The serene, majestic beauty of western Sonoma County’s redwood trees are reminder of the primeval redwood forest that covered much of this Northern California area before logging operations began during the 19th century. California coastal redwoods count among the largest and oldest trees in the world.
Coast redwoods, or Sequoia sempervirens, are the tallest living things in the world, with some extending beyond 370 feet. The trees also rank among the oldest things on the planet. They’re capable of surviving for 2,000 years or longer, although the average life span is roughly 500-700 years.
Today, the sight of the towering giants entices travelers to get out of the car and experience them up close by walking, zipping, cycling, or horseback riding through them.
The serene, majestic beauty of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve (17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, 707-869-2015) offers a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. With 805 acres, Armstrong has trails throughout the reserve offering varying terrains from flat mulch-lined pathways to steep uphill inclines. The Discovery Trail offers a wheelchair accessible pathway, interpretive panels in Braille, and tree hugging platforms. Visitors are also able to drive through parts of the park, for a small fee. Once there, get ready to be amazed.
Discover the world-famous California coastal redwoods in a way you never imagined. Zip through the tops of the trees at a cool 25 miles an hour at Sonoma Canopy Tours (6250 Bohemian Highway, Occidental, 888-494-7868).
“Zippers” glide through the trees, tackling seven lines, including the longest at 800 feet. A spiral staircase build around one of the trees leads to a 175-foot-long sky bridge, which sways and undulates over the fern-lined ravine below. A second sky bridge and another zip line leads to the final platform and the 80-foot rappel back to Earth.
Rent a bike from Wine Country Bikes (61 Front St., Healdsburg, 707-473-0610) to explore western Sonoma County. This cycling center offers changing rooms and showers for a quick refresh between your ride and going out to a great Wine Country dinner.
Find heart-pumping action by riding a bicycle down a steeply graded road on a route that's been called “intense” by local bike enthusiasts. The challenging King Ridge route begins in Monte Rio and is featured in pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer’s Gran Fondo.
For a tamer ride, try the Bohemian Highway, one of the most scenic drives to be found anywhere in California. This 10-mile roadway winds through towering redwoods, gorgeous pastures, rocky ravines, and three charming townships, each with its own unique vibe: Freestone, Occidental, and Monte Rio. See organic farms and wineries, specialty nurseries, and innovative shops and restaurants along the way.
Ah, to be tucked up for the night under the redwoods, or at least see them from the window of a cozy inn. Fern Grove Cottages (16650 River Road, Guerneville, 888-243-2674) nestles among the towering trees (see photo). Many of the cottages have fireplaces for those cozy, stay-indoors evenings. Situated near the Russian River makes this a perfect launching point for hiking through the trees or kayaking and canoeing down the river. Shops and restaurants are a short stroll away.
The Highland Dell Lodge (21050 River Blvd., Monte Rio, 707-865-2300), built in 1906, helped cement Monte Rio’s reputation as a “Vacation Wonderland.” The stunning view of the Russian River and the redwoods, the charm of the historic building, and modern amenities make this a perfect place to unwind and just relax. The Riverview Restaurant, open Fridays through Tuesdays, is on site, so have that extra cocktail or share a bottle of wine with dinner. It’s only a few steps back to the room.
The reason to visit Sonoma Wine Country is, in a word, wine. Enjoy a bit of the bubbly at Korbel Champagne Cellars (13250 River Road, Guerneville, 707-824-7316). The highlight of any trip to Korbel is an extended tour through the historic champagne cellars and the history museum, ending with a tasting of its finest wines. You can also explore the Korbel Rose Garden, which features more than 250 varieties of antique roses, as well as about 1,000 other types of flowers. After, visit the Korbel Delicatessen and Market. Snack on cheese and fruit or have lunch – and a glass of wine – on the deck among the redwoods.
When the noise and stress of everyday life get overwhelming, it’s time to embrace nature and rejuvenate among these gentle giants. Visit Sonoma County and hug a redwood tree today.