The Ultimate Sunday Bike Ride: West Petaluma


This ride can be a varied experience depending on your approach and riding goals, whether you are training or seeking a laid back recreational outing. It provides enough vertical to a make it challenging if you up the pace but it’s the lack of vehicular traffic and the sublime beauty of Sonoma dairy farms that make this a delightful countryside tour regardless of your cycling aspirations.

The 52 mile figure eight ride begins and ends in downtown Petaluma where pre or post ride eats are plentiful.  Restrooms are available in Walnut Park (D Street and South Petaluma Blvd.) so this makes a good starting point. Head northwest on 4th St. for 2 blocks, then go left on Western Ave. and proceed one and half miles where it becomes Spring Hill Road. Note the Chilleno Valley Rd. on left – this is your return route. Spring Hill is the first of three climbs (all category 4) on the ride, with a couple of brief sections at eight percent. Once up top Spring Hill the views are stunning, looking left you’ll see Laguna Lake in the Chilleno Valley below. At approximately 9 miles you’ll intersect with Bodega Ave. turn left, then immediately turn left again onto Tomales Rd. and head west (entering Marin County and again passing the Chilleno Valley Rd. on the left). There is a short, but steep descent just past the shooting range at Alexander Rd. and three miles later you’ll turn right on Shoreline Hwy (Hwy. 1) and roll into the town of Tomales where a stop at the bakery is almost mandatory.

At the bakery, ride west onto Dillon Beach Rd. and meander towards the 2nd climb, which will reward your efforts with spectacular views of Tomales Bay and Pt. Reyes beyond.  At the fork, bear right on Valley Ford Franklin School Rd. for a fast descent that eventually leads the last climb before reaching Marsh Rd. near Valley Ford at mile 25 Turn left onto Middle Rd. and a mile later you reach Hwy. 1. Valley Ford is a quarter mile to the left and has a couple of dining opportunities, Dinuccis and Rocker Oysterfellers, should the bakery stop in Tomales not provided enough sustenance. (Should you want to avoid the two climbs for an easier ride, turn right on Middle Rd. a mile out of Tomales and ride to Marsh Rd. where you’ll rejoin the main route).

Next, head east on Shoreline Hwy. and continue straight (mile 27.1) on Valley Ford Rd. when Hwy. 1 turns south. This is a great opportunity for some fast pacelining if you’re riding in a group as the shoulder is wide and the wind (usually) is at your back. Seven miles later you’ll be back at the intersection with Tomales Rd. where you’ll turn right and head towards the return route thorough the bucolic Chilleno Valley .8 miles down the road. On weekdays this can be one of the quietest places to ride in Sonoma or Marin. At mile 47 take a left at the T just past the tiny one-room Laguna School, then proceed to the right turn at Western Ave. for the return into Petaluma.

The author and have published this bike ride route as a general guide to the route. Cyclists should exercise caution when riding a specified circuit for the first time as traffic, road conditions and weather may vary from that described according to time of day, day of the week and season of the year.