California: Wine Country Biking
Road Cycling in California with Backroads
- Ride through five valleys of world-famous vineyards
- Abundant opportunities for wine tasting: hundreds of wineries line our cycling route
- Seriously good food, inspired by local vintages and fresh California ingredients
- Bike to Bodega Bay on the dramatic Pacific Coast
- Take pampering to the next level at award-winning spas
A Quintessential Bike Trip through Napa & Sonoma Vineyards, Redwoods & Coast
Five valleys of world-famous vineyards. Forests of soaring redwoods, quiet pastoral landscapes and the dramatic Pacific Coast. They could be five separate adventures, but they're not. This is Northern California. Sonoma, Bodega Bay, Napa Valley. For some it's like a pilgrimage. For others, a retreat. For you it's a remarkable week and an incredible ride. Off-route tastings that enlighten your palate. Appreciating complex flavors. Gourmet, Michelin-starred meals that live up to the wines. And above all else, breathtaking sights in a remarkable place simply known as wine country.
Each season in the Wine Country is unique. In the spring, the days are warm and the evenings are cool. A layer of low clouds and fog often moves inland during the night and retreats mid-morning. Summer evenings bring cooler temperatures. Rainfall is negligible June through September. In the fall, warm weather continues, with October and November characterized by spring-like temperatures, but with rain likely. If you’re traveling with us in March, April, November or December, expect to see rain and wind on multiple days of your trip.
Temperatures are always cooler near the ocean. When bicycling along the coast, you’ll encounter a variety of conditions: fog, sun and wind are all possible. Be prepared for all types of weather to ensure that your trip is enjoyable.
- All lodgings
- All meals included except 1 lunch and 1 dinner, when you'll have the opportunity to sample local fare on your own
- Expertise and services of our experienced Trip Leaders
- Snacks and beverages between meals
- Additional guides and experts from the region on many trips
- Van shuttles to support a variety of route options
- Comprehensive Travel Planner with detailed pre-trip information
- Private guided tours at museums, historic sites, wineries and other attractions as noted
- All gratuities at hotels and restaurants on Inn Trips
- On Biking and Multi-Sport trips use of fully equipped Backroads titanium bike plus helmet and accessories
- Park and other entry fees
- Fares for trains, ferries and other modes of travel
- Select coach transfers
- Baggage transfers and porterage
- Backroads water bottle
- Alcoholic beverages (Backroads provides wine at select events)
- Gratuities for Trip Leaders
- Personal expenses
Day by Day Itinerary
Meet your Backroads Trip Leaders (the folks wearing Backroads T-shirts) at 11:30 a.m. at Sbragia Family Vineyards in Geyserville (or at 11 a.m. at the Hotel Healdsburg, if you’re driving to the Wine Country). Please arrive dressed in your biking clothes.
Hotel Healdsburg Route 11 Miles (500-foot elevation gain)
Welcome to Northern California and Sbragia, a charming family-run winery that grows and harvests grapes from Dry Creek, Sonoma and Napa Valleys. We get acquainted during a wine tasting, followed by a picnic lunch on a hill overlooking the vineyards. Afterward your Trip Leaders fit your bike and give a brief talk on biking techniques and safety before sending you off on a rolling warm-up ride through the beautiful Dry Creek Valley, known for producing some of California’s finest zinfandels. Stop for a degustation or two before continuing to Healdsburg.
After checking out the town square, head over to tonight’s hotel, Hotel Healdsburg. With its cool contemporary design, deluxe spa and relaxing courtyard with pool, it’s the perfect place to kick your feet up after an afternoon ride. Later we gather for a wine reception followed by a special dinner at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen.
Lodging: Hotel Healdsburg
Calistoga Route 43 Miles (1,000-foot elevation gain)
Shorter Option: Alexander Valley 23 Miles with Shuttle (500-foot elevation gain)
Longer Option: Yountville 63 Miles (1,500-foot elevation gain)
After breakfast, embark on a carefree ride past hillsides blanketed with vineyards, apple orchards and forests. A gentle climb leads to neighboring Alexander Valley, which has been compared to France’s Bordeaux region. In the past two decades, several first-rate wineries have established themselves here: Robert Young Estate Winery, where we stop for a picnic; Sausal, which offers a noteworthy zinfandel; Alexander Valley, known for its cabernet; and Hanna, with an excellent merlot.
After our tour, tasting and lunch at Robert Young, hop in the Backroads van for a lift to tonight’s hotel or continue biking into the hills of Napa Valley. If you opt to bike, be prepared for a short invigorating climb that will have you up out of your seat! Then coast into charming Calistoga, making sure to stop at our friend Barbara Nechis’s watercolor studio, located just outside of town. From here it’s a short distance by shuttle to the Villagio Inn & Spa, whose newly unveiled luxury spa offers the ultimate in pampering. You should have plenty of time before dinner to indulge in a relaxing massage or specialty body treatment. (Spa treatments are not included in the trip price; advance reservations are highly recommended.)
Tonight, dine at your leisure at Hurley’s, a quintessential Wine Country restaurant serving Mediterranean-inspired California cuisine. Try such specialties as horseradish-crusted Atlantic salmon, wild boar with truffle-scented polenta or olive oil-poached tuna pan bagnat. And of course, Hurley’s offers a wonderful selection of regional wines to complement your meal.
Lodging: Villagio Inn & Spa
Napa Valley Loop 35 Miles (1,000-foot elevation gain)
Shorter Option: Wineries Route 29 Miles with Shuttle (500-foot elevation gain)
Longer Option: Lake Hennessey/Pope Valley 54 Miles (1,500-foot elevation gain)
In the mood for an aerial adventure? Then start your day at dawn with a hot air balloon flight over Napa Valley. (Hot air balloon rides are not included in the trip price.)) Later in the morning, grab your bike and pedal along the Silverado Trail, skirting the eastern foothills and following rolling terrain into the heart of Napa Valley. Feel free to stop en route for tours and tastings at well-known wineries such as Beringer or smaller wineries such as Silver Oak Cellars and Plumpjack Winery, which both produce noteworthy cabernet sauvignons. Several nationally acclaimed boutique wineries along the route also deserve attention—make sure to schedule your tastings in advance of your trip to ensure they can accommodate you. Strong riders interested in more miles and a dose of the countryside rather than wine tasting can cruise along the quiet hills surrounding Lake Hennessey.
You’re on your own for a relaxed lunch in St. Helena. Pick up goodies at the Model Bakery for a picnic at Lyman Park. Or maybe you’d like to sample the acclaimed cuisine at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant? If so, make your reservations early!
Is the Villagio’s spa calling your name? If not, you can swim in the pool, play tennis or simply top off your day with a relaxing soak in the hot tub. Tonight you’re free to dine on your own in the culinary mecca of Yountville.
Lodging: Villagio Inn & Spa
Sonoma Route 41 Miles (1,000-foot elevation gain)
Shorter Option: Bouchaine Vineyards 25 Miles with Shuttle (500-foot elevation gain)
After enjoying a champagne buffet breakfast at Villagio, it’s time to hit the road for another great day of riding! This morning’s route takes you into the Carneros region to the pastoral crescent-shaped Sonoma Valley. Wineries along the way include Artesa, Mahoney Vineyards and Bouchaine Vineyards (today’s picnic lunch spot). Note the neatly manicured vineyards, old barns and picturesque farmhouses as you make your way to Sonoma. This historic community, whose name is said to come from a Suisun Indian word meaning ―valley of many moons,‖ began as a Spanish mission in 1823. Today Sonoma boasts several restored 19th-century historic sites, including the Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma, the Mexican barracks, the Gothic Victorian Revival home of General Mariano de Vallejo and the eight-acre Spanish-style plaza. If you’d like to add a few more miles to your route before heading to tonight’s hotel, drop by Ravenswood Winery, known for its zinfandel and memorable in-your-face motto, ―No Wimpy Wines.‖
Located just outside of town, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa features a world-class health spa—the ideal place to soothe your cycling muscles. Backroads has arranged for you to experience the Roman Bathing Ritual, which includes an exfoliating shower, warm bath, hot bath, herbal steam, sauna and rehydrating drinks. (The Roman Bathing Ritual is complimentary and does not require a reservation.) This evening we meet at the inn’s Santé Restaurant for a delicious dinner made from fresh, locally grown ingredients.
Lodging: Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
Bodega Bay Route 46 Miles (1,500-foot elevation gain)
Shorter Option: Matanzas Creek Winery 31 Miles with Shuttle (1,000-foot elevation gain)
Longer Option: Occidental Loop 64 Miles (2,000-foot elevation gain)
Wave goodbye to the Valley of the Moon before heading west through the village of Glen Ellen, former home of Jack London. A challenging climb out of Sonoma Valley leads to terrific views at the top of the hill. Continue to Matanzas Creek Winery for an early picnic and the chance to savor world-class chardonnays and merlots. In addition to excellent wines, Matanzas Creek has cultivated a fragrant lavender field that’s in full bloom in June, as well as lovely gardens, which may inspire Provencal memories or longings—make sure to save time for a stroll around the grounds.
On the afternoon route, vineyards give way to groves of eucalyptus, pastures and wide-open cattle-grazing country. With approximately 20 miles of rolling hills—and possible headwinds—as you approach the Pacific, this is the toughest ride of the trip. Originally home to the Pomo and Coastal Miwok Indians, this section of coast was ―discovered‖ in 1775 by Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Cuadra and then later settled by Russian fur traders. These days it’s a popular tourist destination known for miles of rugged headlands and a wealth of wildlife, including brown pelicans, snowy egrets, harbor seals, California sea lions and, from November through March, migrating gray whales.
If your muscles are aching for a little TLC after today’s über-route, Bodega Bay Lodge’s spa is just what the doctor ordered. (Spa treatments are not included in the trip price.) Otherwise get in a workout at the fitness center, swim in the pool, or stake out a spot in the whirlpool tub and wind down as the sun disappears into the ocean. Later we toast to a fantastic week in the Wine Country before enjoying a farewell dinner at the lodge’s award-winning Duck Club Restaurant.
Lodging: Bodega Bay Lodge & Spa
Healdsburg Route 45 Miles (1,000-foot elevation gain) Shorter Option: Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve 25 Miles with Shuttle (500-foot elevation gain)
Spin along the coast past ten miles of rocky bluffs and a string of Sonoma Coast State Park beaches. When you reach the mouth of the Russian River, veer inland and follow the river to the town of Guerneville. Just a few more miles, and you’ll find yourself in Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, where we picnic under towering thousand-year-old redwood trees. As you ride into the forest, a deep sense of serenity envelopes you, all noise fades away, and the smell of wood and rich soil permeates the cool air.
The afternoon route is dotted with several favorite wineries, including Arista Winery, a Russian River gem boasting fine zins and pinots. Stately redwoods shade most of today’s ride, but as you approach Healdsburg the scenery opens up and you’re greeted once again by vineyards and pastureland. Your final destination is the Hotel Healdsburg, where our trip comes to an end.
About The Operator:
Every Backroads vacation is a one-of-a-kind adventure, where serendipity is supported - often invisibly - by a well choreographed backstage effort. After 30 years of practice, we've perfected the craft of creating and delivering world-class experiences and service, both hallmarks of a carefree Backroads vacation.
We ease your trip preparation with little extras, from a recommended packing list to lodging suggestions for before and after your trip. During your vacation, we make sure your luggage is waiting in your room, you have a cool drink or a lift when you desire them, and travel logistics are handled so you can focus on fun and relaxation.
Anticipating and responding to your needs - that is our commitment!Worldwide Presence
The Best Routes
All Backroads itineraries have been carefully researched by our team of 23 Trip Specialists and 9 Regional Managers to ensure you experience the very best way to explore the region. And before your trip, the routes are once again tested by our Trip Leaders-each and every season.
Seven Days of Service
Your Backroads Trip Consultants are available 7 days a week, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, to answer your questions.
We've designed our trips with plenty of options that let you personalize each day and make the most of your vacation. And on each day of the trip (or the night before if you're heading out early), you'll receive a Daily Snapshot that gives you all of the important information you need so that you have control of your precious time.
Bikes & Accessories
All Biking and Multisport Trips include use of a fully equipped, custom-designed Backroads Titanium bike. Choose either upright or drop handlebars. Backroads is also unique among travel companies in manufacturing our own line of custom-designed kids' bikes. For the younger ones we offer the Burley d'Lite trailer and Burley Piccolo trailercycle.
A Choice of Lodging
We're the only company that distinguishes between Premiere Inns and Casual Inns, making it easy for you to choose a trip that suits your personal style. We provide an honest assessment of each hotel giving you an assurance of quality you can trust.
Backroads has been taking responsible travel seriously since our first trip over 30 years ago. While traveling on two feet or two wheels is the ultimate minimal-impact approach to traveling, we recognize that any travel has an impact and so we do everything we can to make the impact as light and as positive as possible.
When you're out exploring, you may welcome some time to yourself, but when needed, we are there. We pioneered on-trip vehicle support and we continue to perfect it. Read more about On-Trip Support.
Local experts team up with your Backroads leaders, offering firsthand perspectives to enhance your overall experience. From explorations of historic and cultural sites, to culinary adventures showcasing traditional cuisine, to visits with special friends we've made over the years, we take you into the heart of a region with an immediacy and authenticity you'll never forget.
One of the biggest benefits of traveling with Backroads is the wonderful folks you travel with-adventurers who appreciate the Backroads level of quality, pursue new experiences with a passion and take their fun as seriously as they take their work. "People less interested in impressing each other than in having a good time," is how Departures magazine captured the spirit of our guests. Join us-and travel in terrific company.
Nobody knows families like Backroads. From our designated Kid Coordinators to extra vehicle support to custom-designed kids' bikes (a Backroads exclusive), we've considered all angles important to families. Each family trip balances quality time together and apart, with welcome opportunities for everyone to take a break and recharge-something that's virtually impossible to achieve when you vacation on your own.
Your Trip is Guaranteed
At Backroads we're so committed to providing you with an extraordinary experience that we guarantee the quality of your trip. We value our relationship with you, our guest, and want it to be mutually rewarding and long-term.
Our Leaders Make the Trip
You'll find Backroads Trip Leaders to be the best you've ever traveled with. That's not an idle claim-it's backed by the most rigorous recruiting, hiring, training and guest satisfaction programs in the business. View the full scoop on our leaders and why you'll love them.