To my mind, there’s no better way to spend a late summer day than to take a bike ride in Wine Country. This loop up and around Sonoma Mountain can done in as little as two hours or extended in to a day long excursion. Our map shows two start and end points, one in the tiny burg of Glen Ellen, the other in more populous town of Sonoma, both charming and worthy of exploration. Starting at the latter provides you a longer warm up with a 7.5 mile ride up to Glen Ellen (for a 40 mile ride); if you start in Jack London’s adopted town (the ruins of his ill-fated Wolf House are in a State Park nearby), the loop portion around the mountain will be a tad less than 25 miles.
The Sonoma Plaza makes for a great starting point, especially for an early morning departure (think parking place on the square) and provides ample opportunity for post-ride ambling, wine-tasting, coffee, bakery or dining activities (the insatiable amongst you can do all). Saddle up and head west at the north end of the square on W. Spain St. for four blocks then head north with a right turn on 5th St. West. Proceed nearly to the end and make a left turn onto Verano Ave., taking care as you cross busy Sonoma Hwy (Route 12) at the stop light and the continue on West Verano until you up meet up with Arnold Drive. Here you’ll turn to the north for a straight shot up to Glen Ellen.
The Village Market in Glen Ellen is a great place to stop and fuel up on bakery items and Peet’s coffee (you can also pre-order your lunch for pickup later). At the market Arnold Drive makes a dog-leg right–left and 300 feet later you’ll make a left turn onto Warm Springs Rd. to begin the climb up Sonoma Mtn. In one mile take a left on Sonoma Mtn. Rd. and begin your ascent. After two miles (all mileage points cited are from Glen Ellen) you’ll reach the steepest climb of the ride, briefly seeing 13% on this Strava category 3-rated segment, four and half miles on will see you at the top and the you’ll begin a fast descent towards Petaluma. At six and miles you’ll come to a T-intersection, where you’ll go left on Pressley Road (Sonoma Mtn. Rd. continues to right and could be taken if you wanted to shave some miles off the loop – but you don’t, right?). The Pressley Rd. climb is a quick 7x7 (that’s 7% and .7 mile) before you begin some rapid down hilling that will take you down to the east side or Petaluma – use caution here as the road is uneven in places, and shaded in others. As you get into flats the road makes a name change to Roberts Ranch and ends with a hard right to the Petaluma Hill Rd.
If you’re riding in a group, this is a superb, wide-shouldered road to form a tight and fast paceline as you head north for 2.5 miles before making a right up Crane Canyon Road, which has a few steep bumps to bring your speed down as you resume climbing, making a 600-foot ascent followed by another fast descent to the Bennett Valley Road, 3.5 miles later. A right turn here points us to the last climb of the day, a sweet and easy, 324-foot category 4 up to the ridge where we can begin to really contemplate the sumptuous lunch that awaits a mere five miles ahead. You’ll soon intersect with the earlier traversed Warm Springs road for your return to Glen Ellen. Those who started in Sonoma can reverse the first seven plus miles and head towards the Sonoma Plaza the way you came.
Driving directions: No matter what Google maps may say, you’ll want to leave (if you’re headed to San Francisco) via Arnold Drive from either Glen Ellen or Sonoma. On weekends, traffic can back up for miles towards the east on Hwy. 12/121 at the intersection with Hwy. 116 at Fremont and Arnold.