Mark Read

Russian River Area

Lesser-known western Sonoma County was formerly famous for its apple farms and vacation cottages. Lately vineyards are replacing orchards and the Russian River has taken its place among California’s important wine appellations, especially for cold water grapes like Pinot Noir.

'The River,' as locals call it, has long been a summer-weekend destination for Northern Californians who come to canoe, wander country lanes, taste wine, hike redwood forests and live at a lazy pace. In winter the river floods, and nobody’s here.

The Russian River begins in the mountains north of Ukiah, in Mendocino County, but the most visited sections lie southwest of Healdsburg, where the river cuts a serpentine course toward the sea.

The towns of this area are as diverse as the landscape. Young, hip and growing, the county seat of Santa Rosa offers urban chic, while out-west towns like Sebastopol retain much of their downhome appeal.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Russian River Area.