Discover the Adventure
Sonoma Day Trips: Glen Ellen

Sonoma Day Trips: Sonoma Plaza to Jack London State Historic Park

Glen Ellen hasn’t changed a whole lot since Jack London lived in the area, but that doesn’t mean it’s provincial or boring! Take this day trip to discover bucolic country roads, fabulous scenery, a charming backroads village, and lots of history about one of America's most-loved authors.

Confession of a native Californian: Wolf and I didn't even know Jack London lived in this area until we stumbled on this day trip - good thing we love to pick a new road and follow it, just to see what we can discover!

Remember, our day trips don't profess to tell you everything. These are mere suggestions of highlights to get you started. Follow this day trip route to see what you can discover for yourselves!

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Sonoma Day Trips: Which Route Will You Follow
to Get to Glen Ellen?

Sonoma Vineyard with Wind MachineSonoma Vineyard with Wind Machine by Suzi Rosenberg

When you’re ready to leave Sonoma Plaza and the wineries of the Valley behind, you have a choice of routes:

  • Head north on State Route 12 for a leisurely drive past Sonoma’s famous hot springs like Boyes Hot Springs (home to the Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa), Fetters Hot Springs, and Agua Caliente (which means “hot water” in Spanish).

You might even elect to stay at one of the spas and start your exploration from here instead of from Sonoma.

Soon you’ll find yourself driving through Sonoma County’s peaceful countryside, enjoying the weather, the fields of grapevines with the occasional winery chateau nestled in the middle, and the open countryside.

Watch your road signs though, as you’ll need to cut over on Madrone Road to catch Arnold Drive, which will take you on into Glen Ellen (see option 2 below).

  • Or veer from State Route 12 just outside of Sonoma, taking
    Petaluma Avenue to Arnold Drive, heading north on Arnold.

Enjoy the views as you skirt Sonoma Valley Regional Park (worthy of a visit in and of itself), then plan a stop at historic Jack London Village (the grist mill, winery, and distillery buildings date back to the mid-19th century and are some of the oldest in Sonoma County) where you’ll find Wine Country Chocolates, Grist Mill Restaurant, Raymond & Co. Cheesemonger, Olive & Vine Restaurant, and many other unique shops and restaurants nestled in a rural setting between the road and Sonoma Creek.

Discover the Backroads Village of Glen Ellen

Whichever route you choose, continue north to the little village of Glen Ellen, but don’t drive on into town too quickly – you absolutely have to stop at the Glen Ellen Village Market first, for oh so many reasons!

First of all, you’re going to need supplies for your picnic lunch! There’s no more perfect place to pick up lunch than this market!

But even if you’ve already eaten, or you packed your lunch before leaving Sonoma, Glen Ellen Village Market is a must-see!

Inside what looks like a typical village market (although it might seem a bit larger than most - because it is!), you’ll find the most amazing display of hot, ready-to-eat entrees for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; handmade deli sandwiches; a 30-foot salad bar for creating your own masterpiece or choosing from 20 homemade prepared salads; over 500 varieties of cheeses and almost as many types of olives; a bakery; gifts and flowers; produce; meats; seafood; and wines.

After browsing the market to your heart’s content, take some time to stroll around Glen Ellen and enjoy the little shops, the Gaige House Inn (with its granite soaking tubs), the Saloon at Jack London Lodge, the Wolf House Restaurant (I see a theme developing here!), Garden Court Café and Bakery. You’ll find surprisingly up-scale services (both for lodging and for dining) in this bucolic setting with Sonoma Creek running through!

If you’re in the mood for some more wineries, there are several in Glen Ellen, including Benziger, Arrowood, B.R. Cohn, Valley of the Moon, Imagery Estates, and Wellington. And if you know someone who knows someone, there are private boutique wineries like Glen Lyon that you might be able to tour by appointment!

Sonoma Day Trips: Next Comes Jack London State Historic Park

Hiking Jack London SHPHiking Jack London SHP by Wolf Rosenberg

Next stop, Jack London State Historic Park – worthy of a visit even
if Jack London had not lived, loved, and worked here!

"The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame.

"Across Sonoma Mountain wisps of sea fog are stealing. The afternoon sun smoulders in the drowsy sky.

"I have everything to make me glad I am alive. I am filled with dreams and mysteries.

"I am all sun and air and sparkle. I am vitalized, organic." ~ Jack London

Anyone who visits Jack London's Beauty Ranch has to share the great writer's enthusiasm for the shaded trails, rolling hills, forests, and meadows - the park's beautiful grounds are ideal for hiking, horseback riding, and picnics.

Spend time exploring the House of Happy Walls, a small home built by London’s wife Charmian, which is now a museum and memorial to her beloved husband and his work.

Jack London's GravesiteJack London's Gravesite by Suzi Rosenberg

Pay your respects at Jack and Charmian London’s grave sites.

Walk the ruins of Jack London’s dream home, Wolf House, which – sadly – burned to the bare walls before he was ever able to live in it.

Explore the orchards, gardens, and buildings that remain to remind us of London’s Beauty Ranch, where the great man farmed, ranched, and kept his prized horses, and where he wrote most of his later novels and stories.

You will be delighted to find yourself roaming the gentle hills through mixed forests of oaks, madrones, buckeye, Douglas fir, Coastal Redwoods, ferns, manzanita, and fields of Indian warrior, hound’s tongue, buttercups, poppies, and a dozen other wildflowers.

Take your time to enjoy the park to its fullest before heading back toward civilization – imagine what life must have been like for Jack and Charmian London, living and working in this beautiful, but isolated setting, dreaming their dreams and bringing them to life – it’s the perfect end to a perfect day!

For more about Sonoma, see the links in the right column.

Keep checking here for more Sonoma County Day Trips, such as these:

  • Russian River Day Trip
    Follow the Russian River to the Pacific Ocean
  • Sonoma County Movie Locations Day Trip
    American Graffiti, The Birds...
  • Take an African Safari Day Trip
    One Insider Secret, coming up...

For day trips in other parts of Northern California, check out these links:

  • Big Sur Day Trips
    Whether we head north, south, or east, we discover fun things to do within a day's drive of Big Sur.
  • Chico Day Trips
    Relive the Gold Rush or circumvent the smallest mountain range in the world.

Please continue your exploration of what Northern California has to offer by using the Nav Bars in the left and right columns or by using the links at the bottom of the page.

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