Glen Ellen was home to writer/adventurer Jack London from 1905 until his untimely death in 1916 — and today the Beauty Ranch is part of Jack London State Historic Park (2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, 707-938-5216).
It's a truly beautiful property, filled with lush forests, redwood groves, meadows, and hills that afford amazing views. An exceedingly popular destination with locals and visitors alike, the park offers a surfeit of things to do.
For example, you can hike more than 20 miles of trails that range from easy-as-pie to you-better-be-in-real-good-shape (those latter trails reward you with pretty awesome views, though).
Or, shake your head philosophically at the vagaries of life when viewing the magnificent ruins of London’s 15,000-square-foot Wolf House mansion (it burned to the ground a month before completion).
You can marvel over strange artifacts that London and his wife, Charmian, brought back from unexplored South Seas islands on their 27-month sailing adventure aboard The Snark.
Tour the simple cottage where Jack and Charmian lived — and where London died at age 40, of gastrointestinal uremic poisoning. Examine old farm equipment in a stone barn, or walk through the gorgeous ruins of an old stone winery.
Picnic near the bathhouse where the Londons and their guests changed into bathing suits before dipping in the lake. Explore a habitation in the innovative "Pig Palace" devised by London. Listen to volunteer pianists play on Charmian’s 1901 Steinway grand piano in the small museum known as The House of Happy Walls, where she lived from 1934 until she died in 1955.
In warm weather, you might choose to take in an evening performance of Broadway show tunes in the old winery ruins, watching the sky darken and the stars come out while real-life stars take the stage. And all year long there are lectures about London, piano recitals on Charmian’s Steinway, docent-guided tours, docent-led Sunday morning hikes, and other park events.
To help you get oriented, download a park map. The park is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. The admission fee of $10 per vehicle includes parking; or $5 to hike or cycle in; and an annual pass is $49.