Cycling Sonoma & Napa: A Backroads Adventure!

I send dozens of my clients on Backroads Trips, and this past week I was finally able to experienced one of these magnificent trips firsthand. This was a group of 18 women in Sonoma and Napa Valley riding bikes between wineries, so honestly, what is not to love?  Yet the attention to detail and the quality that our partner Backroads brings to the equation is very much worth the mention!


The quality of the trip leaders is incredible – we had three of the most fun, lovely, capable women running our show. Dayna, CeCe, and Katie were definitely a force to be reckoned with as they effortlessly set up our bikes each day, ran us through the “route rap,” moved our luggage from hotel to hotel, inspected rooms and insured luggage was inside waiting for us by the time we arrived after a long day of cycling. They set up gorgeous farm-to-table picnic lunches and joined us for fabulous restaurant dinners each night. Most importantly, they could fix any bike, deal with an emergency, and tend to each guests’ individual needs. The hiring and training process at Backroads is no joke–this was evidently clear after several days with this terrific trio!


I flew into San Francisco a day before the start of the trip to catch up with a friend, see the city I so love, and to re-check a few of my favorite hotels.

Arriving into San Francisco with a great lunch and view at Waterbar
Loved my spacious and sunny room at The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco in Nob Hill

The trip started in the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve with a hike and lunch followed by our first cycling day to the darling town of Healdsburg. On the first day, I opted for about a 25 mile ride through the stunning Russian River Valley, which was just perfect to warm up my bike legs!

Our Backroads adventure started surrounded by these gorgeous Redwoods
These old trees are stunning!
Each day of the ride, Backroads surprises and delights with beautiful and healthy wine country picnics
Backroads also goes by “Snackroads” as there are always goodies to fill your loot bag and stay energized during the ride

What I really enjoyed about cycling the lovely Sonoma and Napa Valleys, besides the perfect fall weather and scenery, was the opportunity to stop at some superb wineries along the route for “wine tasting” rather than “wine drinking” (the drinking is enjoyed later when the cycling day ends — or it continues on at home if, like me, you opt to ship a couple of cases home!)

I absolutely loved Graciana – the winery, story and the wines!


The charming owner of Gracianna showcasing the book he wrote about his Basque-born mother after whom the winery is named 
I could not resist this idyllic barn shot!
Fall is actually the warmest time to be in the Bay Area and I think the most lovely!
Cycling through Geyserville on Day Two where I opted for the 40 mile ride. Easy for many experienced riders but a fun challenge for this inexperienced cyclist!
What a beautiful place to stop for another fabulous lunch and some special wines!
And Voila – It just keeps getting better!
Most of the scenery I could not capture on camera as I whizzed by on my bike, but it is forever etched in my memory!

Backroads is certainly not all about cycling, though they do that admirably. The number one point I would like to make is that the trips are truly for all fitness levels. When planning, I look at the trip route ratings on each trip with my clients to insure they are selecting the right one, but even with couples or friends or families that have different fitness levels or desires, each day offers a mix of three options with varying lengths, elevations and sights. And if there is not one that you love, they will make one up. It is not uncommon for one person to be a road warrior while the other wants to ride until lunch and then hit the spa.  Backroads has introduced two fantastic features this year: E-Bikes (electric bikes) for those that want a little extra help on the hills and Garmin G.P.S. systems so that no matter where you are in the pack, you will always find your way to the next meeting point.

Beyond cycling, Backroads offers terrific walking and hiking trips, multi-sport trips where you have some cycling, hiking and even rafting or canoeing mixed in. It is not about the activity in itself, it is about seeing a destination at a different pace – not whizzing by in a car, but seeing it as your own pace under the power of your own two legs.

Day 3 from Dry Creek To Calistoga had some wonderful hills – this one was well worth it, as at the top was the stunning Artesa Winery
Entering the dramatic winery
A great combination – water and wine! Work hard and earn your wine!

All of the meals are included in the price of your Backroads trip and each meal was exceptional!!  Below is my final night dinner at the Sonoma Mission Inn, which was truly outstanding with no expense spared – wine country produce, lobster, caviar, lamb, and another irresistible dessert!


The Town of Sonoma has some very cute little shops around the main square including Summer Vine!



My last night was spent at the very unique and charming Cavallo Point in Sausalito overlooking the Golden Gate bridge.

What a perfect spot to enjoy the view of San Francisco, the charm of Sausalito, and some fantastic hikes too!

Getting to Sausalito is easy on the Ferry from Embarcadero
Some of the activities on offer at Cavallo Point.
Quaint lobby feels more like a living room.
The Chapel where morning Yoga is held.
A range of Lexus cars are available for the resort drivers to take you to town or the the Marin Airporter for your ride back to the airport
Rooms are either in these historic buildings or in the modern and contemporary rooms.
The view from Cavallo Point of the Golden Gate Bridge.

We love to help our clients decide on the best trip for them so please do ask for our help. There are classic cycling trips which are geared towards adults but allow a small number of kids if they are 14 and over. If you’re looking for something more tailored to the whole family with kids of all ages, then we should go with their family adventures which include a coordinator to keep the younger ones entertained with destination specific fun – i.e. Pizza making in the Dolomites, Gecko races in Costa Rica, or art in the South of France. These trips have tandem bikes for kids not quite ready to hit the road solo, or trailers for little ones that want to be towed behind their parents. For families with teens, I would suggest either join a classic trip, or for more fun, do the Family Breakaways, which require families to have at least one teen aged 14. This insures that there is always a gang of pals for that in-between age that don’t want to have a bunch of kids around but are not quite interested in hanging out with adults 24+.  For example This type of group is perfect for my family where I have a 16 and 13-year-old who do not need the extra planned activities that the younger family trips have in place.

There are so many options, but perhaps the most daunting choice is where to go. Backroads is a great way to do wine country, or simply to explore small towns and villages anywhere from Patagonia, Peru, New Zealand, the Alps, Sicily, the Amalfi coast or closer to home – the great American National Parks of Yosemite, Grand Canyon, or Acadia. There is something for every season and the trips fill up quickly. It is best to plan a Backroads adventure at least 6 months out, but we can always try to get you in to a trip if you find you have a last minute whim. The trips range in size from 10-20 or so travelers, and there is usually a really great dynamic between the travelers who choose Backroads. One of the most fun things do however is to plan your own group of friends or family – depending on numbers, the costs can be minimal and you are assured a private trip with your favorite people.  What a fabulous way to celebrate a big birthday, a family reunion or just an effortless way to get some fun couples together! Please contact me to discuss your next adventure trip with Backroads or one of our other fabulous preferred cycling vendors.  It may be your first but certainly won’t be your last!

Last breakfast before heading home. I think I earned it this trip!


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