About Marin County and the Russian River Valley
The starting points for reaching the best places to visit in this area of California is San Francisco because you can get a lasting impression of natural California without going more than a two-hour drive of the city. As such, it is ideal for anyone based in the city with only a few days to spare, but also links neatly with the explorations of the Mendocino Coast, and of the Napa and Sonoma valleys.
Visible across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, the first stop is the rugged Marin Headlands, penetrated by easy (and hard) hiking trails and a couple of roads. It’s worth a day exploring the headlands; before crossing eastwards to the enticing bay side town of Sausalito – pick one of its romantic hillside hotels to pass the night.
In Sausalito you can admire the sight of San Francisco emerging from the morning fog. From here you can weave inland through the folds of the Marin hills, and insular villages such as Mill Valley, before rising into Mount Tamalpais State Park for some spectacular scenery and views.
Then, descend to the coast, and choose one of the tiny Point Reyes area settlements to rest and relax in true Californian>
From Guerneville, it is simple to strike east to the Sonoma Valley, or back to the coast to continue north. If you’re returning to San Francisco, we recommend that you do so via the hillside communities of Fairfax and San Anselmo, and have a final meal at the peninsula town of Tiburon.
While exploring this area, accommodation and eating are subject to local eccentricities, especially so in the pint-sized settlements around Point Reyes, where dairy farmers are becoming adept bed-and-breakfast hosts and almost every eatery features local oysters. Avoid crowds and hiked-up prices by visiting midweek; and do so outside winter, when gales and constant fogs heighten the natural drama but don’t make for comfortable touring.