Located amid western Sonoma County’s rolling hills — just slightly inland from the coast — the off-the-beaten-track village of Valley Ford blends country hospitality with culinary and artistic sophistication.
The surrounding land has long been home to farms and ranches, with sweeping vistas that include beautiful old barns and plenty of grazing cows.
Stay and Dine
Built in 1864, the historic Valley Ford Hotel features seven charming and pet-friendly guest rooms, as well as the popular Rocker Oysterfeller’s restaurant, specializing in Southern-inspired food created with fresh Sonoma County ingredients. In the in-house saloon, locals and tourists hang out and listen to music.
The family-owned Valley Ford Market is a farmers’ and ranchers’ grocery that also caters to tourists — which means in addition to bread, produce, plumbing fixtures, and fishing tackle, it boasts an extensive inventory of local wines and delicious deli food. And Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery offers fresh coffee and danish to start the day, and a lunch menu that highlights the flavors of its cheeses.
Enjoy the small-town friendly atmosphere and hearty fare at Dinucci’s Italian Dinners. Or indulge in a tasty breakfast or lunch at Estero Café, featuring soul-warming favorites like Swedish pancakes with applesauce, chicken-fried steak, or homemade cakes and pies.
Revel in Art History
In 1976, one of the most controversial art installations in history, Christo and Jean-Claude’s Running Fence, ran straight through Valley Ford. It dominated the landscape for miles around, and — for a few brief months — turned the tiny hamlet into the epicenter of the art world and the temporary home of international journalists, environmental protestors, passionate art-lovers, and curious gawkers.
Standing 18 feet high and constructed of more than 165,000 yards of white nylon hung from steel posts and cables, the Fence progressed boldly across the landscape for 24.5 miles, from US-101 in Cotati to its descent into the Pacific Ocean at Bodega Bay. The installation existed for only two weeks, but lives on in books, drawings, photographs, university and museum seminars, a 1978 cinema verité film by the famed Maysles brothers – and the memory of those lucky enough to have seen it.
You can pay a symbolic visit to the Fence at Sonoma County Historic Landmark #24, located at 14459 Valley Ford Road (next to the post office), where a bronze plaque and one of the original fence poles commemorate the Fence. And slightly more than three miles north of Valley Ford on the Bodega Highway you’ll find the Running Fence – Watson School Historic Park, a quarter-acre picnic area with displays giving details about the Running Fence.
Get a Taste of Real Ranch Life
If you’ve ever wanted to wake up to the sight of Longhorn Cattle grazing on the grassy hills, but then leave the responsibility for dealing with them to somebody else while you drive off to the beach or a hike through redwood trees or a wine tasting jaunt, book a stay at Valley Ford’s Twisted Horn Ranch. You can choose between a spacious two-person standalone guesthouse, and a two-bedroom ‘bunkhouse’ that sleeps five people and has a full kitchen.
Paddle Peacefully to Bodega Bay
If you have your own kayak (or if you’re incredibly fit and own a standup paddle board), try the six-mile paddle from Valley Ford, westward along the Estero Americano estuary, to Bodega Bay.
It’s one of the most beautiful and idyllic paddling excursions around, and you’ll be amazed by the diverse bird life along the way.
From Valley Ford, turn onto Valley Ford Estero Road. In about one mile, after crossing a bridge, turn left onto Marsh Road; pull off the road and park. Put your kayak in at the base of the bridge. It’s a short voyage, so most paddlers make the return trip as well (or arrange a two-car maneuver).
Not traveling with your own kayak or paddle board? Rent what you need from Bodega Bay Kayak, which also offers guided tours.
Bike the Back Roads
The bucolic landscape in and around Valley Ford is made for cycling. You could follow Highway 1 into Bodega Bay, spending time at Bodega Head with its glorious ocean views. Or you could simply pedal the smaller, meandering local roads that leave Valley Ford and edge the Estero Americano.
Put together a great picnic by picking up supplies at Valley Ford Market or Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery, and you’ll be all set for a bike ride you’ll always remember.
Not traveling with your own bikes? Rent folding bicycles from BikeParnters.net — they’ll fit in the trunk of your car.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.
You Might Also Like
From Table Games to Sipping Splendors: A Local’s Guide to the Ultimate Bachelor Party in Sonoma County
As a Sonoma local, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing Sonoma County’s finest offerings and generally end up with the…
As you meander the wee 60-yard block of downtown, strolling its wooden sidewalks past 19th-century, false-front buildings, you’ll feel as…
Lush greenery, foggy coastlines, seasonal harvests and unique wildlife sightings – Sonoma County in winter is a place where visitors…
Without a doubt, Wine Country is one of the world’s most breathtaking regions to travel through whether you are looking…
Need a pick-me-up? These nonprofits offer ways to spend time with cute animals — you could even try some goat…
Springtime in Sonoma County is hard to beat! Plan ahead with our weekend-by-weekend, month-by-month collection of popular experiences — from…
Traveling mindfully to Sonoma County allows us to have experiences that can be savored in a place focused on and…
More than (just) a premier Wine Country destination, Sonoma County’s myriad of options allow travelers to connect with the destination…
Find hidden gems, outdoor adventures and more with tips from those who know the coast better than anyone: The locals….
See What’s Happening
Share your experience using #SonomaCounty or #LifeOpensUp