When I was a kid, I just thought of Cazadero as another podunk town in Sonoma. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I began to appreciate the spectacular motorcycle roads it has been keeping secret for many years. The locals are friendly and enjoy sharing the local lore. It’s the kind of place where, like at Cheers, everybody knows your name.
When heading west on Highway 116 just past Monte Rio, there’s one, and only one, sign pointing you to Cazadero. Turn right to find yourself rolling gracefully along the two-lane road, dipping your bike from side to side as it meanders through the redwoods.
Feeling the chill? Of course you are. The ocean is just over the hill and the redwoods are doing their duty providing you with much-needed shade on those warm summer days. The tiered houses of the locals dot the roadside as you follow the creek north to town. As the trees begin to part, the sun finds its way back to you, pointing out the fire station and Raymond’s Bakery on the right and the General Store on your left. Besides the post office and hardware store, that’s pretty much the town of Cazadero.
I wasn’t two seconds off the bike when a pleasant lady by the name of Stacy introduced herself and asked where I was from. After a brief chat, I found out that she’d been in Cazadero over 30 years and she “can’t understand why more people don’t come to this town.” Honestly, neither can I. It truly is a hidden treasure for riders.
Before taking off for your day of riding, stop at the Cazadero General Store for your provisions. From water to sandwiches, fruit to chips, they have you covered. Back on the bike and with a twist of the throttle, it’s off to ride the narrow two-lane road. The Cazadero Highway will quickly come to a V. You can’t go wrong with either road.
Taking Fort Ross Road to the left, you will eventually end up in Fort Ross and on Highway 1 at the coast. You can follow Highway 1 back south, finding yourself back on Highway 116. This stretch of Highway 1 has by far some of the most breathtaking views of the northern coastline. The turns are great in numbers, but so are the cars. It’s a ride enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
Taking King Ridge Road on your right will follow the inland skyline. You will meander along the tops of the hillsides, eventually finding yourself at another V. Take Sewell Road on your right and continue your twisty ride until you eventually meet up with Skaggs Springs Road. Trust me, the full Skaggs Springs Road ride is to be earmarked for another day.
There is rarely a car on these Sonoma County back roads and miles and miles of vast open space with views like no other. It’s one of those rides where you forget how you got from Point A to Point B, certain that your bike is truly an extension of yourself. But eventually, the roads come to an end. Continue on and head to the coast or back to civilization? Hey, it’s your day! Make of it what you want.
Editors Note: Check out Cindi Servantes’ story on this same area. Sandy and Cindi found Cazadero, both longtime locals, found the place at about the same time, but have much different experiences, riding styles, and routes.
WHERE TO STAY
Cazadero does have one place to stay, the CazSonoma Inn. It’s open from May to Thanksgiving and serves dinner and Sunday brunch. Guerneville has several hotels, but my personal favorites are Dawn Ranch Lodge and Fern Grove Cottages.
Dawn Ranch Lodge, formerly Fife’s, has over a hundred years of history. Ask for the owner, Michael, and he can give you all the details of the property. It has a wonderful restaurant, Agriculture, and the menu features produce directly from Michael’s organic garden. It’s also the perfect locale for an outdoor wedding.
Fern Grove Cottages is nestled against the hillside and surrounded by lush gardens. The owner, Margaret, is a former president of the Russian River Chamber of Commerce and can point you in the direction of most anything you request. She’s also quite knowledgeable on the local wineries and restaurants.