Guide to the Russian River Valley: North
This portion of our guide to the Russian River Valley follows the lazily meandering river on its journey through northern Sonoma County as it heads from Cloverdale, through Geyserville and down to Healdsburg.
As you drive down Highway 101 through this picturesque section of the Russian River Valley, you'll be greeted by Sonoma County's gently rolling hills, lush vineyards, oak woodlands, and grassy meadows stretching as far as the eye can see.
And, of course, your journey is tied together by the ever-present Russian River itself, which provides water to the region's vineyards and allows for the growing conditions that produce our world-renowned Russian River Valley pinot noir and chardonnay.
Start off in Cloverdale
We'll start just off Highway 101 in north-central Sonoma County, in Cloverdale (pop. 8,695). This charming Northern California town is framed by a breathtaking backdrop of oak-studded rolling hills, vineyards, and small farms, and has been recognized as one of "America's Coolest Small Towns."
While you're in town, be sure to wander the cobblestoned town plaza and stroll along Cloverdale Boulevard, lined with shops, galleries, restaurants, and tasting rooms. Downtown Cloverdale is also home to a robust arts community, epitomized by the rotating Cloverdale Sculpture Trail, which lines the streets with 12 playful pieces of public art chosen in an annual juried selection.
If you want to start your trip with a sip (or two!), Cloverdale and the surrounding parts of northern Sonoma County are bursting with incredible Russian River Valley wineries like Kelley & Young Tasting Room at the Library, Blue Rock Vineyard and BobDog Wines at Sky Pine Vineyards.
East of the freeway, catch your first real glimpse of the Russian River at rustic Cloverdale River Park. The best way to experience this small and serene park is via the paved, wheelchair-accessible 1.3-mile multi-use trail. Following the riverbank through dense trees and meadows, this trail provides an up-close Russian River experience within minutes of downtown Cloverdale.
Lodging in Cloverdale ranges from national motel chains to the vintage luxury of bed and breakfast inns in restored Victorians. There are also several local motels and vacation rentals scattered throughout the area, and two local campgrounds.
Detour to Geyserville
After exploring Cloverdale, hop on Highway 101 South to the tiny town of Geyserville (pop. 862) in the beautiful Alexander Valley. Geyserville was settled in the mid-1800s, thanks in part to the location of geothermal springs in the Mayacamas Mountains to the east. Today the town charms visitors with wooden boardwalks and Wild West storefronts that are home to many tasting rooms, as well as a few small shops and restaurants.
For a one-of-a-kind, only-in-Geyserville experience, take a tour of exotic birds and cats against a backdrop of ancient Egypt at the Isis Oasis Retreat Center: a combination retreat center, Temple of Isis, animal sanctuary, and event venue.
Film and wine lovers alike are drawn to Geyserville's world-famous Francis Ford Coppola Winery, described as a family-friendly "wine wonderland." Aside from the various wine-tasting rooms, this multifaceted property also contains two swimming pools, a movie gallery, performing arts pavilion, and bocce courts. Like all of Coppola's films, you'll definitely want to revisit his winery a few times to catch the finer details.
If you follow the Geyserville Sculpture Trail hosted by the Geyserville Community Foundation, you'll discover more than 25 pieces of public art, including "Victory," a 25-foot-tall sculpture of a rearing horse.
Just outside of town, the River Rock Casino offers a great view from its patio, about 1,300 slot machines, 20 gaming tables, and a penny slot lounge. Nearby lodging choices include inns, vacation rentals, and campgrounds.
Head South to Healdsburg
From Geyserville, it's only about a 10-minute drive down Highway 101 until you reach the town of Healdsburg (pop. 11,541). The town revolves around its historical central plaza, which Travel + Leisure magazine named as one of America's Most Beautiful Town Squares. It can easily take more than a day to leisurely explore its shops, galleries, restaurants, bars, and tasting rooms—so plan ahead and check out Healdsburg hotels and lodging options now.
With nearly 100 restaurants in the area, dining in Healdsburg literally offers something for just about anyone. For travelers seeking the pinnacle of farm-to-table cuisine, Healdsburg's distinguished SingleThread Farm Restaurant and Inn has been honored with Three Michelin Stars and the rare Michelin Green Star. Other notable restaurants in this hub of Northern California dining destinations include Barndiva (rated One Michelin Star), Valette, and The Matheson.
And, of course, there's the river. Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach offers shady picnic facilities and a wide, sandy beach just downstream from the historical Memorial Bridge. The beach is open for summertime swimming in high-flow years, and wading in the cool water when river levels are low.
From Healdsburg, one option is to head west on Westside Road. This is a great route for wine lovers, as there are both stunningly lush views and a multitude of tasting rooms along this charmingly winding, two-lane road. Just remember to always have a designated driver when wine tasting.
Or, as you leave Healdsburg, drive southeast on Healdsburg Avenue (Old Redwood Highway), then right onto Eastside Road, which skims along beside the river.
More to Explore: Redwood Country and the Coast
There's more fun to be had, whether you want to stroll in peaceful redwood forests or sample freshly caught seafood. Learn more about the Redwoods and Coast sections of the Russian River Valley itinerary.