Discover Sonoma County by Train and Bike
The 2017 arrival of Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit — commonly known as the SMART train — provides a convenient and easy way to explore large parts of Sonoma County by bike.
SMART trains welcome cyclists. Every two-car train can hold up to 24 bicycles, and all stations offer storage that includes bike racks and secured bike lockers. SMART is currently exploring partnerships that will provide bike sharing near some stations.
In addition, bicycling families get a bargain: children 5 years or younger ride SMART for free, and young people from 6 to 18 receive a 50 percent discount. Learn more.
Work is underway on a pathway running next to or near SMART tracks; as of fall 2019, about 19 miles of pathway have been completed, with another 14.5 miles under construction. When finished, the entire pathway will stretch for 50 miles between Sonoma and Marin counties, becoming one of the nation's longest bicycle/pedestrian pathways. See a map of the pathway's progress.
SMART currently has six stations in Sonoma County, running south from Santa Rosa to Petaluma. Future construction projects will extend the tracks further north in Sonoma County, with stations in Windsor, Healdsburg, and Cloverdale. There are four stations to the south, in Marin County, and a fifth will open in mid-December 2019 in Larkspur, which offers ferry service to San Francisco.
Here's a look at some of the activities you can bike to at various stops along Sonoma County's SMART train route, beginning with what is currently the northernmost station, Airport Boulevard in Santa Rosa.
Airport Boulevard Station
1130 Airport Blvd., Santa Rosa
From this stop it's a quick hop to the Pacific Coast Aviation Museum (One Air Museum Way, Santa Rosa), just south of the Charles M Schulz Sonoma County Airport, where you can learn about Sonoma County's aviation heritage while exploring more than 35 historic aircraft. The nearest winery, Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens (5007 Fulton Road, Fulton), is slightly southeast about 1.5 miles and offers beautiful gardens.
Cyclists who want to pursue more challenging rides might consider heading west along beautiful River Road about 18 miles to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve (17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville), making for a 36-mile loop. Or for a real workout, do the 30-mile trek to Goat Rock Beach (a 60-mile loop).
Santa Rosa North
1500 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa
This station provides entry to bicycle lanes on Guerneville and Fulton roads; they lead to Santa Rosa's extensive system of paths and trails, which wend through both cityscape and countryside. Bike along Santa Rosa Creek, peddle out to popular Spring Lake Regional Park (391 Violetti Drive, Santa Rosa), or try one of many destinations. Get the official trail map.
From the station, Peanuts lovers are only half a mile from the Charles M. Schulz Museum (2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa), which honors the beloved cartoonist and his Peanuts gang. You'll also find Snoopy's Home Ice (aka Redwood Empire Ice Arena, 1667 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa); Snoopy's Gallery and Gift Shop (1665 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa); and the highly interactive Children's Museum of Sonoma County (1835 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa), dedicated to instilling a sense of wonder and teaching children (and their parents) about the arts, sciences, and the world around them.
Downtown Santa Rosa
9 Fourth St., Railroad Square, Santa Rosa
You're in for a real treat at this station. It's not only situated in the historic Railroad Square district — filled with antique shops, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues — but it's also located next to the historic 1904 train depot building, which now houses the Santa Rosa Visitor Center / California Welcome Center (9 - 4th St., Santa Rosa).
The downtown station is an outdoor recreational hub. Many of Santa Rosa's best trails are a short distance away from the station, including the connected Santa Rosa Creek and Prince Memorial Greenway trails. You'll find a number of bike rental shops within easy walking distance of this station, including Bike Partners (512 Wilson Way, Santa Rosa), Echelon Cycle and Multisport (1005 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa), and Trek Bicycle Store, 512 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa). Ace It! Bike Tours specializes in guided bike tours, but also rents bikes.
900 Enterprise Drive, Rohnert Park
Tall redwood trees line the sides of this train stop, which is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, offices, and shopping centers. Cycle west for a bit less than five miles to reach Crane Creek Regional Park (5000 Pressley Road, Rohnert Park), where you'll find 3.5 miles of multi-use trails, great hilltop views, and even an 18-hole disc golf course.
Just a mile from the station is the city-owned state-of-the-art Spreckels Performing Arts Center (5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park), known for its high-profile performers. Another mile east is the Green Music Center (Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park), with outstanding acoustics to complement performances that include chamber music, symphony orchestras, jazz, bluegrass, cabaret, blues, recitals, soloists, world music, dance, acrobats, and comedy.
980 E. Cotati Ave., Cotati
Like Rohnert Park, Cotati's train station is situated in a solidly residential neighborhood and is also a short bike ride — about 2 miles east — to the Green Music Center (Sonoma State University, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park). The town's popular gathering spot, hexagonal-shaped La Plaza Park, dates from the 1890s and is only a mile from the station.
The park hosts numerous community events, including the always-popular annual Cotati Accordion Festival and, from June to mid-September, the weekly Cotati Farmers Market.
220 Lakeville St., Petaluma
Petaluma's train station is particularly convenient because that's where you'll find the Petaluma Visitors Center (210 Lakeville St., Petaluma), housed in an authentic 1914 train depot. From here you can bike a few blocks to the west along Washington Street, and on the far side of the Petaluma River you'll find historic downtown Petaluma, where well-preserved old buildings house an engaging mix of boutiques, antique shops, specialty stores, and restaurants.
If you're an architecture fan, bicycle through the turn-of-the-century residential section, with its beautiful homes. Or head to Shollenberger Park (1400 Cader Lane, Petaluma), 165 acres of beautiful wetlands that include 16 acres of trails. It's a haven for migrating birds, with more than 140 species recorded here.
Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Henley.