Most of the country is mourning the end of summer right about now. But, if this past weekend was any indication, we the people of San Francisco are prepped and ready for our annual two months of impending hot weather (knock on wood since Indian Summer skipped us over last year).
There is no better way to take advantage of the sun-drenched days than a lazy float down the Russian River. But every group needs that one hero friend who can pull all the logistics together. With our help, that person can be you. We've put together a comprehensive guide to help you plan a flawless day. So read up and alert your crew: Float Trip 2017 is on.
WHAT TO BRING
- Your float. Decide if you want to rent or buy a tube (keep reading for recommendations on local shops to hit up for gear). We strongly recommend one with a mesh bottom, headrest, and cup holder for maximum relaxation. However, if you want to bring your donut or unicorn-shaped floatie, nothing wrong with that.
- Rope. Hooking your floats and coolers together is essential to keep the group in tact.
- Electric pump. Bring a pump to inflate the tubes.
- Cooler. Splurge for a floating cooler, or risk warm cider.
- Food + drink. Bring plenty of snacks and beverages—including lots of fresh water (dehydration sucks).
- River shoes. Many of the beaches are rocky so you may find these helpful.
- Waterproof speaker. For your custo playlist, of course: #FloatTrip2017
- Sunscreen + hat + sunglasses. The sun is bright and shade is practically non-existent on the river. Apply sunscreen frequently.
- Aloe. For later, when you realize you drank too much rosé and forgot to reapply that sunscreen.
TIME TO ROLL OUT
Organize carpools with friends and leave early. The Russian River stretches more than 100 miles over Sonoma and Mendocino counties. The sweet spot for your float trip will be a section around the town of Guerneville.
Have a hearty breakfast in downtown Guerneville before the adventures begin. You can also pick up some food or snacks for the trip. Some suggestions:
Located right on Main Street, this artsy cafe serves up a variety of coffee drinks (try the Mexican mocha, made with Mexican hot chocolate and espresso) and breakfast options including egg sandwiches and fresh-baked quiche. // 14045 Armstrong Woods Rd. (Guerneville), facebook.com/coffeebazaar
Higher Ground Organic Espresso
This low-key shop, filled with eclectic books and artwork, is a bit tucked away one block from Main Street but is worth seeking out. It serves up fresh organic coffee from Bean Smoke micro roaster out of Sonoma County. // 16350 3rd St. (Guerneville), facebook.com/highergroundorganicespresso
River Inn Grill
Try the Swedish pancakes with fruit filling. // 16141 Main St., facebook.com/riverinngrill
Big Bottom Market
Home of Oprah's favorite biscuits. Get them topped with gravy, mascarpone honey, or smoked salmon. // 16228 Main St. (Guerneville), bigbottommarket.com
In need of a tube or any other gear from the list above? These Guerneville stores have you covered.
King's Sport & Tackle
This spot rents canoes and kayaks but also sells anything you need for for the river, including inflatables. // 16258 Main St. (Guerneville), kingsrussianriver.com
Guerneville 5 & 10
Not only does this shop sell inner tubes, they blow them up for you. Bonus points! // 16252 Main St. ( Guerneville), guerneville5and10.com
Soar Inflatables & Russian River Adventures
Here you'll find inflatable rafts that come with a paddle if you want to go a bit further. // 20 Healdsburg Ave. (Healdsburg), russianriveradventures.com
No matter where you end up going, make sure to start early (10–10:30 am is ideal) as parking is limited. If you caravanned to the river, park one car at the end of your route so you can shuttle people back when you're done.
Steelhead Beach to Mother's Beach
This is a roughly three-hour float. Steelhead has a large parking lot that runs down close to the launch point, making it easier to drop off tubes there.
Steelhead Beach to Sunset Beach
For a bit longer float than the last, add an hour or so to your trip by exiting at Sunset Beach instead of Mother's.
Mother's Beach to Sunset Beach
If you're looking for a short-and-sweet trip, perhaps with kids, this is one is just an hour long. You can hang out at Sunset Beach post-float.
Sunset Beach to Johnson's Beach
This float is more than six hours long. Just be prepared with a lot of sunscreen and water.
Vacation Beach to Monte Rio Beach
A solid 4.5-hour float, you can launch from Vacation Beach. Once at Monte Rio, you'll find a concession stand serving up cold drinks, ice cream, and lunch options, including a burger that may be one of the best in town. Another plus: plenty of parking here for your shuttle vehicle.
Still up for more? Hit up these local spots for some food or a drink:
Russian River Brewery
For a cold brew, head to this beloved beer haven situated right along the river. The brewery can be packed on a nice day, probably because of its huge selection of beers, including cult favorite Pliny the Elder, a well-balanced, limited supply double IPA, and the Blind Pig, a full-bodied, citrus forward IPA. Pair your brew with a pizza, a sandwich or the Pliny bites—mouth-watering beer bites filled with white cheddar and jalapeños. // 725 4th St. (Santa Rosa), russianriverbrewing.com
Get scooped at this family-run business. Choose your base ice cream and then all the toppings you desire, and wait while the crew mixes it all together in a machine for a deliciously blended outcome. Try the Jimmy Carter, which layers vanilla ice cream with bananas, peanuts, and chocolate. // 16450 Main St (Guerneville), flavorsunlimited.net
Boon Eat + Drink
If you need a real meal, and you can pull off looking somewhat presentable, don't miss this trendy American bistro right on Main Street. Indulge in mac-n-cheese with truffle breadcrumbs or a crispy pork bahn mi, or enjoy lighter options like the summer panzanella with tomatoes, corn, and ricotta or blistered padrons paired with stone fruit. // 6248 Main Street (Guerneville), eatatboon.com