In the heart of The Valley of the Moon, the bucolic village of Glen Ellen blends Sonoma County wines, local dining delights, and the valley's many natural beauties.
Wine tasting opportunities abound in Glen Ellen’s many tasting rooms and wineries. Lodging is available in the 22-room Jack London Lodge on the tree-lined Sonoma Creek; in the historic and stylish Gaige House Inn; and in boutique hotels, bed and breakfast inns, and vacation rentals throughout the area.
Pick up picnic supplies at the Glen Ellen Village Market; Oak Hill Farm sells organic produce in its Red Barn Store off Highway 12; and breakfast and lunch are served up at Glen Ellen's charming Garden Court Café & Bakery.
The fig café & wine bar, created by renowned cookbook author Sondra Bernstein, provides country French home cooking. The Glen Ellen Inn Oyster Grill & Martini Bar is an American bistro with a French twist. The Glen Ellen Star promises tastes of both local and international flavors in a neighborly setting.
Here are 5 fun things you can do on your visit to Glen Ellen:
Tour a World-Class Botanical Garden
Take a docent-led or self-guided tour of one of North America’s largest and most important collections of temperate-climate Asian plants. The 25 acres of Quarryhill Botanical Garden display these rare or endangered trees and shrubs in a setting of waterfalls, ponds, and picturesque views.
More than 90 percent of the collection was grown from seeds collected on yearly expeditions taken by Quarryhill into wild regions of China, Japan, Tibet, India, Nepal, and other locations. Aside from rare or endangered plants, Quarryhill also holds comprehensive collections of wild Asian roses, oaks, maples, magnolias, lilies, dogwoods, and rhododendrons.
12841 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen; 707-996-3166.
Picnic, BBQ and Swim Around Geothermal Mineral Pools
Nestled into the thick-forested hills along winding Warm Springs Road, Morton’s Warm Springs Resort feels far from the everyday world.
Situated on a long-ago seasonal camping ground of the Wappo Indians, Morton’s offers visitors two mineral spring pools with depth ranging from 4.5 feet to 9 feet, and a wading pool. The water is clean, clear, and usually hovers between 82-84 degrees. The pool area is furnished with comfortable chaises, a shower room contains lockers, and lifeguards are on duty.
There’s also plenty of outdoor recreation, including hiking/biking trails winding up into the hills, a baseball field, volleyball court, and horseshoe pits (bring your own equipment, but volleyball net provided). A kids’ playground and video arcade are also on site.
A big lawn near the pools offers lots of picnic seating, so bring a blanket (picnic tables and grills are available, too). There’s also a snack bar that dishes up hot dogs, pizza, snow cones, and more. Morton’s is open from May through September.
1651 Warm Springs Road, Glen Ellen; 707-833-5511
Hike in Jack London’s Footsteps
The famed writer/adventurer Jack London lived in Glen Ellen from 1905 until his untimely death in 1916, at age 40. His home, “Beauty Ranch,” now Jack London State Historic Park, offers lush forests, redwood groves, meadows, and hills with amazing views.
This park spills over with things to do. You can hike miles of trails, from flat/easy to steep uphill climbs that connect to the Bay Area Ridge Trail. You can view the magnificent ruins of London’s 15,000-square-foot mansion, which burned to the ground a month before completion; tour the simple cottage where Jack and his wife, Charmian, lived; and learn about London’s adventurous life at the small museum known as The House of Happy Walls.
You can picnic, hear a piano recital, explore London’s old farm buildings, and — in summer — sit beneath the stars in the ruins of an ancient winery while taking in Transcendence Theatre’s Broadway Under the Stars performances.
2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen; 707-938-5216
Indulge Yourself (You Deserve It)
Glen Ellen is home to two excellent body treatment services.
Housed in a giant, 22-foot wine barrel with a skylight and cedar walls, Magical Massage & Inspiration Gallery offers a well-rounded spa menu. The Morning After, when you’ve had too much wine tasting, is a deep full body massage in which hot towels are infused with geranium, lavender, peppermint, and other good things, “to cut through wine-induced brain fog and re-awaken your senses.” Or maybe you’d prefer a straight deep tissue massage. In the gallery you’ll find local art, jewelry, furniture, and more.
Sonoma Bodyworks delivers massage services to your home or hotel room, complete with all the amenities (table, soft music, luxurious body products). The Deluxe Therapeutic Massage blends eastern and western styles, using graduating pressure to delve into deeper layers of muscle. Spa parties, for groups of six or more, involve music, massage, aromatherapy and skilled body workers (great for bachelorette parties!).
Magical Massage: 14300 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen; 707-225-2671
Sonoma Body Works: Glen Ellen, CA 95442; 707-939-8841
Go Horseback Riding
Triple Creek Horse Outfit — named one of the nation’s “Top 10 Places to Ride a Horse” by USA Today — offers year-round guided wine-country rides at Jack London State Historic Park. You’ll ride along 20+ miles of trails through soaring redwood trees and old growth oak woodlands, past ancient winery ruins and beside established vineyards. When the ride ends, you’ll receive a pass for a tour of the cottage where Jack and Charmian London once lived. Ride length ranges from 1 to 2.5 hours (private rides with a stop for lunch are available). First-time riders are welcome; kids 8 years old and up are eligible for trail rides.
2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, 707-887-8700
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.