Healdsburg Is California's Unexpected Outdoor Destination
Located about 1.5 hours away from San Francisco, Healdsburg beckons travelers to its expansive hills striped with rows of grape vines.
Wine may be the town's most powerful allure, but those who know the area are eager to let you in on a secret: Healdsburg is also an incredible place for adventure travel. From hiking in the Redwoods to cycling and hiking in vineyards, there is much more to do in this piece of Northern California wine country than meets the eye.
Find out what makes Healdsburg, California the perfect destination for enjoying the great outdoors.
Wine Tasting With a Twist
The main activity in Sonoma County is wine tasting. And while we certainly encourage you to partake in it, sometimes, it's good to do something a bit more active. In comes "wiking."
Several vineyards in Healdsburg offer wine and hiking (aka wiking) tours. Rather than coming in just to sip, you'll start the day with a scenic hike around the vineyards or on the hills surrounding the property. Then, you can come back for a relaxing wine tasting that feels much better after your hard work.
For this unique outdoor activity, go to Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves. Karen Austin, a local naturalist and nutritionist, leads the hike, which takes you to lookout points over Dry Creek Valley. At the women-led SUTRO Wine Co., located in Warnecke Ranch & Vineyard, founder and owner Alice Warnecke takes you on a personalized hike. You'll get intimately acquainted with the grapes and soil from which the wine you'll later enjoy comes.
If you don't want to hike, but still want to do more than taste wine, Brooke Ross, with the Healdsburg Tourism Improvement District, recommends looking for a vineyard with a farm component. "Quivira is one of my favorite places," she says. "They're a biodynamic farm, and they have chickens and cattle and sheep — also really, really beautiful garden beds and floral beds. You just feel like you’re in a different country.”
Normal Hiking Is Also Possible
Not into wine? That's not a problem in Healdsburg. There are several places where you can go hiking — no wine drinking necessary.
The Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve is a spot favored by locals. While the trails aren't strenuous, they are scenic, going through beautiful grasslands and wetlands. People of all athletic abilities can enjoy this activity, as the difficulty ranges from easy to moderate.
But if you want to immerse a bit more into nature, all you have to do is drive 30 minutes to the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. You can explore the 805 acres of coast redwoods, the tallest trees in the world. And you won't have to share the moment with the crowds that usually assail Redwood National Park.
Cycle With the Pros
You already know about wiking, but how about biking and wining? Companies like Getaway Adventures or Wine Country Bikes offer sip 'n cycle tours that are a wonderful way to visit different vineyards and farms while passing through astonishing landscapes. For those who don't love the appeal of working out too much, Ross recommends the Russian River Adventures e-bike tours.
Ross also explains that Healdsburg "is definitely on the list of top cycling destinations," hosting several cycling events like the annual Giro Vigneti Healdsburgh Cycling Tour. Serious lovers of the sport may also want to book a private biking experience with local pro cyclist Pete Stetina. The professional athlete will personalize the trip to your interest and level.
Of course, it's very easy to simply rent a bike and explore on your own, deciding where to go and how long you'll take. "Given the scenery and how beautiful it is, biking in Dry Creek Valley" is an activity Ross thoroughly enjoys.
Play in the River
We all love hills. But sometimes, heeding the siren call of the water is necessary. Thankfully, Healdsburg has plenty of that, as the Russian River runs right through town.
This river provides a space for fun water sports and activities like kayaking, canoeing, fishing and swimming. While you'll need to rent equipment if you don't have your own, access to the river is completely free.
Alternatively, drive about 20 minutes north to arrive at Lake Sonoma, where you can partake in water activities as well as hiking and camping.
Horsing Around Is Encouraged
If neither walking nor biking around vineyards appeals to you, consider crossing them via horseback.
H2hotel's Wine Country Horseback Adventure Ride is a popular tour, though it isn't for completely inexperienced or hesitant riders. You'll pass through vineyards, ride to Lake Sonoma's Overlook Mountain and visit a majestic redwood grove. After the ride, you'll be treated to a wine tasting — hey, this is Sonoma County after all!
Find Your Center at the Vineyard
Outdoor yoga is perhaps the most relaxing active experience in Healdsburg. Start your morning with a class that will help you stretch your body and center your mind. Afterward, you'll be ready to take on any of the adventures available in town.
Montage Healdsburg‘s “Yoga Among the Vines” is one of the most popular classes. It is held in a beautiful sunlit garden. The resort uses cork yoga mats and equipment that are eco-friendly and also very on-brand for a vineyard destination.
Another great place to enjoy yoga outside is the Harmon Guest House. Its Vinyasa Flow Yoga class is held on Sundays in an ambient park-like deck.
Where to Eat in Healdsburg
Since you'll be outside and moving most of your time in Healdsburg, you'll need to replenish your energy. And, sadly, you can't do that solely with sparkling wine.
Luckily, the town is a heralded foodie destination, with two Michelin-starred restaurants and six total establishments mentioned in the guide. Ross is quick to point out Valette as a place that she returns to again and again.
She also loves Little Saint. "It’s a plant-based restaurant that [is] very art forward. They have live music and artists; they sell items from the local farm and gardens. It’s such a vibe when you walk in there. At any hour of the day, there are people congregating around it," she says.
Or you can always go back to the vineyards. “There are lots of offerings out in vineyard and farm settings," Ross states. "You can do excursions with one of the culinary companies here and go pick peaches and then have a cooking class at the vineyard.”
Food, wine and outdoor activities? Sounds like Healdsburg in a nutshell.