Cycling Northern California: Experience Wine Country on Two Wheels
Whether you’re visiting the Napa Valley, the Sonoma Coast, or venturing north to Lake Country and Mendocino, Northern California has some spectacular regions you can explore on your bike. With year-round cycling weather, stunning vistas, peaceful mountain roads, and beautiful scenery at every turn, you can’t go wrong in any of these areas.
If you’re looking for an adventurous way to visit the Napa Valley, or simply looking for stunning vistas to enjoy on your bike, northern California’s wine country has it all. From cruisey flat valley floors to steep mountain climbs, the riding is endless; the area is chalked full of cycling adventures. These four options focus on some of our favorites from the Napa Valley region and surrounding mountains.
- Napa Valley Vine Trail: up to 25 miles
This short out and back is great for the novice cycler looking to enjoy the beauty of Napa and maybe partake in some wine tastings along the way. It runs from Napa to Yountville, winding through the towns and the vines. Maintained by a local non-profit, the 12.5-mile Vine Trail is open to cyclists, pedestrians, and dogs. This peaceful pathway is meant for leisurely rides, so keep that in mind if you are looking for something a bit more adventurous.
- Napa Valley Loop: 60 miles (or less depending on your mood!)
This loop is a great valley floor ride that runs all the way to the north end and can be done in either direction. It’s relatively flat and cruisey the whole way. The ride will take you along the Silverado Trail on the east side and along Highway 29 on the west side. There are plenty of opportunities for short or long stops throughout, including Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Calistoga is the halfway point if you are doing the whole loop and a great place for lunch or a quick stop!
Note: this ride can be shortened at any junction that connects Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. Don’t feel like you have to complete the full loop if you’re looking for something shorter.
- Howell Mountain and Lake Barryessa Loop: 57 miles
Looking for a good grind with some climbs and incredible scenery? This is the ride for you. There are all kinds of variations on this ride, but our personal favorite is Highway 128 and Pope Canyon Road loop (linked above). Again, this loop can be done in either direction. If you prefer to get a big climb in early, start with Pope Valley Road and finish on 128. If you want to break up the climbing a bit, with a slightly less intense climb near the end, follow the linked route provided. Regardless of which direction you take, you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful winding mountain roads of Howell Mountain and the west shoreline of Lake Barryessa. Worth every minute of pain!
Note: if you like the sounds of this ride, but maybe you’re looking for something a little less intense, there are plenty of variations along the route that are worth the ride. Two beautiful out-and-back options would be Lake Hennessey along Highway 128 or a visit to the college town of Angwin along Pope Valley Road.
- Spring Mountain Road Climb: 11 miles
If you need something quick and tough, this is the climb for you. 2000 feet of elevation gain over 5.6 miles. You can start this ride from any point you like depending on the distance you want to cover—the link starts in St. Helena, but a warmup might be in order before you start the climb. This out-and-back is not for the faint-hearted, but the winding mountain roads are spectacular and most of the ride is protected from the summer sun. If you’re up for a challenge, it’s well worth it!
- Tour of Napa Valley “Race”: 30, 68 or 100 miles
This locally hosted event has been around for almost 50 years now and attracts riders from all over the country. It’s known for incredibly scenic rides, fantastic food, and live music. If a recreational race is the excuse you need to get on your bike, be sure to check it out!
These options are only a few of the many excellent cycling routes throughout the Napa Valley. Don’t be afraid to just get on your bike and start riding. Remember to stay hydrated, apply sunscreen, and follow local guidelines for a safe and memorable outdoor adventure!
Check out these links for more information on visiting the Napa Valley: