June 12, 2024

What to Do in Russian River: Your Ultimate Guide

The Russian River area in Sonoma County has been a beloved travel destination for over 130 years. Situated in Northern California's Wine Country, it offers a diverse range of activities including swimming, paddling, hiking, wine tasting, dining, and simply relaxing amidst its picturesque scenery and vibrant towns.

Geographic Coverage

The Russian River flows from Cloverdale in northeast Sonoma County through the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River valleys, eventually meeting the Pacific Ocean along the coast. This journey creates a corridor rich with lush greenery and unique towns, each offering its own charm.

"Selenga River Delta, Russian Federation (NASA, International Space Station, 11/03/10)" by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/.

Sustainability and Preservation

Visitors are encouraged to practice sustainable travel and adhere to the Leave No Trace Seven Principles to help protect the natural resources and beauty of Sonoma County. This ensures that future generations can also enjoy the pristine environment.

Itinerary Breakdown

North Section

The route begins in Cloverdale and heads to Healdsburg, passing through Geyserville. Highlights of this section include:

  • Sculpture gardens
  • Winery tasting rooms
  • Michelin-starred restaurants
  • Quaint towns and scenic landscapes

Redwood Section

This section travels through redwood forests and visits towns like Windsor, Forestville, Guerneville, and Monte Rio. Activities include:

  • Canoeing, swimming, and tubing in family-friendly spots
  • Hiking in Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
  • Exploring charming towns nestled among the redwoods

Coast Section

The final stretch extends to where the Russian River empties into the Pacific Ocean. Highlights of the coast section include:

  • Majestic cliffs and ocean views
  • Coastal towns like Duncans Mills and Jenner
  • Wildlife spotting opportunities, including whales and seals
  • Enjoying fresh seafood and scenic beach strolls

Customization and Flexibility

Visitors can follow the proposed itinerary sections separately or combine them for a comprehensive multi-day excursion. The region offers diverse activities year-round, allowing customization based on seasonal changes and individual preferences.

Additional Interests and Activities

Wine Enthusiasts

Explore the wine regions of Alexander Valley, Dry Creek, and the Russian River, famous for their quality wines and picturesque vineyards.

Outdoor Adventures

Discover the best river beaches and fishing spots, perfect for a day of relaxation or an adventurous outing.

Dining and Lodging

A curated selection of restaurants and lodging options is available within the Rivers & Redwoods areas, catering to various tastes and budgets.

Getting There

There are multiple ways to access the Russian River area:

  • Fly into Santa Rosa's Charles M. Schultz airport.
  • Drive up Highway 1 from San Francisco, with recommended stops at Stinson Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, and Tomales Bay.
  • Enjoy bird watching in Bodega and the scenic drive on Bohemian Highway.

Where to Stay


Known for its eclectic community and history, Guerneville is an excellent base for exploring the Russian River area. Accommodation options include:

  • AutoCamp: Mid-century modern glamping with Airstream trailers, luxury tents, and a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired pavilion.
  • Boon Hotel + Spa: Eco-friendly lodgings with minimalist modern cottages and glamping options.
  • Farmhouse Inn, Forestville: A family-run hotel featuring luxury amenities and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
  • Johnson's Beach: Offers lodge accommodations and urban camping along the river.

Activities and Attractions

River Activities

Enjoy relaxing on the river with activities such as canoeing, kayaking, or floating. Popular spots include:

  • Steelhead Beach Regional Park
  • Forestville River Access (Mom's Beach)
  • Veterans Memorial Beach in Healdsburg

Dining and Drinking

The area offers a wide range of dining experiences, from cozy coffee shops to renowned restaurants:

  • Gold Coast Coffee, Duncans Mills: House-roasted coffee and pastries.
  • Cape Fear Cafe, Duncans Mills: California cuisine with southern flair, featuring dishes like Charleston Benedict and Savannah Banana Waffle.
  • Guerneville Bank Club: Art shows, handcrafted pies, and ice cream.
  • Big Bottom Market, Guerneville: A boutique market for picnic provisions, endorsed by Oprah Winfrey.
  • Stumptown Brewery, Guerneville: Great beers and an expansive outdoor deck overlooking the river.
  • Boon Eat + Drink, Guerneville: Modern California cuisine with renowned burgers.
  • Canneti Roadhouse Italiana, Forestville: Rustic Tuscan-inspired dishes in a warm, welcoming setting.


Explore unique shops on Main Street in Guerneville, offering rustic, renovated, and retro storefronts like Sonoma Nesting Company, 5 & 10, and Second’s First.

Events and Cultural Experiences

Engage in local events such as:

  • Forestville Farmers Market: Featuring local produce, artisanal products, arts, crafts, and live music, every Tuesday from June 1.
  • Civil War Reenactment, Duncans Mills: An annual event in July with historical battle reenactments.

Natural Attractions

Enjoy the natural beauty and unique landscapes of the Russian River area:

  • Goat Rock State Beach: Scenic beauty with wild waves and rocky coastal landscapes.
  • River's End, Jenner: Romantic dining where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean, known for stunning sunsets.
  • Armstrong Woods: Experience majestic redwoods in a less-crowded setting compared to Muir Woods.

The Russian River area offers a mix of relaxed outdoor activities, unique accommodations, varied dining experiences, eclectic shopping, cultural events, and natural beauty. Whether you're seeking a serene retreat among giant redwoods, a leisurely river float, or a taste of local cuisine and craft beers, the region promises a memorable and diverse getaway.

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