The Russian River Valley is one of the lushest and most picturesque areas of California. Nestled in the heart of Sonoma wine country, your Russian River vacation rental will be the perfect place to unwind. While wine tasting is a major draw in this area, there are also plenty of activities for the whole family. Here are some of the most popular options throughout the Russian River Valley.
1. See the Redwoods
California is famous for its towering redwoods, which grow near the Russian River. The best place to see them is the Armstrong Redwoods State Nature Reserve, located near Guerneville. This park features flat, well-maintained trails that make it easy to hike with smaller children. The Pioneer Nature Trail is a particularly popular loop. It is about a mile and half long and takes you past some of the most famous trees in the park, including the amazing 350-foot-tall Parson Jones Tree.
2. Canoe or Kayak
The Russian River is mostly broad and smooth, so it’s an ideal place for canoeing and kayaking. There are plenty of public launches, including ones located at the popular Cloverdale River Park and Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach. Consider taking a guided eco-tour from one of the several local providers. If you don’t want a guided tour, branch out on your own and rent gear from one of the numerous local outfitters. You can also bring your own kayaks, so you can keep them at your vacation rental in between uses.
3. Take a Dip
The Russian River’s gentle currents and sandy shores make it a great place to lounge on the beach or go for a swim. Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach is a particularly popular beach due to its pristine sand. Although the river may be too shallow for actual swimming if it’s a dryer year, you can still wade and splash around. Spring Lake Regional Park, located near Santa Rosa, is also a great choice and tends to have a steadier water level. There’s a roped-off swimming area, a floating playground, and lifeguards on duty during peak summer times.
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4. Visit the Shore
For a slight change of pace, follow the Russian River down towards the coast and visit Bodega Bay, a large inlet of the Pacific Ocean. There are several great areas to visit on the bay, such as the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail, which is a particularly good choice if you’re traveling with small kids. This simple path is paved for easy walking and takes you through wildlife-rich areas where you can see plentiful birds and other animals.
5. Ride a Horse Through Wine Country
There’s nothing quite like seeing the country from the back of a horse, and there are plenty of dude ranches and stables that offer guided trail rides through the beautiful scenery of the Russian River Valley. Whether you prefer to ride along cultivated vineyards, see the towering redwoods, or canter across sandy dunes, there’s a trail ride to fit your tastes. Most stables cater to younger children, but make sure to call ahead if you need kid-friendly arrangements.
6. Follow the Sculpture Trail
As you drive along Highway 101 between Geyserville and Cloverdale, you may notice some unusual artwork by the side of the road. This is known as the Sculpture Trail and features installations that change yearly. The goal is to help average people interact with artwork, so some of the sculptures are even designed for you to climb on or walk through for a more interactive experience. You can pick up a trail guide in visitor centers and other locations around Geyserville and Cloverdale, or feel free to explore on your own.
7. Cast a Line
If you feel like catching your own dinner, there are plenty of good fishing spots in the region. The Russian River itself is a great place to cast a line, or you can head to Spring Lake if you want to fish from a boat. While it’s important to note that there are no motorized boats allowed on Spring Lake, there are charter boats available in Bodega Bay and surrounding areas if you’d like to head down to the ocean.
8. Go On Safari
Safari West Wildlife Preserve is often referred to as the Sonoma Serengeti because its owners are dedicated to creating an African safari experience in California. You can take a tour in the open-air vehicles and get up close with giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, and other iconic African animals. Afterward, take a guided educational tour to learn more about these majestic creatures.
9. Follow the Call Of the Wild
Although Jack London may be most famous for his tales of adventure in Alaska, he actually made his home right in Sonoma County. His homestead has been turned into the Jack London State Park, which features 1400 acres of trails where you can have your own wilderness adventures. After your hike, visit the House of Happy Walls Museum, which is dedicated to his life and work, and then take a tour of his cottage and other important sites.
10. Stroll Through Historic Towns
The Russian River Valley is home to an eclectic mix of villages that range from quirky art colonies to old-fashioned towns. Visiting Geyserville feels a bit like stepping into the old west, with facades right out of a western movie as well as a quaint boardwalk. Cloverdale features a mix of historic and newer buildings that house galleries and artisan workshops. Both offer plenty of shopping and dining.
11. Fly Through the Treetops
Sonoma Canopy Tours let you experience the landscape in a totally new way. Feel an adrenaline rush as you zip line through the trees, then show off your climbing skills as you navigate the ropes course. Unlike many zip line courses, this one also comes with education about the forests you’ll be exploring, so that you can learn more about the ecosystem in a fun and engaging way. This activity is best for older kids and is only open to children who are at least 10 years old.
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