Less than an hour north of San Francisco, Sonoma County offers some of the best bicycle routes, not only in Northern California, but in the world.
Just ask the professional cycling teams that have competed in the Amgen Tour of California. Sonoma County has been a stage for the event almost every year since its inception. Participants have included some of the world's best international and domestic squads, comprised of United Cycling International (UCI) Pro, Pro Continental, and Continental squads.
With 1,400 miles/2,250 kilometers of lightly traveled secondary roads and a growing system of off-road bike trails, Sonoma County appeals to a wide variety of riders. Whether you are a dedicated cyclist attacking mountain passes or a weekend pedaler eager to sip wine and cycle through the vines, Sonoma County can provide you the perfect track.
It's no wonder Bicycling Magazine listed the area as one of “The 7 Greatest Rides on Earth.” Here’s how to explore Sonoma County by bicycle:
Challenge and Train
Two challenging rides in the county are the Kings Ridge-Tin Barn Road ride near Cazadero and Coleman Valley Road near Occidental. The Kings Ridge ride is a challenging, hilly course. It is considered one of the most beautiful, fulfilling bike rides in the world. The Coleman Valley ride is a landmark climb in Northern California and has been featured in past Amgen Tour of California races.
The Sonoma Coast 40-mile/60-kilometer ride is best done in the early morning before most motorists hit Highway 1. It includes a couple of challenging hills. A good starting place is the town of Occidental through Monte Rio and Duncans Mills along Highway 116 to the fishing village of Bodega Bay.
The Geysers 50-mile/80-kilometer loop (3,500 feet/1,000 meters of climb) is extremely remote, with challenging terrain and no services between Geyserville and Cloverdale; it's for fit, experienced riders only.
Sip & Cycle
Come for one of the popular wine-tasting rides, known as “sip and cycle,” where you can stop along the way every mile or so to taste wines at one of the more than 400 Sonoma County wineries. There are ideal places along the way to linger with a picnic of fresh wine country produce, breads, pasta, olive oil, fruit, cheese and chocolates.
The West Dry Creek Road near Healdsburg is a picturesque ride with a few rolling hills through vineyards and country roads. Many of the wineries are only minutes apart. Another great route is Red Winery Road in the Alexander Valley between Healdsburg and Geyserville. This is a quiet, peaceful, flat, and virtually traffic free area with beautiful oak-dotted hills and miles of vineyards.
Bring the Whole Family
Explore the many paths as you pedal through Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve under the giant trees in a truly tranquil and peaceful setting.
The Joe Rodota Trail, a segment of the West County Trail, is paved and runs between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. It’s built on a former railroad right-of-way; several bridges have been constructed over the old trestles. The trail is especially popular in the spring with the vivid blooming of the wildflowers. It is an excellent place for bird watching year-round.
The West County Trail between the towns of Sebastopol and Forestville is a paved path and relatively flat with a few gentle climbs. An unpaved horseback riding trail runs parallel. The West County Trail and the Joe Rodota Trail offer beautiful farm and agricultural views.
Leisure & Moderate Trails
The leisurely 20-mile/32-kilometer Sonoma Valley ride explores the scenic Valley of the Moon. Begin at the Sonoma Plaza, ride past the historic General Vallejo home and continue on back roads through the town of Glen Ellen to the Jack London State Historic Park. The winding roads and gentle climbs allow you to soak in the beautiful views of lush greenery, vineyards, streams, and oak trees.
Starting and ending in Petaluma, the 30-mile/48-kilometer Spring Hill-Chileno Valley ride is a pleasant tour of the dairy lands along the border between Sonoma and Marin Counties. Much of this trail is on quiet back roads and is very scenic; some sections offer moderate to fairly serious climbs.
The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition (Santa Rosa, 707-545-0153) sells a $12 waterproof paper bicycle map showing primary and secondary road routes, paved and unpaved bike paths and trails, and the locations of a variety of services and facilities in Sonoma County, the Napa Valley, and northern Marin County.
And several companies offer bicycle rentals or tours in Sonoma County:
- Ace It Bike Tours 170 Railroad St., Santa Rosa, 707-688-4063.
- Getaway Adventures & Rentals 2228 Northpoint Parkway, Santa Rosa, 707-568-3040.
- Sonoma Bike Guides 111 5th St., Suite 5, Santa Rosa, 707-583-1818.
- Sonoma on a Bike 2228 Northpoint Parkway, Santa Rosa, 707-568-3040.
- Sonoma Valley Bike Tours 520 Broadway, Sonoma, 707-996-2453.