4 great Sonoma side trips with hikes, art and wineries


Guerneville is wonderful. It’s also quite small. So after you’ve splashed, hiked and noshed at all the tasty restaurants, consider expanding your Russian River adventures with a side trip to the coast, a foray to a winery, some music or other creative exploration. Here’s a little day trip inspiration.

Hike the Headlands

The Jenner Headlands Preserve offers a beautiful series of trails and sweeping views of the ocean. In fact, it’s where a lot of Guerneville folks sneak away to find peace. You can take leashed dogs there, unlike many state parks. Goat Rock Beach is a prime spot for observing seals, with a mystical feeling when the fog rolls in.

The Kortum trail — near where Highway 116 hits the ocean — takes you along coastal bluffs with chances to see whales during migration season.

The headlands where the Russian River meets the sea at Jenner offer sweeping views and beautiful hiking trails.(Getty Images)
The headlands where the Russian River meets the sea at Jenner offer sweeping views and beautiful hiking trails.(Getty Images)

Another good whale-watching area is Bodega Head, a 40-minute drive south from Guerneville, with seafood shacks serving Dungeness crab sandwiches and grilled oysters.

Sip bubbles and brews

Korbel Winery in Sonoma's Russian River Valley is as well-known for its massive gardens as it is for bubbly.
Korbel Winery in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley is as well-known for its massive gardens as it is for bubbly. (Bay Area News Group File)

Porter-Bass Vineyard & Winery is a cute, family-owned place for tastings (reservations required) you can access via bike from town. Remember Korbel, that Champagne you might have gotten for 10 bucks and chugged warm (and illegally) during prom back in the day? Turns out, they produce some really good bubblies and still wines at their historic estate near Guerneville. Tastings (reservations recommended) are inexpensive and held on the lovely estate grounds.

Stumptown Brewery has a deck over the Russian River, where you can sip brews and plays games like Jenga while you discuss Stumptown’s beer names, such as Rat Bastard, Squirrel Tickler and Blimey (the Wanker).

Catch a show

The Rio Theater, a single-screen movie palace in a historic quonset hut in Monte Rio, is undergoing a transformation into a culture-and-events hub and has weekend events like square dancing — and you can kayak there from Guerneville.

Check out the Rio Nido Roadhouse, too, which has an outdoor stage with live music on weekends, plus a grill serving burgers and beers. There’s a pool for the kids and an ancient basketball court, too.

Explore another small town

Fulton is a one-horse town near Santa Rosa, except the horse in this case might be a miniature pony. Or donkey. The claim to fame here is an arts complex, Fulton Crossing, with more than a dozen painting and maker studios, plus more in the back turning out world-renowned blown glass and handpan drums. (Full disclosure: This journalist once worked there.)

In the same complex, you’ll find an antiques warehouse, Janakos & Company, which specializes in mid-century and Danish furniture. Across the way is Mike’s Truck Garden, a great fruit stand where you can load up on cherries and California nectarines and grapes. Time it right, and you might find the Cotton Candy grape varietal, which tastes exactly like it sounds.


if you go

Jenner Headlands Preserve: This 5,630-acre preserve is open from 8 am until sunset daily at 12001 Highway 1 in Jenner. Find trail maps, butterfly guides and other information at https://wildlandsconservancy.org.

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