California wine country: 10 great places to hike, bike and sip

4 November 14

| Eco-Active In The Vines |

California wine country biking
Now that the harvest rush is winding down, it’s the perfect season for green wine lovers to savor the good weather and fall vineyard landscapes with a hike or bike ride in California wine country. Capped off with, of course, some wine tasting. All of California’s dozens of wine regions offer hiking and biking opportunities, as well as new eco-friendly wineries and wines to taste and discover. Below are just a few of the many opportunities to get out and be active among the vines, many suggested by Wine Institute.

North Coast

Free self-guided vineyard walking tours in Sonoma wine country
Take a free self-guided tour (no appointments necessary) at several wineries in Sonoma County, getting healthy exercise as you cycle or stride past spectacular views. Stop in tasting rooms to pick up a detailed walking-tour guide. Tours offered at sustainable Sonoma wineries include: Schug Carneros Estate Winery, Mauritson Family Winery and Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

Guided sip & cycle tours of Sonoma County, Napa Valley and Carneros regions
For those who prefer a guided experience, there are many options for bike rentals and guided tours that take you to wineries in and around Santa Rosa, in Sonoma, some with picnic lunches or with tasting fees waived. Vendors include Life Cycle AdventuresAce It Wine Country Bike Tour, Getaway Tours Sip ‘N Cycle Tour (Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Calistoga, Carneros), Napa Valley Bike Tours and St. Helena Cyclery.

Hike or bike Napa Valley on your own
The Napa Valley Vine Trail offers a 47-mile path for exploring the world-famous region by foot or pedal at your own pace from Vallejo‘s ferry terminal to the foot of Mount St. Helena in Calistoga. For a packaged but still self-guided experience, Clif Family Winery at VeloVino offers bike rentals through Calistoga Bike Shop. Start the day at the winery’s Clif bar for an espresso and a map of the winery team’s favorite routes. End your day of exploration with a food and wine pairing experience and wine by the glass at the tasting bar displaying cycling memorabilia or at the outdoor patio and wine sensory garden.

Sierra Foothills

Hiking or biking the Sierra Foothills wine region
Just a quick day trip from Sacramento and Lake Tahoe is the Sierra Foothills wine region, which encompasses the great wine sub-regions of El Dorado, Amador and Calaveras. These regions have been producing wine since the Gold Rush days. Most of the grapes are grown on rolling hillsides at elevations over 1,200 feet above sea level—making for scenic bike rides and hikes. The El Dorado Trail boasts 28 miles of mountains and vineyard views. If you’d like to ride but want someone else to do the planning, Giro D’Oro Cycling offers weekend and five-day trips through the area, as well as daily bike rentals.

San Franciscso East & South Bays

Livermore Valley wine tasting by foot, bicycle or train
First-time visitors to Livermore are often surprised at the numerous, closely situated wineries surrounded by open space and gentle hills lined with vineyards in San Francisco’s southeast bay. Cycling routes are plentiful and winery and bike path maps are available through the Livermore Valley Winegrowers. A good walking route is on Greenville Road, where six wineries are within less than a mile, including sustainably managed McGrail Vineyards & WineryAnother good hike is on Tesla Road, where walkers can visit Wente, Page Mill, Concannon and RetzlaffNiles Canyon Railway offers a laid-back way to taste Livermore wines paired with hors d’oeuvres. The wine-tasting trains run alternate Sundays in the summer.

Hike, bike and horseback ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains
Whether your favored mode of transport is your own two feet, a bike or a horse, Fremont Older—a 763-acre open space preserve bordered by Garrod Farms Stables and home of Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards— is a great place to hike or ride. The oak-studded hillsides are home to many native animals, from bobcats, coyotes and deer to a variety of bird species. Begin the trail in the Cooper-Garrod parking lot, and end in the tasting room for wines from their Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing vineyard. Horseback riders can rent from the stables and book a tour of the chardonnay vineyard and estate.

South Central Coast

Bike tours from vines to coast in Paso Robles wine country
Named the 2013 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Paso Robles has a lot to offer the biking fan. Take a self-guided tour from City Park town square through vineyard country up to J. Lohr Winery for a tasting and return to City Park to enjoy more tasting rooms, boutique shops, galleries and wine-centric eateries. For guided tours, Paso Bike Tours offers several wine country tours, including “On a Mission,” where guests bike to the historic San Miguel Mission. Or sign up with Central Coast Outdoors for a Pacific Coast / Paso Westside guided biking tour where you’ll pedal past stretches of coastline and rolling hills and enjoy a picnic lunch at a local winery, followed by tastings at wineries, such as Lone Madrone.

Hike, bike and sip in Santa Barbara wine country
Santa Barbara, known for surfing and the Sideways movie that made this wine region famous, is also a prime hiking area. Work up a sweat on the seven-mile Reyes Peak Trail in the Los Padres National Forest. Reward yourself afterwards by checking out nearby Santa Ynez Valley wineries. Cyclists also can sign up with Santa Barbara Adventure Company for a full-day wine country bike tour. Cycle through vineyards along Foxen Canyon Trail or Santa Rita Hills, stopping at notable vintners such as Zaca Mesa Vineyards and Riverbench Vineyard & Winery. Tour includes a picnic lunch.

Inland Valleys

Hike through nature preserves near Lodi wine country
Surrounding Lodi are thousands of acres of nature preserves, a paradise to avid birders and nature lovers. The Cosumnes River Preserve is a favorite among visitors and offers year-round hiking trails and an educational visitor center. Nearby is the interactive Lodi Wine & Visitor Center, where you can walk through the demonstration vineyard, learn about winegrowing and winemaking, find out more about local wineries and taste Lodi wines.

Southern California

Hike, bike or jog through Temecula wine country
Just 90 minutes from Los Angeles and San Diego is the Temecula wine region. Several wineries offer opportunities to walk among the vines. Eco-conscious travelers may want to book a stay at The Ponte Family Estate, which offers AAA Four Diamond, sustainable accommodations. The winery and vineyard are third-party certified by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Programone of the most widely adopted programs in wine for sustainable practices. The estate has 300 acres of scenic, sustainably-farmed vineyards, and is popular for guests who want to run, walk, cycle or hike. The winery also formed a marathon team of staff, locals and guests who meet weekly to jog through the vineyards at dusk. Celebrate your efforts by sipping wines in the tasting room or at the restaurant.

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