With more square miles than Rhode Island, hundreds of wineries, spas, beaches, state parks and more, there’s always something fun going on in Wine Country. Here are some of the top summer activities in Sonoma County — from tide pooling and biking to horseback riding and hiking.
Featured Photo: Up & Away Ballooning
A Stunning Day at the Beach
Sonoma Coast State Park spans 17 miles of the coast with pristine sand and gravel beaches, tide pools, rocky bluffs, hiking trails, and it’s one heck of a gorgeous drive along Highway 1. While all the beaches are pretty much the same — divine — the most popular with young families is Doran Regional Park, located in Bodega Bay.
Tide pool trekkers will want to head to Shell Beach, a small low-tide treasure trove less than 10 miles north of Bodega Bay near Jenner. But if all you want to do is get some sun on the sand, it’s as simple as driving along Highway 1 and just pulling over when the mood strikes.
Hiking and Tide-Pooling
One of my favorite state parks in California is Salt Point State Park, located on the Sonoma coast a little less than 20 miles north of Jenner. This 6,000-acre park (which includes one of the state’s first underwater parks) boasts campsites, miles of coastal trails, dozens of tide pools, and Kashaya Pomo village sites. There’s all kinds of things to do at Salt Point, from free-diving and tide-pooling to hiking through coastal woodlands’ wildflower-filled meadows. Simply pull the car over anywhere along the highway and start walking.
It’s also worth a stop at nearby Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve. In the spring, typically beginning in April pink blossoms explode amongst towering redwood trees.
Breathing in the Sweet Scent of Nature
Another fantastic hiking opportunity is at Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve in Guerneville. This serene 805-acre grove of majestic redwoods — the oldest believed to be more than 1,400 years old — offers numerous hiking trails. It’s like visiting Muir Woods National Monument California, but without the crowds. You can even schedule a docent-led nature and wildlife hiking tour through the forest with Stewards of the Coast and Redwood.
Wine Tasting Bike Tours and Mountain Biking
If you’re in no great hurry, there’s no better way to tour Sonoma County’s wine country than by bicycle. Bike rental and tour companies such as Sonoma Adventures in Sonoma and Getaway Adventures in Santa Rosa rent bikes starting at $39 for a day, which includes helmets, locks, everything else you’ll need. Electric bikes are available as well. Both outfits also offer guided wine-tasting tours of Sonoma County wineries, which is a very fun (and romantic) way to spend a summer day.
For mountain bikers, some of the best single track in Northern California can be found at Trione-Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa. Every time I ride here I’m amazed at how fun the trails are and how lucky we are that it’s open to bikers. If you like mountain biking, you will love this park.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
If you’re interested in a quintessential Wine Country experience, consider a hot-air balloon ride with Up & Away Hot Air Ballooning. But this one isn’t for late sleepers. The adventure begins at the crack of dawn at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa. From there you travel to the best launch site given the conditions. Then you’re up and away on an hour or so ride, drifting over Sonoma County.