If you’re visiting Sonoma County for the first time—or if you live here and just want to try something new—here are five great ideas for outdoor adventures this summer. And you can find even more ideas in this great Sonoma County Itinerary for Nature Lovers.
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Camping at the 195-acre Gualala Point Regional Park on Sonoma County's far northern coast is an absolutely unbeatable experience. Situated at the junction of the Gualala River and the Pacific Ocean, the campground nestles under redwood trees beside the river, within walking distance of the crashing surf. The park’s white sandy beach and dunes are a great place for hikes, fishing, keeping a sharp lookout for migrating whales, and marveling over the star-strewn sky at night.
The town of Gualala contains restaurants, art galleries, and whatever supplies you may need. And it’s easy to take off on excursions to nearby wonders such as Fort Ross State Historic Park, Salt Point State Park, and Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve. Or how about a guided hiking tour with Unbeaten Path.
The regional park campground offers drive-in campsites, walk-to sites, and sites reserved for hikers and cyclists. For other options, check our listing of Sonoma County campgrounds.
For stupendous views spiced with a dash of literary history, hike from Jack London State Historic Park to the Sonoma Ridge Trail—part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail (which, when completed, will encircle the entire Bay Area). It’s a challenging hike, about seven miles round trip with an approximate 1500-foot elevation change, but the view from the top offers reward a-plenty!
When you return to the starting point, spend some time touring the cottage where London and his wife, Charmian lived, and visit the small museum that’s filled with artifacts picked up on their adventures around the globe. Find more details about Jack London Park.
For a day of quality fishing, head to 8,000-acre Lake Sonoma, a marvelous blue expanse of water surrounded by oak-studded hills. The lake holds plenty of trout, bass and catfish, and while you’re waiting for a bite, you’ll be mesmerized by views of wildlife that might include wild turkey, deer, hawks, and woodpeckers.
There is shore access for fishing, but—no surprise—you’ll land the best catches from a boat. If you don’t have your own, you can rent anything from a canoe to a powered fishing boat at the Lake Sonoma Marina.
Canoeing (or kayaking) down the Russian River from Forestville to the mouth of the Pacific Ocean has been a hugely popular summer adventure for generations—not only for visitors, but with Bay Area residents, too. Just imagine dipping your paddle into the water on a warm summer afternoon and leaving the world behind for the next four or five hours.
Don’t worry; you won’t be paddling all that time. The river’s flowing in the direction you’re going, anyway, so you don’t have to paddle all that hard. But also, you won’t be on the move the entire time. You’ll stop on a river bank to picnic, or grab a snooze in the sun. You’ll stop the canoe and jump in the water to cool off. Maybe you’ll just pull over and watch other paddlers cruise by. When you reach the end, a shuttle will bring you back to your car.
Then you might want to do what river-trekkers have done for generations: head to the small village of Occidental and dive into a family-style Italian feast at the Union Hotel Restaurant or Negri’s Original Italian Restaurant. For more information on the 10-mile trip from Forestville to the ocean, visit Burke’s Canoe Trips.
Many of Sonoma County’s bike routes are world-famous. One example is the 30-mile loop around Dry Creek & Alexander Valleys that takes cyclists past gorgeous vineyards and wineries, allowing them to stop for tastings whenever they like. You’ll find other routes, just as fabulous, throughout the county. Find details about a variety of rides at the Santa Rosa Cycling Club website. And get more info about bike rentals and organized tours at Biking Events in West Sonoma County, Bicyling Sonoma County and our bike rentals and tours listings.
However, here’s a fun idea: throw a couple of fold-up bikes in the trunk of your car and take off exploring. When you find a spot you like, park the car, pop open the trunk, unfold the bikes, and take off! Who knows what you’ll find when you get off the beaten track?
A tiny tasting room in a winemaker’s garage, a roadside stand stocked with a kind of apple you’ve never heard of, a little shack selling the most delectable wraps you’ve ever had… Now, that’s adventure! And if you don’t have a folding bike, no problem. A local two-person company launched in 2012, BikePartners.net, specializes in renting and selling Bike Friday folding and travel bicycles.
And a few suggested accommodations…
Guerneville’s Applewood Inn, located along the Russian River, is a great place to come home to after a day of canoeing (its restaurant has won a Michelin star). In Jenner, River's End offers beautiful rooms with ocean views (and the in-house restaurant is superb). On the north coast, both the Sea Ranch Lodge and the Timber Cove Resort offer top-tier lodgings and dining. Forestville’s Case Ranch Inn—built in 1894, it’s one of the county’s certified Green lodings—has three luxury guest rooms and a garden cottage, and provides breakfasts made with organic ingredients. Or, for a more rustic approach, check the complete listing of Sonoma County campgrounds.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez