful farms and flower filled meadows. The ride starts with a 6-mile ascent over the shoulder of Mt St Helena.  After passing through Middletown, you enter an arid, high-walled canyon before emerging into the lush Pope Valley. You climb out of the Pope Valley up the iconic Ink Grade before descending back into the Napa Valley.

The Epic Route follows the Challenge route to the Pope Valley and adds on an extra loop around the shores of Lake Berryessa.

How much cycling you do today is up to you; explore the Napa Valley with its parks, spas, wineries and great food, or enjoy a long ride with plenty of climbing in the Pope Valley.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This ride starts in the heart of Calistoga. You will leave town on the Napa Valley Vine Trail, turning north onto Dunaweal Lane before heading south onto The Silverado Trail. The route to St Helena is dotted with wineries, and there are multiple options for leisurely stops. After lunch, loop back to Calistoga along Highway 29. You will return to Dunaweal Lane from the south and end your ride where you began in Calistoga. Note: If you prefer to skip the bustle of Highway 29, you may choose to meander between Highway 29 and The Silverado Trail on your return route. For something fun, collect a picnic and head up to a winery along your route. Visit The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and enjoy a relaxed lunch in this impressive mansion built in 1889. See Sights below for additional information.

Intermediate Route

This ride begins by following the Easiest Route above for the first 10 miles where you turn left onto Howell Mountain Road and begin a steady, nearly 2-mile climb to Conn Valley Road

CalistogaIgnore all side lanes, but not the scenery, until it ends at the shores of Lake Hennessy. A fence wall was recently put up along the edges of the lake, but there are a pair of openings that allow you to walk a short path to the shores of the lake and enjoy this peaceful corner of Napa. Do use caution and ride visibly to the right of the road. While typically a quiet road, there are residents in the area to be mindful of as you pass side lanes. There are a pair of wineries that are interesting visits, but they do require reservations and some climbing. Complete the out and back by returning to The Silverado Trail where you rejoin the Easiest Route above.

Challenge Route

This ride begins by heading north out of Calistoga along Lincoln Avenue / Hwy 29 for 2 miles, where you leave Hwy 29 for the quieter Old Lawley Toll Road. As you ride this this quiet lane for the next 3 ½ miles, you will begin a moderately steep and steady 5-mile climb that leads you back to Hwy 29 and to the summit at Mt St Helena Trailhead. From there, it is a rolling downhill into the town of Middletown. At the north edge of town, you turn off Hwy 29 onto Butts Canyon Road. For the next 12 miles, this bucolic road carries you through farmland, past the small but scenic Detert Reservoir and into theCalistoga quiet high country above the vineyards. At 29 miles there is a 1-mile climb, followed by a quick downhill and a flat stretch along Pope Valley Road before the route turns right onto Ink Grade Rd for your second pass of the day. You ascend steadily for a little over 4 miles before turning right on White Cottage Road. White Cottage Road offers moderately rolling hills along a mostly Adventist residential area. From White Cottage Road you turn right on Deer Park Road and this is the fun ride home. You are rewarded for all your ascents with a sweeping and scenic nearly 5-mile descent into the Napa Valley, just north of St. Helena. Please note that while there is a shoulder along Deer Park Rd, it is a narrow shoulder and you will see a little more traffic here than you did on your climbs. At the intersection with The Silverado Trail, you join the Intermediate Route above for your cruise into St Helena and back to Calistoga.

Epic Route

For the ride today, you may want to gather a picnic lunch in town before starting your ride. Be sure to carry plenty of water with you, as you will be in remote areas.

Follow the Challenge Route above for 34 miles to the intersection with Ink Grade Road. Continue past Ink Grade along Pope Valley Road. At 36 miles, Pope Valley Road becomes Chiles Pope Valley Road. Just beyond a sweeping right turn (Barnett Road on the left), you will turn left onto Pope Valley Cross Road (signed Lake Berryessa). After another mile, take a left at the stop sign onto Pope Canyon Road. You will follow this road to the western shore of Lake Berryessa. Turn right onto Berryessa Knoxville Road and pedal the steady rollers for 11 miles to the junction with Hwy 128. Before reaching Hwy 128, The Spanish Flat Recreation Area and the Spanish Flat Country Store and Deli might offer a water fountain or refreshments respectively, if open. You will be on Hwy 128 for 3 miles before turning right onto Lower Chiles Valley Road. Begin another 2-mile ascent then enjoy a fun downhill to the southern edge of Lake Hennessey. Skirt the lake riding along Hwy 128/Sage Canyon Rd to The Silverado Trail. Turn Right onto The Silverado Trail and continue along to Pope St at 76 miles where you rejoin the Challenge Route above.

Lunch

Where you lunch will depend on which route options you take.

St Helena / Calistoga

Both St Helena & Calistoga have an abundance of nice places to eat – from the casual to the positively swanky.  See Wine Country Towns – Calistoga and St Helena at the start of this guide for more details on eating in these two towns.

The Bakery Café’ by Illy at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone is a very discrete lunch and coffee bar –- tucked away at the back of their Culinary Shop. The menu features breakfast pastries in the morning and, for lunch, soups, salads, sandwiches and sides made by the baking & pastry arts students and faculty. This is a working culinary institute, so you know something good must to be in the works every day! There is a wine tasting and pairing bar, a chocolate shop, and a culinary shop and library that you can enjoy. Alternatively, reserve a table on the terrace at the Culinary Institute of America and enjoy a relaxed lunch in this impressive mansion built in 1889.   2555 Main Street. Bakery open daily 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. / Main Dining open until 5:00 PM (6:00 PM on weekends). (707) 967-1100 / https://www.thebakerycafeatgreystone.com/

Middletown

Beulah’s Kitchen is a low-key, local option for a late breakfast. 21147 CA-29. Monday-Friday 6:00 AM – 2:00 PM (Saturday until 3:00 PM / Sunday 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM) (707) 987-0473 / http://beulahs-kitchen.edan.io 

Perry’s Deli is a nice stop for sandwiches and deli items. 21308 Calistoga Rd. Open daily at 5:00 AM. (707) 987-2416 / https://perrysdeli.hrpos.heartland.us/menu

Buddha Thai Kitchen has an extensive menu of traditional Thai dishes. 21037 Calistoga Rd. Open Tuesday-Sunday at 11:30 AM (Closed on Monday). (707) 987-8276 / http://www.btkmenu.com 

Pope Valley

The Pope Valley Market is a good spot to get a drink and enjoy the air conditioning for a moment. 5850 Pope Valley Road. Open daily starting at 10:00 AM. (707) 965-9922.

Points of Interest

Sights

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, built in 1889, is a premier culinary college located in one of only fourCulinary_Institute_of_America_at_Greystone global regions. Other locations may be found in New York, Texas and Singapore. The Institute is conveniently located next door to the Beringer Winery– another impressive mansion constructed in the 1880s at the southern end of St Helena.  The Culinary Institute offers some cooking demonstrations on the weekends. Their schedule varies by season. The Beringer Winery offers some worthwhile tours of the cellars and property. You are welcome to walk around the picturesque property and just enjoy the shade of a tree surrounded by the lush gardens. Call to inquire about current classes and tours which may be available. 2555 Main Street. (707) 957-1100

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park is a nice spot to hike a loop trail through pristine woodland.  Just before the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park is the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park.  This park is the site of a water-powered gristmill that was built in 1846.  It was once the center of social activity as Napa Valley settlers gathered to have their corn and wheat ground into meal or flour.  You can also hike the two miles from the mill on the historic trail to Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, which features extensive picnic facilities and several trails. Check opening hours on (707) 942-4575.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park offers a 5-mile hike to the summit of Mt St Helena from which much of the Bay Area can be seen. Stevenson’s book, Silverado Squatters, tells stories from his travels to the area. Another book of his you may have heard of: Treasure Island.

Geyser_Tubbs_Lane_CAIf you’re in Calistoga and looking for something a little hokey-but-fun, cycle down Grant Street and turn LEFT on Tubbs Lane to the Old Faithful Geyser.  It erupts every 45 minutes.  The set-up is a little commercial, but it is a fun trip.  You can easily visit Chateau Montelena Vineyards in the same trip – just ½ mile north of Old Faithful on Tubbs Lane.  Chateau Montelena can get busy in the tasting room, however their gardens on the ground floor offer a very pleasant and peaceful walk.

Stores

In Calistoga, Cal Mart has a large variety of deli items, produce and cheese selections – 1491 Lincoln Avenue. (707) 942-6271 Open daily 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM.

In Pope Valley, Pope Valley Market is a small store with basic items – 5850 Pope Valley Road. (707) 965-9922.

In St Helena, Safeway is a full-service store with deli for good local cheese and picnic supplies for a winery lunch – 1016 Hunt Ave (707) 968-3620.

Wineries

There are a couple of interesting wineries on the Pope Valley Loop Ride, but all will require you check for reservations and opening days/times.  There are, of course, many other options at the northern end of the Napa Valley.  The southern part of Napa Valley is also an option for a detour, if you simply must sample some 1982 Opus 1.

You can find more details of these wineries in the Vineyards & Wines – Winery Listing section at the start of this guide.

Pope Valley:

Aetna Springs

Pope Valley Winery

Somerston Winery

Napa Valley North:

Chateau Montelena

Clos Pegase

Duckhorn

Envy

Frank Family Vineyards

Schramsberg Vineyards

Sterling Vineyards

Napa Valley South:

Cakebread

Domaine Chandon

Mumm Cuvée Napa

Nickel & Nickel Vineyards

Opus One

Pine Ridge Winery

Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Rutherford Hill Winery

Stags’ Leap Wine Cellars

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Calistoga to Healdsburg

Route Overview

The Intermediate Route takes you through a series of valleys where you cycle past mixed-tree woodland and fertile vineyards. Most of the wineries you pass are in the Alexander Valley. Even if you are not planning to taste, these oases are great places to enjoy a picnic or simply rest in the shade of an oak tree. From here, it’s an easy cruise across into the Dry Creek Valley and on to Healdsburg – your destination.

Those choosing the Easiest Route will take a van transfer over the first two climbs of the day to join the route described above at the start of the Alexander Valley.

The Challenge Route follows the Intermediate route to the Alexander Valley but adds on a fun in-and-out climb up the badly named Pine Flat Road – a local classic.

The Epic Route also follows the Intermediate route to the Alexander Valley from where it heads into the mountains for a roller-coaster ride along Geysers Rd to Cloverdale. You are rewarded with some of the best advanced cycling in California: tough climbing, impressive panoramas, and very little traffic.

Plan to gather a picnic before your ride. Lunch options are available in Calistoga and Healdsburg.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Your ride starts with a van transfer to a winery in the Alexander Valley along Hwy 128. There is no avoiding Hwy 128 to cross the pass from Napa Valley into the Alexander Valley and Hwy 128 can be moderately busy in some sections. The terrain is moderately-rolling, and the visibility is generally good.  From your starting point in the Alexander Valley, the road opens, and you will see acres upon acres of vines framed by the Mayacamas Mountains to the east. The Hanna Winery offers a nice stop atop a scenic knoll. Further along, the Alexander Valley Vineyards is a staple in the valley. A recent addition to the valley, is the well-known Silver Oak tasting room showcasing impressive Leeds-certified buildings and excellent wine. These three impressive vineyards are within the first 3 miles of your ride!

You soon reach Hawkes Wine, where you may refill your water. Just beyond, you leave Hwy 128 for Alexander Valley Road, cross the Russian River, and follow the rolling terrain into Healdsburg. In Healdsburg, you will enter onto the Foss Creek Pathway, taking you off the road and onto a bike path. You will cross main roads, so watch for traffic as you navigate into town. Your ride ends at the Healdsburg Plaza at Center St and Matheson St. See your Accommodation sheet for directions to your lodging.

Intermediate Route

You leave Calistoga along a tree-lined residential street before you begin your 2-mile long climb up Franz Valley School Road. Once the hill is conquered, you are rewarded with several miles of rolling hills through shady forests before heading across to the little-known Knights Valley and the more famous Alexander Valley.

NOTE: You will be travelling through a 4-mile area that was recently impacted by fire. Please be aware of any construction or debris removal and always stay on the main road. Follow any caution signs as applicable. An early start will avoid you having to climb in the heat of the day.

At 10 ½ miles into your ride, you will turn left onto Hwy 128. Although moderately busy in some sections, the terrain is rolling, and the visibility is generally good. Upon passing Chalk Hill Road on your left at mile 17, you join the Easiest Route above and ride into Healdsburg.

Challenge Route

You begin your ride in Calistoga, following the Intermediate route above for the first 20 miles. If you need to visit Hawkes Wine for water, turn left here at the intersection of Hwy 128 and Pine Flat Road for a quick detour before starting the climb up Pine Flat Road. The in-and-out detour up Pine Flat Rd is a stunning but tough nearly 12-mile climb (2100ft of gain) popular with local cyclists. Features of the ride include stunning views across the Alexander Valley, quiet roads and the eerie beauty of Pine Flats that was badly damaged by fire in 2003.  Due to the isolated nature of the road, we do not recommend doing this ride alone.  Pine Flat Road is a right turn off Hwy 128 (where the highway turns left) just before Hawkes Wine. You may attempt a short section and turn around at any point. The six-mile marker (Ribuzzi Ranch – a house with a lake on left hand side) offers a good marker for a turnaround point and a solid effort!  If you want to take the effort up a few notches, continue to mile 9 of the climb. If you are into thigh-burning torture, then take it to the top. From mile 6 onward, the grade increases to an average 10%, with the last ¾ mile or so being a steady 18-22% grade. Mile 9 is the namesake “pine flat” and a welcome relief before turning around or keeping on with the climbing.

Back at the intersection of Pine Flat Road and Hwy 128, continue straight onto Hwy 128 and rejoin the Intermediate Route above to Healdsburg.

Epic Route

Note: You should be aware that there are ¼ mile sections of gravel at multiple areas along Geysers Rd. The road surface can be very worn and at other spots the surface has been removed by landslides.  This is such a quiet stretch of road that we do not expect them to be repaired any time soon.  Proceed at your own risk and be sure your handling skills are up to the task. The remoteness of this ride means that we advise only very experienced riders with a sense of adventure to attempt it and we strongly advise against anyone doing it alone.  Replenish your water bottles at Hawkes Wine or another – you will be glad for it.

This ride follows the Challenge Route above to Hawkes Wine (mile 20.5). At the intersection of Hwy 128 and Pine Flat Road, turn right onto Pine Flat Road and then left onto Red Winery Road. We recommend a rest stop at Hawkes Wine to fill water bottles before returning to this intersection and continuing your epic ride.

From the rest stop at Hawkes Wine, exit left on Hwy 128 and continue straight at the bend (to follow Pine Flat Rd), left on Red Winery Rd. and right on Geysers Rd. You start with a six-mile steep climb followed by another six miles of steep descents and more climbing before reaching Geyser Resort Rd. Take a left on Geysers Rd following signs to Cloverdale.  Prepare for a mostly steady descent.  The descent is on a narrow, twisting road with a potholed surface and some sections of gravel. What strength you have left in your legs will be needed to push you over the short rises as you descend the side of Big Sulfur Creek.

Your reward for all this effort is a 25-mile rollercoaster of heart thumping climbs and heart stopping descents – some of the best cycling in the Wine Country with fantastic panoramas back down to the Alexander Valley, far below.  You will see very little traffic on the Geysers Road and hardly any sign of habitation.  The road was built to support the construction and servicing of The Geysers – a complex of geothermal power plants that harness naturally occurring underground steam to generate electricity. The facility claims to be the largest geothermal project in the world.

The road descends back into the valley at Cloverdale.  You can then travel on to Healdsburg through the Dry Creek Valley via Dutcher Creek Rd, Dry Creek Rd and finally, Healdsburg Avenue.  The ride concludes at the corner of Center St and Matheson St. Refer to your lodging sheet for directions to your accommodation.

This route adds about 45 miles of tough riding to the normal route.

Lunch

Calistoga

Cal Mart is a good spot for gathering a picnic. They offer a full deli and have a large produce section. If wine and cheese is on the menu, you will find those items as well.1491 Lincoln Avenue. (707) 942-6271. Open daily at 7:00 AM.

Jimtown / Healdsburg

There are many vineyards that make perfect picnic spots once you reach the Alexander Valley – Hanna Winery at 9280 Hwy 128 and Hawkes Wine, 6734 Hwy 128, both make pleasant stops.

If you are pushing on to Healdsburg for a late lunch, see the Wine Country Towns section for more dining options.

Cloverdale

Zini’s Diner is a simple diner with American fare. Located at 796 Cloverdale Blvd. (707) 894-9444. Open Tuesday-Saturday 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM (Sunday until 3:00 PM / Closed Mondays).

Moe’s Eagles Nest Deli has large sandwiches for those long rides. A staple in Cloverdale since 1999, this is a popular spot among locals. 113 North Cloverdale Blvd. (707) 894-9290. Open daily 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM.

Points of Interest

Wineries

You will travel through three wine growing regions today: Northern Napa, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek however, it is really only practical to visit wineries in the Alexander Valley. A good alternative is to arrive early into Healdsburg and visit some of the tasting rooms dotted around town.  You can find out more about these tasting rooms under Healdsburg in the Wine Country Towns section at the start of this guide.

You can find more details of the wineries listed below in the Vineyards & Wines – Winery Listing section of this guide.

Alexander Valley:

  • Alexander Valley
  • De Lorimier
  • Foley Sonoma
  • Francis Ford Coppola
  • Hanna
  • Hawkes
  • Locals
  • Medlock Ames
  • Robert Young – Scion House
  • Silver Oak
  • Soda Rock
  • Stonestreet

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Healdsburg Loop Rides

Route Overview

Today’s Intermediate Route takes you into the Dry Creek Valley. From here, you look out across acres of vines with the Mayacamas Mountains framing the scene. In short, you will enjoy some truly classic wine country riding on back roads that snake past small farms and family-run wineries.  Many guests collect a picnic lunch at the Dry Creek General Store to enjoy with a tasting in the gardens of one of the many vineyards.  If you buy a bottle or two, let us know and we will collect them for you.

Easiest Route riders do a slightly shorter version of the Dry Creek loop described above – focusing on the southern portion.

Those choosing the Challenge Route head across to the Alexander Valley and then into the mountains following a classic route for local riders past active geysers to Cloverdale and then back through the Dry Creek Valley.

The Epic Route follows the intermediate route to the end of the Dry Creek Valley but rather than turning around it continues along remote roads deep into the Coast Range. The route returns to Healdsburg alongside the Russian River.

Route Options

Easiest Route

You start today’s ride heading northwest out of Healdsburg on side roads, then climbing into the countryside along Chiquita Rd.  Travel west on Lytton Springs Rd to Dry Creek Rd. The Dry Creek General Store, at the corner of Dry Creek Rd and Lambert Bridge Rd is a great place to pick up a picnic lunch to take along and enjoy at one of the wineries.

After a stop at the General Store, travel west along Lambert Bridge Rd to West Dry Creek Rd. From here, you begin your return toward Healdsburg via the scenic west side of the Dry Creek Valley – that is, West Dry Creek Rd.  This is one of the most charming stretches of wine country and where you’ll find many interesting wineries: from the homespun charm of Preston Vineyards to the biodynamic Quivira Winery. You take West Dry Creek Rd all the way to Westside Rd where you take a left, travel a mile and reach the town of Healdsburg.

If navigating the traffic circle is too overwhelming for you, we suggest you walk your bikes after travelling under the highway bridge and follow the perimeter of the shopping center on your left- hand side (Carl’s Junior and Exchange Bank near the corner on left-hand side). Walk to Vine Street, then walk left along sidewalk to Matheson Street. From Vine Street, turn RIGHT on Matheson. Continue straight along the stoplight on Healdsburg Ave to reach Center Street. The route ends at corner of Matheson Street and Center Street. Follow the instructions on your Directions to Accommodations sheet to reach your lodging.

Intermediate Route

You begin this ride following the Easiest Route described above for the first 7 ½ miles to the intersection of Lambert Bridge Rd and West Dry Creek Rd. At this point, you will turn right onto West Dry Creek Rd, heading north for 4 miles on gently rolling terrain along a landscape dotted with wineries. Make a right onto Yoakim Bridge Rd. Just after crossing Dry Creek,lake_sonoma you may want to make a stop at Dry Creek Peach and Produce to visit their farm store before turning left, heading north, onto Dry Creek Rd. You are now on an out and back stretch to the Lake Sonoma Visitor Center. The turn-around point is at about 15 miles at the Lake Sonoma Visitor Center and Fish Hatchery where restrooms, water fountain, and picnic tables are available. Center hours can vary, but a visit is a worthwhile stop.

To add some additional challenge, you can consider one of 2 different extensions up toward the Lake Sonoma Overlook or beyond. You begin with a steady 3- mile ascent. Reaching the Overlook or simply travelling across the Lake Sonoma Bridge are both solid, but not overwhelming, efforts. You can continue across the bridge along Rockpile Road for a steady roller coaster of 10 additional miles outbound (you reach a barrier) and return. (20-mile total extension). Plan your hydration if you’re taking on an extension beyond the Lake Sonoma Bridge as there are no amenities beyond the Visitor Center. Rockpile Road is one of the best kept secrets for locals (if you like steady climbs – grades range from 8% to 12% on the ascents), you will enjoy beautiful scenery and minimal traffic once you are beyond the Boat Launch area.

After visiting Lake Sonoma, return to Yoakim Bridge Rd and turn right, returning to West Dry Creek Rd. Upon reaching the intersection with Lambert Bridge Rd., you will rejoin the Easiest Route described above for your return into Healdsburg.

Challenge Route

Note: You should be aware that there are ¼ mile sections of gravel at multiple areas along Geysers Rd. The road surface can be very worn and at other spots the surface has been removed by landslides.  This is such a quiet stretch of road that we do not expect them to be repaired any time soon.  Proceed at your own risk and be sure your handling skills are up to the task. The remoteness of this ride means that we advise only very experienced riders with a sense of adventure to attempt it and we strongly advise against anyone doing it alone.  Replenish your water bottles at Hawkes Wine – you will be glad for it.

You start today’s ride leaving Healdsburg along the Foss Creek Pathway, Grove St and Healdsburg Avenue before turning onto Alexander Valley Rd at 3 miles. Alexander Valley Rd becomes Hwy 128 just before you reach Hawkes Wine.

Alexander_Valley_RoadFrom the rest stop, exit left on Hwy 128 and continue straight at the bend (to follow Pine Flat Rd), left on Red Winery Rd. and right on Geysers Rd. You start with a six-mile steep climb followed by another six miles of steep descents and more climbing before reaching Geyser Resort Rd. Take a left on Geysers Rd following signs to Cloverdale.  Prepare for a mostly steady descent.  The descent is on a narrow, twisting road with a potholed surface and some sections of gravel. What strength you have left in your legs will be needed to push you over the short rises as you descend the side of Big Sulfur Creek.

Your reward for all this effort is a 25-mile rollercoaster of heart thumping climbs and heart stopping descents – some of the best cycling in the Wine Country with fantastic panoramas back down to the Alexander Valley, far below.  You will see very little traffic on the Geysers Road and hardly any sign of habitation.  The road was built to support the construction and servicing of The Geysers – a complex of geothermal power plants that harness naturally occurring underground steam to generate electricity. The facility claims to be the largest geothermal project in the world.

The road descends back into the valley at Cloverdale.  You can then travel on to Healdsburg through the Dry Creek Valley via Dutcher Creek Rd, Dry Creek Rd and finally, Healdsburg Avenue.  The ride concludes at the corner of Center St and Matheson St. Refer to your lodging sheet for directions to your accommodation.

Epic Route

You start this ride leaving Healdsburg, following the Intermediate Route, described above, to the Lake Sonoma Visitors Center.

Note: Once you leave the shores of Lake Sonoma and enter the Coast Range, there is very limited cell coverage (if any) and no stores or reliable sources of water until you reach Cazadero.  The ride is a series of long climbs with numerous false summits and demands respect from even the most accomplished riders. Alert your Guide if you decide to take on this epic loop. We do not recommend this as a solo ride and encourage you to plan your nutrition judiciously.

Upon leaving the Visitors Center, continue south – then west – along Stewarts Point – Skaggs Springs Road for the next 30 miles, ignoring side roads. You will ride up into the hills toward the Lake Sonoma Overlook and continue west toward the ocean. Climbing steadily, your first segment of 8 miles is a continuous climb followed by a 4-mile stretch of quick descents and shorter ascents. You then have 2 ½ miles to climb and finally catch your breath at mile 31! This stretch of road takes you across the Coastal Range, over some very isolated forested passes and across open pasture.

For the next 15 miles, you will ride downhill and along a fairly flat stretch of road. Watch the road surface! It will be tempting to release the brakes fully, but these country roads are not perfectly maintained and have rough spots and potholes to avoid. Use caution! At mile 45 ½, you hit the proverbial “wall” and have a 2-mile climb that gives you your steepest grade of the day before taking a left turn onto Tin Barn Road where you begin riding south. Once you turn onto King Ridge Road, the ride into Cazadero is rolling terrain. Cazadero is a great stop for refueling or second lunch before you make the long, gradual descent to Hwy 116 and turn east toward Guerneville and Healdsburg.

Continue traveling east on Hwy 116 as it becomes River Road, then turn right onto Sunset (east of Guerneville). You will take a sharp turn leading you under River Road, connecting to Westside Road on the opposite side. Follow Westside Road for the next 12 miles, rejoining the Intermediate Route again at West Dry Creek Road. Make your way into Healdsburg, savoring your Epic day!

Lunch

Dry Creek

The Dry Creek Store is your best option for a for a good sandwich. At this local institution, build your own sandwich, pick one from the menu, select from their house-made salads or look around in their small market for other items. Good coffee and beer are sold here, too.  The sign by the store lists 35 local wineries – many of which have picnic sites. It’s always the courtesy to buy a glass of wine or tasting if planning to picnic at a winery. 3495 Dry Creek Rd. (707) 433-4171. Open Monday-Saturday 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Sundays 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM).

Jimtown / Healdsburg

There are many vineyards that make perfect picnic spots once you reach the Alexander Valley – Hanna Winery at 9280 Hwy 128 and Hawkes Wine, 6734 Hwy 128, both make pleasant stops.

If you are pushing on to Healdsburg for a late lunch, see the Wine Country Towns section for more dining options.

Cloverdale

Zini’s Diner is a simple diner with American fare. Located at 796 Cloverdale Blvd. (707) 894-9444. Open Tuesday-Saturday 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM (Sunday until 3:00 PM / Closed Mondays).

Moe’s Eagles Nest Deli has large sandwiches for those long rides. A staple in Cloverdale since 1999, this is a popular spot among locals. 113 North Cloverdale Blvd. (707) 894-9290. Open daily 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM / https://www.moeseaglesnestdeli.com

Cazadero

The Cazadero General Store has a deli counter and is also a general grocery store. 6125 Cazadero Hwy (707) 632-5287. Open daily 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM.

Points of Interest

Wineries

As with lunch, which wineries you pass will depend largely on your route option. You can find more details of the wineries listed below in the Vineyards & Wines – Winery Listing section of this guide.

Dry Creek Loop

With this option you’re focusing mainly on the Dry Creek area.

  • Bella
  • Da Vero
  • Dry Creek
  • Dry Creek Valley Family Vineyards Coop
  • Dutcher Crossing
  • Ferrari-Carano
  • Lambert Bridge
  • Martorana
  • Papapietro Perry
  • Passalacqua
  • Preston
  • Quivira
  • Simi
  • Truett-Hurst
  • VML
  • Zichichi

Alexander Valley:

  • Alexander Valley
  • De Lorimier
  • Foley Sonoma
  • Francis Ford Coppola
  • Hanna
  • Hawkes
  • Locals
  • Medlock Ames
  • Robert Young – Scion House
  • Silver Oak
  • Soda Rock
  • Stonestreet
Stores

In Cazadero, the General Store has a deli counter and grocery for your refueling needs. 6125 Cazadero Hwy (707) 632-5287. Open daily 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM.

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Healdsburg to Guerneville

Route Overview

The Intermediate Route has 30 miles of fantastic wine country riding on scenic lanes that meander through the vineyards of the Dry Creek Valley before heading over a low pass into the Russian River Valley. Here you experience cycling in the shade of giant redwoods before arriving at the hippie town of Guerneville. This is a good day to do some wine tasting – maybe taking a picnic to enjoy at one of the many wineries.

The Easiest Route follows the above route except for cutting off the initial loop through the Dry Creek Valley.

Those choosing the Challenge Route also follow the Intermediate route above but add in a hilly detour that tests the legs with steep climbs high above the valleys on car free roads with stunning views across high, alpine meadows.

Route Options

There is an option to extend the Easier Route today upon arrival in Guerneville:

  1. Ride from Healdsburg to Guerneville

and

  1. Ride from Guerneville to the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve and back to Guerneville
Easiest Route

Option 1: Healdsburg to Guerneville

Your ride begins in Healdsburg with a ride along Westside Rd into the Russian River wine growing area. Here you will ride across rolling terrain past many famous and more not so famous wineries. You then head over a low pass and down to the Russian River.  Meandering with the river, you will reach the Korbel Champagne Cellars at about mile 15 – the perfect place to toast another great day’s riding. It is then just a short distance to reach the quirky town of Guerneville.

Please see your Directions to Accommodations sheet for information about your overnight lodging.

Option 2: Guerneville to Armstrong Redwoods SNR (Out and Back)

If you arrive in Guerneville and would like to experience the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, head north from Guerneville along Armstrong Woods Rd for just under 3 miles. You will return back to Guerneville and meet your guide for your end of trip shuttle. See Sights below for additional information about this park.

Intermediate Route

You start today’s ride heading northwest out of Healdsburg on side roads, then climbing into the countryside along Chiquita Rd.  Travel west on Lytton Springs Rd to Dry Creek Rd. The Dry Creek General Store, at the corner of Dry Creek Rd and Lambert Bridge Rd is a great place to pick up a picnic lunch to take along and enjoy at one of the wineries.

After a stop at the General Store, travel west along Lambert Bridge Rd to West Dry Creek Rd. Turn left onto West Dry Creek Rd and ride the scenic west side of the Dry Creek Valley. This is one of the most charming stretches of wine country and where you’ll find many interesting wineries: from the homespun charm of Preston Vineyards to the biodynamic Quivira Winery. You take West Dry Creek Rd all the way to Westside Rd Turn right and join the Easiest Route described above.

Challenge Route

This route follows the Intermediate Route described above for the first 6 miles. There you will make a right turn onto Sweetwater Springs Road for a spectacular “short cut” to Guerneville. Warning: This is a steep and technically challenging detour. The descent is technical – with steep curving switchbacks. If you’re game for all the challenges and confident in your ability to fix your own flats, then enjoy the peace of this exciting detour.

Sweetwater Spring Road (just before Hop Kiln Winery) will take you to some steep climbs and fast descents through open pasture.  You will then enjoy an enchanting ride alongside the shady banks of Porter Creek.  A stiff climb then takes you over the pass to Armstrong Woods Road from where a left turn will take you into Guerneville. If you would like to visit Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, turn right onto Armstrong Woods Rd and visit the park before heading south toward Guerneville. When your visit is complete, turn back and travel south along Armstrong Woods Road to the intersection with Main St / Hwy 116 where your ride concludes.

Please see your Directions to Accommodations sheet for information about your overnight lodging.

Lunch

Dry Creek

The Dry Creek Store is your best option for a for a good sandwich. At this local institution, build your own sandwich, pick one from the menu, select from their house-made salads or look around in their small market for other items. Good coffee and beer are sold here, too.  The sign by the store lists 35 local wineries – many of which have picnic sites. It’s always the courtesy to buy a glass of wine or tasting if planning to picnic at a winery. 3495 Dry Creek Rd. (707) 433-4171. Open Monday-Saturday 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Sundays 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM) / https://www.drycreekgeneralstore1881.com 

Guerneville

Korbel Champagne Cellars is located along River Rd (not on Challenge route) east of Guerneville. They specialize in sparkling wines and have a nice deli and outdoor seating area. 13250 River Rd. (707) 824-7000. Open daily 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Big Bottom Market describes themselves as a unique gourmet delight serving sandwiches and healthy fare, and it is our favorite spot for lunch and coffee. They are well known for their homemade biscuits which generally sell out each day! 16228 Main St. (707) 604 7295. Open 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Closed on Tuesday) / https://www.bigbottommarket.com

If you want a sandwich and a coffee, Coffee Bazaar is another good bet.  14045 Armstrong Woods Road (at the end of Third St).  (707) 869-9706. Open daily 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

Safeway, at 16405 Hwy 116 also has good value sandwiches made fresh at the deli counter: 707-869-9433.

Points of Interest

Sights

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is a beautifully preserved redwood grove with trees over 1,400 years old. Coast Redwoods range from Southern Oregon to Central California, extending not more than 50 miles inland – the furthest inland that the coastal climate reaches. Fog also plays a vital role in the survival of the Redwoods, protecting them from the summer drought conditions. Inside the Reserve, within a half mile from the entrance, you can find the Parson Jones tree, the tallest at more than 310 feet in height (a football field, including end zones, is 360 feet), and the Colonel Armstrong tree, the oldest in the grove. Bring a light jacket as temperatures in the Reserve can be cooler. Please remember to lock your bike if you plan to take a walk and to pick up a brochure at the front entrance for descriptions of trails and where you are allowed to bicycle.17000 Armstrong Woods Rd. (707) 869-2015. Open daily 8:00 AM – 1 hour after official sunset. Entry is free for cyclists.

Wineries

This route’s vinicultural focus is the temperate Russian River area.  And, you can end with a little fizz at the Korbel Champagne Cellars.  Compared to the wineries in the Napa Valley, the vineyards in these areas tend to be smaller, more family-owned concerns.  Many of them are also organic.

While the options are many, time can go by very fast. If you opt to focus on the wine and shorten your day’s ride distance, we suggest concluding in Guerneville allowing you to take your time and relax.

Russian River:

  • Arista
  • Da Vero
  • Gary Farrell
  • Gracianna
  • Korbel
  • Landmark Vineyards at Hop Kiln
  • Mill Creek
  • Moshin
  • Porter Creek
  • Thomas George Estates
  • Twomey Cellars

For more details about any of these wineries, see Vineyards & Wines – Winery Listing section at the start of this guide.

Request Itinerary

Guerneville Loop Rides

Route Overview

The Intermediate Route loops between Guerneville and Occidental – and back again. Most of the riding is on gentle back roads in the shade of the forest but there are also several short-steep sections – just to help build up a healthy appetite for lunch!

The Easiest Route heads straight to the Armstrong Woods State Reserve to ride and hike in the shade of 1400-year-old redwood trees.

The Challenge Route follows the Intermediate route to Occidental and then pushes into the Coast Mountains and down to the ocean. The route follows one of the classic climbs of the Tour of California bike race with views down to the Pacific Ocean.

There are also great non-cycling options today.  You can take a kayaking trip along the Russian River to where the river emerges into the Pacific Ocean. There are also great hiking or horseback trails that take you through the towering redwoods of the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve up to the high alpine pastures of the Austin Creek State Park. There is plenty to see and do around Guerneville with the opportunity to be as active or as restful as you choose.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Your ride begins in Guerneville, the gateway town for the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve.  A 3-mile ride north from town takes you into the heart of this majestic state park.  Head north from downtown Guerneville along Armstrong Woods Road for a flat 3 miles with a descent shoulder most of the way.  Park your bikes next door to the Visitor Center. Be sure to lock them and take any valuables.

See Sights below for additional information about Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve.

When you are done visiting the park, simply reverse your route back to Guerneville.

Intermediate Route

This ride begins in Guerneville at River Road and Armstrong Woods Road. With the Russian River on your right and the town of Guerneville behind you, ride east to the first stop light at CA-116 on the edge of town – Marked to Sebastopol. Turn right and follow CA-116 less than ½ mile to Mays Canyon Road just past Neeley Road. There is a steady climb to mile 2.8 from where you coast downhill to rejoin CA-116, heading south for the next mile, climbing again. Turn right onto Green Valley Road and continue the gentle climb on quiet back roads through the forests.  While the roads remain scenic, the gradient increases significantly for short sections. At mile 7 ½, you leave Green Valley OccidentalRoad, turning right onto Harrison Grade Road. If you are interested in visiting Lynn’s Lavender Garden, open only on weekends, a small detour will get you there. Turn left onto Tanuda Road at 10 miles – Lynn’s Lavender Garden is on the right at the intersection of Tanuda Road and Graton Road.

See Sights below for additional information.

Occidental sits at a saddle point at the head of Dutch Bill Creek.  The town is nestled in the shade of towering redwoods.  This relaxed setting hosts a variety of small shops, boutiques and art galleries.

The mural at Main St and Minna St lists 57 places of interest – though seven of these have been painted over and the remaining list includes a firehouse, an attorney’s office and a video store.  However, you do not come here for the excitement; you come to visit a quiet and relaxed town packed with history.  The church is a nice example of the white paneled churches you find across this area.

From Occidental, it is downhill most of the way back to CA-116 along the Occidental Camp Meeker Road and Bohemian Hwy. You will pass woodland communities on your RHS and LHS. Cross the Russian River at Monte Rio and begin riding east along CA-116, keeping the river on your right, back to Guerneville. See Other Activities below for information about the Northwood Golf Club.

Challenge Route

Start this ride following the Intermediate Route described above to Occidental. From the corner of Bohemian Hwy and 3rd Street / Coleman Valley Road, turn onto Coleman Valley Road, heading west. Coleman Valley Rd climbs and descends through pastureland with steep hills and spectacular views of the ocean before it descends steeply for the last mile to CA-1. Coleman Valley Road is rough in spots, so control your speed on the downhills.

Turn right onto CA-1 keeping the ocean on your left. Arched Rock Beach is one of many overlooks along your route as you travel north to the junction with CA-116, enjoying some classic Californian coastal riding along the pristine shoreline; all of which is under the protection of the Sonoma Coast State Park.

In Duncans Mills, ride along Moscow Road to Monte Rio where you rejoin the Intermediate Route back to Guerneville.

Lunch

Guerneville

Big Bottom Market, a unique gourmet delight and our favorite spot for lunch and coffee. 16228 Main St. (707) 604 7295. Open 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Closed on Tuesday) / https://www.bigbottommarket.com

Occidental

Union Hotel Restaurant and Café serves Italian food and offers a nice outdoor terrace: 3731 Main Street at Minna St.  (707) 874-3555. Open 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM / https://unionhoteloccidental.com

Fans of health food might want to sample the salmon-rice burgers, the falafel plate or one of the salads at Howard Station Café’. Cash-only. 3611 Bohemian Hwy. (707) 874-2838. Open daily 7:00 AM – 2:30 PM (Saturday and Sunday until 3:00 PM) / https://www.howardstationcafe.com 

Duncans Mills

Cape Fear Café is a cozy restaurant with a vintage vibe serving American and globally inspired meals. 25191 Main St. (707) 865-9246. Open daily for lunch / https://cape-fear-cafe.business.site/

Gold Coast Bakery serves a good cup of coffee along with homemade pastries and wood-fired pizza. 25377 Steelhead Dr. (707) 865-1441. Open daily starting at 7:00 AM / http://www.duncansmills.net/gccpage.html

Points of Interest

Sights

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is a beautifully preserved redwood grove with trees over 1,400 years old. Coast Redwoods range from Southern Oregon to Central California, extending not more than 50 miles Armstrong_Redwoodsinland – the furthest inland that the coastal climate reaches. Fog also plays a vital role in the survival of the Redwoods, protecting them from the summer drought conditions. Inside the Reserve, within a half mile from the entrance, you can find the Parson Jones tree, the tallest at more than 310 feet in height (a football field, including end zones, is 360 feet), and the Colonel Armstrong tree, the oldest in the grove. Bring a light jacket as temperatures in the Reserve can be cooler. Please remember to lock your bike if you plan to take a walk and to pick up a brochure at the front entrance for descriptions of trails and where you are allowed to bicycle.17000 Armstrong Woods Rd. (707) 869-2015. Open daily 8:00 AM – 1 hour after official sunset. If you miss this window, you can check with the Park Ranger at the entrance kiosk for a map. You can also view a larger scale map of the trails just outside the Visitor Center to the RIGHT of the park gate. Entry is free for cyclists.


TAKE A WALK: For the most leisurely and awe-inspiring walk, follow the Pioneer Trail and Armstrong Trail along the forest floor. This path will immerse you in the Redwood forest showcasing the Parson Jones Tree, the Armstrong Tree and the Icicle Tree (interesting showcase of burls on a Redwood). Take a detour beyond the Picnic Area, to reach the Fife Creek Waterfall (which might only be a trickle depending on the time of year and rains). The Forest Theater is also a worthwhile and short detour from the Armstrong Tree location.

A more avid walk / hike but a reasonable 400 ft elevation gain is possible if you start off at the East Ridge Trail just to the RIGHT of the Visitor Center. Follow this trail for about 1.2 miles and then connect to the trail leading you back to Armstrong Trail and Fife Creek Waterfall. Total is about 3 miles with varied vegetation from Oaks, Madrones, to the Redwoods on the forest floor. As you hike the ridge, you travel about ½ the height up of the Redwoods, offering a different perspective.

TAKE A RIDE: To test your legs on a short stretch of road, Follow the Armstrong Woods Road all the way up to the Pool Ridge viewpoint and trailhead. You may continue further if you wish but it follows some of the steepest climbing in the area as the road takes you into open pastures high above the forest. The road ends at Bullfrog Lake, after a short descent through a campground.  Warning, the last stretch of road up to Bullfrog Lake is very steep (30% + in places). If you make it, you will get great views!


Lynn’s Lavender Garden and Gift Shop at Tanuda Ridge Vineyard is a sensory stop. Visit their production barn, drying shed, or shop for souvenirs in the gift shop. At the corner of Graton and Tanuda Roads. 3335 Harrison Grade Road. (707) 874-9960. Open Friday-Sunday 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM / https://www.lynnslavender.com/#/ 

Other Activities

Golf

If you love to golf, Northwood Golf Club provides the perfect setting for a round through the Redwoods. Travelin’ Northwood_Golf_ClubJoe Passov of Golf Magazine placed Northwood on his top-5 MacKenzie courses – in the world! Rates range from $17 for 9 holes after 5:00 PM to $47 for 18 holes during prime morning/early afternoon weekend hours. Power carts are available at a cost of $9 for 9 holes and $15 for 18 holes. Call ahead for a tee-time. 19400 CA-116 in Monte Rio. (707) 243-8088 / https://www.northwoodgolf.com

Kayak

Alternatively, take a half-day kayak or canoeing trip down the Russian River.  The Russian River is a class-1 river that meanders gently through ranch land, vineyards and redwood forests. Johnson’s Beach just a block up from Main Street is the most relaxed and practical gateway to some fun on the river.  You can rent pedal boats, kayaks, canoes and beach umbrellas by the hour or for the day. They have a small snack bar and is truly a blast to the past to small town entertainment. You paddle north bound along the river and return with the current. These outings are self-guided and very casual and allows for a paddle of up to 5 miles outbound. Canoes (Burkes Canoes) can also be rented from Steelhead Beach 7 miles east of Guerneville.  From here, you paddle downriver into Guerneville where there is a shuttle service to take you back to the start.

Russian_RiverSee the Things to Do in Guerneville in the Wine Country Towns section at the start of this guide for more details canoeing and kayaking operators in and around Guerneville.  [NOTE: most outfitters are only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.]

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Guerneville to Jenner & Bodega Bay

Route Overview

The Intermediate Route starts with a gentle descent alongside the Russian River before taking a scenic detour through the Redwoods to the small town of Cazadero: “The Heart of the Redwoods.” A short descent from here brings you to the Pacific Ocean where families of seals bask in the sun. After lunch in Jenner, you enjoy some classic Californian coastal riding south to Bodega Bay. Typically, the wind is at your back as you cycle past mile after mile of pristine coastline; all under the protection of the Sonoma Coast State Park. Your tour ends in Bodega Bay overlooking the small fishing port.

Those choosing the Easiest Routes have two options: either ride to Bodega Bay on a shorter version of the Intermediate ride or cut the ride short in Jenner and meet your guide there.

Riders desiring the Challenge or Epic Routes follow the Intermediate route to Cazadero from where they head into the Coast Range before emerging from the trees, high above the Pacific Ocean.  From here, you have stunning views down the coast and a fast sweeping descent into Jenner – where you rejoin the Intermediate route.CA_Coast

Route Options

Easiest Route

You have a choice of rides.

  1. Ride from Guerneville to Jenner where you meet your guide
  2. Ride directly from Guerneville to Bodega Bay

If you choose the ride with the van transfer, please alert your guide at the start of your tour and confirm with them the night before as they will need to coordinate your pick-up with the luggage move. 

Option 1: Guerneville to Jenner

If your itinerary calls for you to end today’s ride in Jenner, you will choose this option.

From Guerneville, travel west along River Rd / CA-116 with the river on your left. At Monte Rio turn left across the bridge and, immediately after the bridge, turn right down the quiet and scenic Moscow Road.  After a few miles, Moscow Road then crosses back over the Russian River and you turn left on Hwy 116 at Duncans Mills.  You then rejoin Hwy 116 at Duncans Mills to reach the coast. You may choose to stop off at the small town of Duncans Mills.  This tiny town (“population 20”) boasts a bakery, a general store, a café, a restaurant, an art gallery, a rodeo and a railway museum. There used to be a narrow-gauge railroad that brought sightseers from San Francisco to Duncans Mills to marvel at the redwoods.

From here it is only 5 miles to Jenner but to get there the road needs to squeeze through a narrow gap in the Coastal Range where the Russian River breaks through to the Ocean. The headwinds though this gap can be quite strong. Hwy 116 out of Duncans Mills leads west to the junction with Hwy 1. You will make a right onto Hwy 1 and travel one mile to the Jenner Visitor Center. Your guide will be waiting for you here to provide you with a shuttle.

Option 2: Guerneville to Bodega Bay

If your itinerary calls for you to end today’s ride in Bodega Bay, you will follow the Easiest Route (Option 1) above to the junction with Hwy 1 at 11.5 miles. Turn right and travel across the bridge over the Russian River and begin a 1-mile climb over the coastal hills. This climb is short but steep, and it is winding with blind corners. Be mindful of traffic and do not veer into the traffic lane. Your reward for that tough climb is Goat Rock Scenic Overlook. From here you will enjoy some classic Californian coastal riding south to Bodega Bay.  Typically, the wind is at your back as you cycle past mile after mile of the pristine coastline; all of which is under the protection of the Sonoma Coast State Park. There are many opportunities to enjoy the scenic viewpoints and soak it all in before reaching your destination by days end.

Intermediate Route

Your ride begins by following the Easiest Route, described above, into Duncans Mills. Turn right onto Hwy 116 here, and ride just over 1 mile to Austin Creek Rd. You will climb gently for 6 miles up to the small town of Cazadero, known as “The Heart of the Redwoods.”. Your turn around point is the Cazadero Store. We believe this is one of the most beautiful roads in Northern California.

The gentle return option from Cazadero is to enjoy a long, gradual descent back to Hwy 116 before making your way to the Ocean.  Because this is essentially an out and back, you may turn around at any time and return to Hwy 116, turning right (west) toward Jenner. At the junction with Hwy 1 and Hwy 116, turn right to visit Jenner. After exploring town, return to the highway junction to head south onto Hwy 1 and rejoin the Easiest Route to Bodega Bay described above.

Challenge Route

This route follows the Intermediate Route described above to Cazadero. On reaching the Cazadero Store, continue straight and at the five-way junction take the left fork up Fort Ross Rd.  From here, you will find yourself on a long and tough climb though mixed woodland.  Take Meyers Grade for a long sweeping descent to the Ocean and then left on Hwy 1 to Jenner.

California_CoastFor experienced riders with lots of energy, you will relish the short climbs and the fast descents of the blast down Hwy 1 into Jenner; as the road twists and turns along the precipitous coastline.  Less experienced riders may, however, find this section of Hwy 1 intimidating.

Once in Jenner, rejoin the Intermediate Route above to complete your ride to Bodega Bay.

Epic Route

This route follows the Intermediate Route described above to Cazadero. On reaching the Cazadero Store, continue straight and at the five-way junction take the middle road up King Ridge Rd.  From here, you enjoy ten miles of, sometimes steep, climbing on small lanes. After a five-mile descent you have another five-mile climb before descending down to Stewarts Point on the coast. After Cazadero, you will see few if any cars so be prepared to be self-sufficient.

From Stewarts Pont you ride along Highway 1 to Jenner. For experienced riders with lots of energy, you will relish the short climbs and the fast descents of the blast down Hwy 1 into Jenner; as the road twists and turns along the precipitous coastline.  Less experienced riders may, however, find this section of Hwy 1 intimidating.

Once in Jenner, rejoin the Intermediate Route above to complete your ride to Bodega Bay.

Lunch

Guerneville

For takeaway, Big Bottom Market is a gourmet delight serving sandwiches and healthy fare, and it is our favorite spot for lunch and coffee. They are well known for their homemade biscuits which generally sell out each day! 16228 Main St. (707) 604 7295. Open 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Closed on Tuesday) / https://www.bigbottommarket.com.

If you want a sandwich and a coffee, Coffee Bazaar is another good bet.  14045 Armstrong Woods Road (at the end of Third St).  (707) 869-9706. Open daily 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM /https://coffee-bazaar.business.site

Safeway, at 16405 Hwy 116 also has good value sandwiches made fresh at the deli counter: 707-869-9433.

Duncans Mills

Cape Fear Café is a cozy restaurant with a vintage vibe serving American and globally inspired meals. 25191 Main St. (707) 865-9246. Open daily for lunch /http://www.capefearcafe.net

Gold Coast Bakery serves a good cup of coffee along with homemade pastries and wood-fired pizza. 25377 Steelhead Dr. (707) 865-1441. Open daily starting at 7:00 AM /http://www.duncansmills.net/gccpage.html

Cazadero

The Cazadero General Store has a deli counter and is also a general grocery store. 6125 Cazadero Hwy (707) 632-5287. Open daily 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM.

Jenner

Café’ Aquatica has a nice vantage point overlooking the river. It’s the perfect mid-point stop. 10439 CA-1. (707) 865-2251. Open daily until 5:00 PM / https://www.cafeaquaticajenner.com/#/

A more formal stop is the River’s End Restaurant (requires reservations) just north of the center of Jenner at 11048 Hwy 1 is a great place to take in the views of the ocean.  However, you’d need to phone ahead as opening days can vary (707) 865 2484 /https://ilovesunsets.com/jenner-ca-restaurant

Bodega Bay

The Tides Wharf Restaurant serves a full menu of fresh seafood items. 800 Highway 1.  (707) 875 3652. Open daily at 7:30 AM (Saturday and Sunday at 7:00 AM) / https://www.innatthetides.com/tides-wharf-restaurant/

Lucas Wharf Restaurant is a casual restaurant with elevated seafood options and an outdoor patio. 595 CA-1. (707) 875-3522. Open daily at 11:30 AM (Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 AM) / https://lucaswharfrestaurant.com

Points of Interest

Sights

Scenic Viewpoints along CA-1 are good spots to stop and capture your ride along the coastline. Goat Rock State Park, Shell Beach and Duncans Point are all worthy of a stop if you are interested in snapping photos.

Stores

In Cazadero, the General Store has a deli counter and grocery for your refueling needs. 6125 Cazadero Hwy (707) 632-5287. Open daily 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM.

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In and Around Bodega Bay

Route Overview

The Intermediate Route heads north up the coast before heading inland alongside the Russian River. A climb up to Occidental brings you to a good lunch stop and the “high-point” of the ride. From here, it is a rolling descent back to Bodega Bay.Bodega_Bay

The Easiest Route is a relaxing in-and-out ride around Bodega Bay for some stunning coastal views from the Bodega Bay Trailhead and Overlook.

The Challenge Route heads north up the coast before going inland to Occidental up a steep climb that regularly features in the Tour of California. After cruising down to the Russian River the climbing starts again – to Cazadero in the heart of the redwoods. More climbing brings you to the Pacific coast – high above Jenner from where you cruise back to Bodega Bay – south along Highway 1.

Route Options

Easiest Route

You get an excellent sense of the town, as well as some great views, if you head around the bay (on Bay Flat Road) to Bodega Head.  A short hill at the end of this road provides spectacular views of waves crashing into the rocks below.  Believe it or not, they planned to build a nuclear power plant on this stunningly beautiful site.  They even got as far as constructing a large cavern – known locally as the hole in the head.

Intermediate Route

The ride starts out heading north along the coast, turning inland alongside the Russian River shortly before Jenner.  After passing though Duncans Mills and Monte Rio, you start a 3-mile climb up to Occidental – a great place for lunch.

Bodega_Church_SchoolhouseAfter lunch, you enjoy a gentle 3-mile descent from Occidental to Freestone.  There is not much in Freestone but there is a great bakery if you need to fill any cracks left by lunch (only open on weekends).  By this point you have left the forests and are traveling across open pastureland.  Stables and cattle ranches replace the redwoods and wineries.

Soon after Freestone you’ll pass the tiny Watson School Historic Park with an interesting display about the running fence that was constructed in 1972 by Christo and Jeanne-Claude (now more famous for their wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and The Gates in Central Park, New York.  Following the Bodega Hwy you soon reach the village of Bodega.

Bodega village was the main site for the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. You may well recognize Bodega Church and Schoolhouse. For more information about the filming of this Hitchcock movie, see Bodega Bay in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook.

After a short climb out of the village you start a long sweeping descent on Route 1 down to Bodega Bay.

Challenge Route

This route also heads north out of town, turning inland after three miles up into the Coast Range along one of the king of the mountains sections of the Tour of California.  This is a tough two-mile climb followed by three miles of undulating ridge riding along the spine of the Coast Range.  The views along the coast and out to the ocean are stunning.  A fast descent then brings you into the center of Occidental – an option for an early lunch.

From Occidental, you ride downhill to Mote Rio – where you cross the Russian River and head up Austin Creek Rd. You climb gently for 6 miles to the small town of Cazadero, known as “The Heart of the Redwoods”. The Cazadero Store is the last place to get food and drinks before Jenner.

From the Cazadero Store, you continue north up Fort Ross Rd: a long and tough climb though mixed woodland.  After summiting, Meyers Grade is a long, sweeping descent to the Ocean from where a left on Hwy 1 brings you to Jenner – an option for a late lunch.

From Jenner, you will enjoy some classic Californian coastal riding along Highway 1 south to Bodega Bay.

Lunch

Duncans Mills

Cape Fear Café is a cozy restaurant with a vintage vibe serving American and globally inspired meals. 25191 Main St. (707) 865-9246. Open daily for lunch /https://cape-fear-cafe.business.site/

Gold Coast Bakery serves a good cup of coffee along with homemade pastries and wood-fired pizza. 25377 Steelhead Dr. (707) 865-1441. Open daily starting at 7:00 AM /http://www.duncansmills.net/gccpage.html 

Cazadero

The Cazadero General Store has a deli counter and is also a general grocery store. 6125 Cazadero Hwy (707) 632-5287. Open daily 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM.

Jenner

Café’ Aquatica – at the southern end of town on Highway 1 – has a nice vantage point overlooking the river. 10439 CA-1. (707) 865-2251. Open daily until 5:00 PM / https://www.cafeaquaticajenner.com/#/

A more formal stop is the River’s End Restaurant (requires reservations) just north of the center of Jenner at 11048 Hwy 1 is a great place to take in the views of the ocean.  However, you should phone ahead as opening days can vary (707) 865 2484 / https://ilovesunsets.com/jenner-ca-restaurant 

Occidental

Union Hotel Restaurant and Café serves Italian food and offers a nice outdoor terrace: 3731 Main Street at Minna St.  (707) 874-3555. Open 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM / https://unionhoteloccidental.com

Fans of health food might want to sample the salmon-rice burgers, the falafel plate or one of the salads at Howard Station Café’. Cash-only. 3611 Bohemian Hwy. (707) 874-2838. Open daily 7:00 AM – 2:30 PM (Saturday and Sunday until 3:00 PM) / https://www.howardstationcafe.com

Bodega Bay

The Tides Wharf Restaurant serves a full menu of fresh seafood items. 800 Highway 1.  (707) 875 3652. Open daily at 7:30 AM (Saturday and Sunday at 7:00 AM) / https://www.innatthetides.com/tides-wharf-restaurant/

Lucas Wharf Restaurant is a casual restaurant with elevated seafood options and an outdoor patio. 595 CA-1. (707) 875-3522. Open daily at 11:30 AM (Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 AM) / https://lucaswharfrestaurant.com 

Points of Interest

Sights

There are several Scenic Viewpoints along CA-1 – between Jenner and Bodega Bay.  All have fine views. Goat Rock State Park, Shell Beach and Duncans Point are all worthy of a stop if you are interested in snapping photos.

Stores

In Cazadero, the General Store has a deli counter and grocery for your refueling needs. 6125 Cazadero Hwy (707) 632-5287. Open daily 8:30 AM – 8:00 PM.

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Bodega Bay to Point Reyes Station

Route Overview

The Intermediate Route climbs up to Valley Ford before traversing scenic back roads, across rolling hills and open pastureland, to the village of Tomales – a good lunch stop. Once a major stop on a long-forgotten railroad, Tomales retains a Frontier-Victorian character. From Tomales, you cruise alongside Tomales Bay; the still water in this narrow inlet makes this a magical place reminiscent of a Scottish loch. There are also beer and oyster shacks along the shore. At the end of the Bay, you arrive at Point Reyes Station. This cluster of shops, art galleries and cafés make a nice end to some great riding. If you arrive early, head to the Cowgirl creamery for a cheese tasting.

The Easiest Route follows the Intermediate route to Tomales where you are met by your guide for your end-of-tour transfer.

Those choosing the Challenge Route follow the Intermediate route to Tomales after which they head into the Coast Range to ride up the Marshall Wall: a classic climb for local riders with steep pitches and numerous false summits. You rejoin the Intermediate Route shortly before Point Reyes Station.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Elephant Rock and Dillon Beach – If you were to turn right onto Dillon Beach Road, you could ride 3 miles downhill to Dillon Beach. Located at the mouth of Tomales Bay, Dillon Beach is a collection of 1930s craftsmen-style beach cottages, popular with sailors and clammers. Be ready for a nice climb up from the beach before returning to the main route. For a nice view without the tired legs, you may prefer to enjoy the overlook at Elephant Rock immediately following the right turn. This is a popular photography spot as well as a local bouldering area used by the rock-climbing community.


Intermediate Route

This ride follows the Easiest Route described above to the small town of Tomales.Tomales_Bay

The ride south of Tomales skirts alongside Tomales Bay.  The flat water, common mists and abundant wildlife make this a magical place reminiscent of a Scottish loch.  Even more reminiscent when the fog is in!  In addition to fine views there are beer and oyster shacks to keep you going.  You will see the oyster beds as you pass through the fishing town of Marshall.

As you arrive in Point Reyes Station, you will have more local and tourist traffic. Follow the directions on your End of Trip Meeting Location sheet to meet your guide for your end of trip transfer.

Challenge Route

This route follows the Intermediate Route described above to Marshall.

After a sweeping right turn and just before reaching Marshall, take a left turn up Marshall Petaluma Rd. You then ride up (then down) the famous “Marshall Wall” – a steep three-mile climb / 2-mile descent into the Coastal Range. You then loop back to Point Reyes Station with a couple of right turns on Hicks Valley Rd and on Point Reyes Petaluma Rd.

Lunch

Valley Ford

For takeaway, Valley Ford Cheese and Creamery is a charcuterie paradise. This creamery offers made-on location cheeses, in-house baked goods, small plates, and local craft beer and wine. 14390 Valley Ford Road (707) 293-5636. Open Wednesday-Sunday by 8:00 AM (Closed Monday and Tuesday) / http://www.valleyfordcheese.com/

Tomales

The excellent Tomales Bakery in the center of town on Hwy 1 near the intersection with Dillon Beach Rd is open daily “until sold out.” 27000 Highway 1 (707) 878-2429.  Open daily 7:30 AM – 2:00 PM / https://routeonebakery.com

If the bakery is sold out, and by mid-day they often are, there is the Tomales Deli + Café next door which has good sandwiches, beer, and a small selection of baked goods.  (707)  878-2732. Open daily 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM / https://www.tomalesdeli.com

For sit-down food you can try William Tell House Restaurant (the name of this 19th century bar and restaurant give homage to the many Italian-speaking Swiss immigrants who moved to the town) Located at 26955 Hwy 1 (707) 879-2002. Open Thursday, Friday and Monday 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM and on weekends Saturday and Sunday 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM / https://www.williamtellhouse.com

Point Reyes Station

In Point Reyes Station there are many choices.  See Point Reyes Station in the Wine Country Towns section of the guidebook for more details.

Points of Interest

Sights

Tomales was founded in 1850 and retains a Frontier-Victorian character.  Once a major stop on the railroad, Tomales is now unknown by most northern Californians. The town’s Catholic and Presbyterian churches are well worth a visit.

The Tomales Regional History Center (https://www.tomaleshistory.com) (open afternoons on weekends) is a gem for very local history.  The History Center is located in the gym of the old Tomales High School and highlights the cultural history of West Marin from Valley Ford and Bloomfield south to Tocaloma and the Point Reyes peninsula – all the towns that sent their kids to Tomales High.  The kids rode to the high school on the narrow-gauge railroad, before the first school bus started running around 1917.

Wineries

The Pt. Reyes Vineyard and Tasting Room is less than 5 miles from Pt. Reyes Station. The tasting room is open Thursday through Monday – from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM from May through November. November through May, they only open Saturday and Sunday. 12700 Hwy 1 (415) 663-1552.

Stores

Bike Shop:  There is a bike store in Point Reyes Station.  See the relevant towns in the Wine Country Town section for more details.

Stores: There are general stores in Valley Ford, Dillon Beach, Tomales, and Point Reyes Station.

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Olema to Sausalito

Route Overview

Today’s Intermediate Route heads south from Olema through the Golden Gate Recreational Area. The road here is rolling with a series of ½-mile climbs and descents to the seaside town of Stinson Beach. From the beach, you ride up a 4-mile climb over the shoulder of Mount Tamalpais before enjoying a 7-mile, rolling descent to the coastal town of Sausalito.

The Easiest Route follows the above, Intermediate, route but stops in Stinson Beach, before the major climb.

The Challenge Route also start out on the Intermediate route. However, before reaching Stinson Beach, you head away from the coast up to the top of Mount Tamalpais before rejoining the Intermediate route for the cruise into Sausalito. Your reward for all this effort is stunning views and exhilarating riding on the slopes of the iconic “Mount Tam”.

The Epic Route follows the Challenge route, above, to Sausalito from where you continue across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco finishing your ride on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

Easiest Route

This ride, from Olema to Stinson Beach, is inland, winding through Marin County grasslands and the occasional eucalyptus grove.  You pass through Dogtown (Pop: 30) and then reach Bolinas Lagoon where Sir Francis Drake is reputed to have landed during his 1579 circumnavigation of the world.  Shortly before the lagoon, you have the option of a detour to the hamlet of Bolinas (a right turn at mile 14.7 on Olema Bolinas Rd).  Bolinas is a small, reclusive community dominated by musicians & artists.

Your ride ends shortly after the lagoon in the seaside town of Stinson Beach.  This laidback beach town makes a great spot for a celebratory lunch.  You might even dip your feet in the ocean before being met by your guide.

Intermediate Route

Your ride follows the Easiest Route, above, to Stinson Beach.  After Stinson Beach, you have a steady uphill climb on the Panoramic Highway.  Note that, on weekends, there can be traffic and there is a limited shoulder on this stretch of highway.  The views out across the ocean are spectacular and, after the 4-mile climb out of Stinson Beach, it’s a relatively easy, rolling descent down into Sausalito.

Challenge Route

The Challenge ride follows the Easiest Route, above, but turns left (at mile 15), up the mountain, before you get to Stinson Beach.  The climb up Mount Tamalpais comes in three parts.

  • Part one (seven miles on Fairfax Bolinas Rd) is on a small, winding lane up through the trees.
  • Part two (six miles on West Ridgecrest Blvd) is a rolling climb with open views down to the Ocean. You climb a series of rollers known locally as the Seven Sisters.
  • The final part of the climb (five miles on East Ridgecrest Blvd), takes you further along the ridge to the Mount Tamalpais lookout. This final part of the climb is an in-and-out so can be skipped by turning right onto Pan Toll Rd at mile 28.3.  Note that, if you want to get to the very top of the mountain (East Peak), it is a half-mile hike on walking trails from the Mount Tamalpais lookout.

From the top of Mount Tamalpais, it is a rolling descent all the way down to the bayside town of Sausalito.

Epic Route

The Epic Route follows the Challenge Route all the way to Sausalito.  It then adds a further six miles and 400 feet of climbing across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco.  While the additional miles are low, the climb up to the bridge and the strong winds can make the ride beyond Sausalito challenging.  But, for those that complete it, you get a triumphal arrival across an iconic bridge ending your ride at the Warming Hut at Crissy Field (an old airport) right on San Francisco Bay.

Lunch

Bolinas

In Bolinas (a detour off the main routes), the best bet is Coast Café at 46 Wharf Road, Bolinas. Open for lunch Tuesday through Friday 11:30am to 3pm, and Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays 8am to 3pm.  (415) 868-2298 Closed on Mondays / http://www.coastcafebolinas.com

Stinson Beach Stinson_Beach

Stinson Beach has the Stinson Beach Market as well as the Parkside Café on the beach-side of the only stop sign in town: (415) 663-9559. The Espresso and Pastry Kiosk is open daily from 6am to 6pm; the café is open daily 7:30 AM to 9:00 PM.

The main restaurant in Stinson is the Sand Dollar Café but it is only open for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. They specialize in seafood but also have salads, burgers, ribs etc.  Service can be a little hit-and-miss when busy.  Sat & Sun 12:00 PM to 9:00 PM.  3458 Shoreline Hwy, Stinson Beach, CA 94970.  (415) 868-0434.

Mountain Home

The Mountain Home Inn is on the descent down from Mount Tamalpais.  The inn serves soups, salads, sandwiches and some more substantial plates in their dining room and outdoor terrace. On busy days, it can get full, so you might want to phone ahead and make sure you have enough snacks with you to make it all the way to Sausalito.

Sausalito

Sausalito has some nice eatery options including Equator Café (formerly Cibo) at 1201 Bridgeway.  The coffee is the best in town and the food is also excellent / https://www.equatorcoffees.com/blogs/cafes/sausalito

Le Garage, a French bistro is down by the water offers Coffee and Croissants Monday to Friday at 9am. Lunch available Monday to Friday 11:30am to 3pm. Located at 85 Liberty Ship Way #109: (415) 332-5625 / https://www.legaragesausalito.com

There is also Poggio Trattoria an excellent place to people watch at the lower level of Casa Madrona Hotel. Open daily 6:30am for breakfast,11:30am for lunch and 5:30pm for dinner. Located at 777 Bridgeway: (415) 332-7771 / https://www.poggiotrattoria.com

Useful Contacts

Bike Shops: The only bike shop near the start of the ride is back in Point Reyes Station. Black Mountain Cycles.is a friendly bike store on the way out of town.  11101 Hwy 1.  (415) 663-8125.

There are no bike stores on today’s route until you reach Sausalito.

In Sausalito there’s Mike Bikes (at the end of the bike path at the northern end of town – (415) 332-3200) .

Stores: There are small market stores at Olema, Stinson Beach, Mill Valley and Sausalito.

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