Hitting the open road, twists and turns, breathless...
When: Bicycling is a year-round activity in Sonoma County. In January, February, and March most of the rainfall occurs, but even then there will be many sunny days, particularly at the coast where fog tends to prevail in the summer.
Where: Western Sonoma County, from Santa Rosa and Highway 101 west, from Bodega Bay north through Ft. Ross, with the Russian River Valley holding the center, has miles of little-traveled back roads with breathtaking scenery along the way and varying climates and terrains.
- Eastern: Warm and sunny, although rarely above 90 degrees even in summer; the roads tend to be flat or rolling through farmland and vineyards.
- Western: Hilly to mountainous, includes redwood forest, unpopulated ridgeland, and the coast where the temperatures are cooler and fog often greets the day.
A good place to start is the Santa Rosa Cycling Club, 707-523-1878. Their comprehensive website features lots of opinions on the best and worst rides; most of the best are in the western Sonoma County/Russian River area. Check out their Best Ten Rides in the county; each and every one is a gem. The club rides every day but Monday, sometimes several times a day.
In the Russian River area, those seeking leisurely rides on gentle routes and those seeking challenging training rides will find routes that are perfect for them.
Leisure Bike Rides
Armstrong Woods: If you don't have bikes, you can rent them. A bicycle lane takes you to Armstrong Woods Road where you can ride through ancient redwood forest; bring a picnic and you can enjoy lunch in this beautiful setting before heading back. This entire route is virtually flat and totals six miles: two miles to the park, two miles in the park and two miles back.
Forestville to Sebastopol: From Guerneville, ride about seven (?) miles east on River Road, turn right on Mirabel Road (Burke's Canoes is on the left), then one mile south to Forestville. Turn left. Here on Gravenstein Highway, you can pick up the paved West County Trail to Sebastopol. A gentle set of rolling hills will take you past organic farms and vineyards, a truly lovely pastoral area. (need to know where to pick up the trail, length). Variation: When the West County Trail ends at Analy High School in Sebastopol, add the Joe Rodota trail, which is a flat paved three mile ride through the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Turn left onto High School Road, right onto Occidental Road, right onto Fulton Road. Cross Highway 12 and then right onto Chico Road. The entrance to the trail is at Merced Avenue. The trail loops back to Petaluma Avenue in Sebastopol. Turn right, then veer left back to North Main Street. At the next light, go right to pick up the West County Trail.
Westside/Wohler Road: Ride five miles east, through Rio Nido, past Korbel Cellars, to Westside Road where it intersects River Road just before the Hacienda bridge. Turn left on Westside Road. This route consists of rolling hills covered with vineyards and picturesque scenery that could be in Tuscany. The road is narrow and winding in places, but very popular with cyclists. For a shorter ride, turn right onto Wohler Road which will take you across the Wohler Bridge where there is a beach. After three miles Wohler Road ends at River Road and a right turn brings you back to Guerneville in 9.5 miles. Total ride is 19.5 miles, 2- 3 hours. Variation: For a longer route (another 21 miles), take Westside Road into Healdsburg, pick up Eastside Road, and come back to Wohler Road. Stop at any of the numerous wine-tasting rooms along the way; many are just minutes apart and many have picnic facilities.
Austin Creek Road Loop: Drive 10 minutes west to Austin Creek Road at River Road (Hwy 116). The road borders Austin Creek with gorgeous redwood forest on both sides of the road. Little trafficked, Austin Creek Road is flat. Cross the bridge after about five miles and turn right onto Cazadero Highway. After a mile or so you will reach the town of Cazadero. There's not much more here than a general store, but it's a great place to take a break before heading back. Heading back, when you reach Cazadero Properties on the creek side of Cazadero Highway you will find public access to the creek for cooling off. Another possible stop along the way is Raymond's Bakery. Cazadero Highway brings you to a bridge just before River Road. Cross back over to Austin Creek Road where you began. Variation 1: Begin at the Monte Rio Bridge where there is public parking and take River Road three miles to Austin Creek Road. After you return from Cazadero to the intersection of River Road and Cazadero Highway, turn left and go one mile to Duncans Mills, a quaint reconstructed saw mill town full of shops and restaurants. Turn left onto Moscow Road which will bring you back to the Monte Rio Bridge. Variation 2: For a more difficult loop, stay on Austin Creek Road after it crosses the bridge. The virtually traffic-free road climbs above the Cazadero Music Camp, crosses some single lane bridges, and a right turn on Kramer brings you to downtown Cazadero. Variation 3: In the summer, you can turn right off Cazadero Highway onto an old logging road where there is a sign that points you to CazSonoma Inn. The road may be rough, but the reward is the restaurant there, overlooking a trout pond with waterfall, a lovely place for Sunday brunch.
Challenge Bike Rides
For the past three years, the Amgen Tour, America's version of the Tour de France, has ended in Sonoma County. Home to the Amgen Race Team BMC and professional cyclist Levi Leipheimer, serious bicyclists come here for challenging training rides along more than 1400 miles of little-traveled secondary roads and miles of designated bike lanes in some of the beautiful scenic areas in the world. Bicycling Magazine has designated Sonoma County as one of "The 7 Greatest Rides on Earth." (try to get year this was published)
Levi Leipheimer's favorite training ride, favored also by numerous competitors in the Tour de France, is the King Ridge Route in Cazadero. A hilly course, with very little traffic, through redwood and mixed forest, this route includes Tin Barn Road and the scenery is extraordinarily beautiful. Along Tin Barn Road, you'll see the shining, exotic structures that comprise the Odiyan Buddhist Center.
King Ridge-Meyers Grade: This 55-mile loop with 4500' of climb is considered one of the most spectacular bike rides in the world and is a premier training ride for the Amgen and the Tour de France. For the most part, there are no services and no water.
This ride can be shortened by turning left at the end of King Ridge Road onto Hauser Bridge and descending (20% in places) to the Gualala River. The road changes to Seaview and begins to climb again. At the end of Seaview, continue straight on Ft Ross Rd for less than a mile and straight again onto nicely paved Meyers Grade.
- Begin in Monte Rio at the north end of the bridge over the Russian River. Head west on River Road (Hwy 116), then right on Austin Creek Road, and, just over the bridge, right again on Cazadero Hwy.
- There's water and food at the Cazadero General Store at 6125 Cazadero Highway. Cazadero Highway turns into King Ridge Road and begins to climb steeply to an exposed ridgeline called The Butcherknife, with panoramic views. It is very remote, with no people, no traffic, no noise, all incredibly beautiful.
- At the end of King Ridge, turn right on Tin Barn, left on Stewards Point (where there is a store), left on Hwy 1 south to Ft. Ross, where there is a Visitor Center with water.
- Left on Ft. Ross Road, a difficult 2.6 mile, 1500' climb. At the top, turn right onto Meyers Grade.
- Meyers Grade continues along the ridgeline high above the ocean and then plummets to the beach for several miles. At the end of Meyers Grade, turn left on Hwy 1, which descends to the town of Jenner-by-the-Sea.
- Just past Jenner is the mouth of the Russian River. Turn left on River Road and at Duncans Mills, turn right onto Moscow road to Monte Rio. A left turn over the bridge ends the ride.
Levi's Epic Bike Tour/Santa Rosa-Lake Sonoma-King Ridge: This ride begins in Santa Rosa, stays mostly flat for 30 miles as it passes numerous wineries and then, from Lake Sonoma, begins a series of challenging climbs. Water is available at the Warm Springs Dam Visitor Center. Much of this ride is through remote area, with no people, no vehicles, no water and many climbs of 1000 - 1500 feet. Skaggs Springs Road averages an 11% climb. Food and water are available at the Cazadero General Store, at 6125 Cazadero Highway and in downtown Monte Rio. (115 Miles, Leipheimer's Time: 6-8 hours)
- Depart NorCal Bike Sport (425 College Ave.)
- RIGHT onto College
- RIGHT onto Glenn St.
- RIGHT onto Ridgeway Ave.
- LEFT onto Mendocino Ave.
- Road name changes to Old Redwood Hwy.
- RIGHT onto Faught Rd.
- Road name changes to Pleasant Ave.
- RIGHT onto Old Redwood Hwy.
- RIGHT onto Hembree Ln.
- Road name changes to Arata Ln.
- RIGHT onto Old Redwood Hwy.
- STRAIGHT onto Healdsburg Ave. (Old Redwood Hwy.)
- LEFT ont to Grant St.
- RIGHT onto Grove St.
- LEFT onto Dry Creek Rd.
- Road name changes to Stewarts Point/Skaggs Springs Rd.
- LEFT to stay on Stewarts Point/Skaggs Springs Rd.
- LEFT onto Tin Barn Rd.
- LEFT onto King Ridge Rd.
- Road name changes to Cazadero Hwy.
- LEFT onto Austin Creek Rd.
- LEFT onto SR-116
- RIGHT onto Bohemian Hwy.
- LEFT onto Hill St., then LEFT onto Main St.
- STRAIGHT onto Occidental Rd.
- LEFT onto Sanford Rd.
- RIGHT onto Hall Rd.
- Bear RIGHT onto W. 3rd St.
- LEFT onto Wilson St.
- Road name changes to Cleveland Ave.
- RIGHT onto College Ave.
- Arrive NorCal Bike Sport
Another challenging ride is Coleman Valley Road from Occidental to Bodega Bay at the coast; this ride was part of the 2007 Amgen Tour.
The Sonoma Coast Ride begins in Monte Rio on the Russian River. At the coast, a left turn onto Hwy 1 follows the spectacular coast to the fishing village of Bodega Bay. A left turn onto Occidental Road goes east to the town of Occidental and then Bohemian Highway heads back to Monte Rio. This 40 mile ride includes a great variety of stunningly beautiful scenery. The Highway 1 portion of this route is best done when auto traffic is at a minimum, but there are numerous pull-offs.
The Sweetwater Springs-Armstrong Woods Route, including the challenging Harrison Grade, also offers a great range of scenery. Starting in downtown Guerneville, the ride heads east on River Road to Wohler, to Westside Road, left on Sweetwater Springs Road, right on Armstrong Woods to the summit, back to Guerneville and across the bridge to Mays Canyon which loops back to Pocket Canyon (Hwy 116) to Green Valley, the Harrison Grade through Graton to Occidental and back through Monte Rio to Guerneville.
Wine Country Bikes
Getaway Adventures & Rentals
Russian River Cycles http://www.russianrivercycles.com Rentals, Repairs and Sales 707-887-2453
Nor Cal Bikesport
Bike Partners Rentals + Delivery
River Riders Bicycle Rentals
Santa Rosa Cycling Club
Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition
Sonoma County Bike Trails Guide Book