Bay Area Bike Rides - Dry Creek Valley - Wilder Ranch - Alameda Creek Trail


Wheel of Fortune

Cubicle cabin fever got you in a rut? Roll to a happier place on these pedaling pilgrimages. It’s time to ride!

Bella Vineyard Dry Creek Valley

Little Tuscany

The rolling green hills, the bicycles, the wineries…if Tuscany had an American counterpart it would be found an hour and fifteen minutes north of San Francisco in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley. The mostly flat back-roads of the valley make exploring by bike easy, even for those with little or no road-biking experience. Bring your own iron horse or rent a bike from Wine Country Bikes in Healdsburg. John Mastrianni, a former competitive cyclist, has run this shop for three years and will properly fit you with a new Trek Pilot road bike or the more casual Trek Hybrid. Pedal along West Dry Creek Road, where picket fences, multiple wineries, and shady trees line both sides. Take a short detour across an old bridge where the Dry Creek General Store has all the deli fixings for a picnic lunch. Pack your food in the bike cooler and decide where to enjoy the feast. Quivira Vineyards' biodynamic winery (with 200 solar panels on the roof) has a large patio that looks out to Mount Saint Helena. A few more miles down the road and set on a hill are the wine caves of Bella Vineyards. Zins are Bella's flagship, and they taste especially fine with a picnic on the lawn under one of the big oak trees (pictured). Semplicemente bello.

Wine Country Bikes, 61 Front St., Healdsburg; 707-473-0610. They provide a detailed map of the wineries and routes; a rear-rack cooler is provided for any goodies acquired along the ride. Bike rentals start at $33 per day. Group bike tours are also available. If you have your own bike, park in central Healdsburg. To get there: from Highway 101, exit Central Healdsburg and make a left onto Mill St. Park at Safeway. Ride your bike west on Mill St., under Highway 101, and go a couple of miles. Veer right onto West Dry Creek Rd. and make it an out-and-back ride. Quivira is about 8 miles (one-way) from town, and Bella is about 12.5 (one-way). Taste with grace. Please be responsible about wine intake while operating your two-wheeler!

Wildly Good Time

For a sweet sampler of mountain-bike rides with coastal views, head to Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz. With over 30 miles of well-marked trails, this former dairy farm is a destination for mountain bikers of all abilities. Beginners and casual riders can take the wide and easy Bluffs Ride, a 4-mile (one-way) cliffside path that leads to several beaches including a fern grotto. For mountain bikers who want some ups and downs with sections of swooping singletrack, point the wheels inland to the grassy hills and redwood forests of the Wilder Ranch Loop and Englesman Loop trails. More experienced riders can whoop it up on toothpick-tight trails like Old Cabin, Wild Boar, and Zane Gray Cutoff. With so much variety, bikers can create a route all their own. That's fat!

TIP: For some tasty Mexican grub after your ride, head to Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz, where El Palomar makes its corn tortillas fresh and its margaritas strong. This place is consistently voted best Mexican food by the local weekly newspaper. Olé!

Wilder Ranch is north of Santa Cruz, immediately west of Highway 1, about a mile past the Western Drive stoplight. There are plenty of loop options with multiple linking trails, so riders should pick up a map at the visitor center before heading up either the Wilder Ranch Loop or Englesman Loop trails (sports stores and bike shops in town also have maps.) Sometimes the trails are closed after a heavy rain. Call the park at 831-423-9703 to check.

El Palomar, 1336 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831-425-7575.

Alameda Creek Regional Trail in Fremont

Easy Does It

For bikers seeking pure simplicity on a paved, car-free path, the Alameda Creek Regional Trail in Fremont is a family-friendly route. The trail rolls along the southern side of Alameda Creek, from the bay's marshlands to the beginning of the foothills near Niles. Coyote Hills Regional Park, near the trail's western terminus, is a good staging area; but bikers can start anywhere along the 12-mile stretch (there are plenty of mile markers along the trail). Don't worry about crossing busy streets: in an example of well-executed urban planning, the Alameda Creek Regional Trail dips underneath busy intersections, sparing traffic-light waits. The path also passes behind residential neighborhoods and parallels some streets, so it's not exactly a nature ride, but it's a sweet roll all the same.

To reach the staging area at Coyote Hills Regional Park: from I-880 in Fremont, go west on Highway 84 toward the Dumbarton Bridge. Exit Newark Blvd./Ardenwood and go right onto Ardenwood. Turn left onto Commerce and follow the signs into the park. Park at the visitor center. Start on the unmarked gravel trail, about 100 feet before the visitor center; this is the Chochenyo Trail. Follow it .2 mile; then continue to the right on it. It becomes the Dust Trail, which takes you to the paved Alameda Creek Regional Trail. Non-mountain bikes should ride out Patterson Ranch Rd., make a left onto Paseo Padre Parkway, and a left again onto Ardenwood. This leads right to the Alameda Creek Regional Trail.

Get Published in Weekend Sherpa

Been on a great hike lately? Discovered a nice bike ride? Found a fantastic overnight escape? Weekend Sherpa wants to hear all about it. Send us your story idea in 200 words or less. If we publish your submission in our special "Readers' Point of View" issue, you'll get a byline and a $150 gift card to any of the three Bay Area Patagonia stores. Make sure to be descriptive and detailed, and tell us what makes the place or activity special. It can be anything that that fits the Weekend Sherpa editorial mission of getting out and exploring Northern California and the Bay Area. Submit your story idea by Friday, May 16 at midnight. Send to

Happy adventures!

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