Camping Along the Russian River

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  • on MAY 26, 2022
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Camping Along the Russian River

By Julia Chang May 26, 2022

The Russian River is a favorite Northern California stop for those vacationing as well as staycationing. Located a short drive from the city of San Francisco, the river winds scenically through Wine Country before flowing out into the Pacific Ocean. Prepare for a different type of Wine Country experience, by exploring the majestic redwoods, scenic coastline campgrounds, river adventures, and the incredible dining and wineries alongside the Russian River.

Where to Camp

Photo courtesy of California State Parks

This may not be the type of accomodation that most visitors think of when visiting Wine Country. But for those who want to experience nature at its most unaltered, there’s no better way than by snagging a quiet bit of campground along the scenic riverbed. Duncans Mills Camp Club offers private RV camping. You must be a club member or a club member’s guest, but with 37 private acres directly on the Russian River to choose from, a membership might be well worth it (especially with the host of amenities for you to enjoy). Still unsure? You can try out the membership for 3 days and 2 nights for just $70.

If that’s not your cup of tea, check out River Bend Resort, which has an assortment of cabins, RVs, luxury tents, and tent sites. This family-friendly campground is located right alongside the Russian River, perfect for calm river activities such as tubing or simply laying out to catch some rays. For the grownups who want to throw in a little wine tasting action, there are several world-renowned wineries just a short drive away.

Wright’s Beach Campground also offers 27 campsites located adjacent to the beach, with picnic tables, fire rings, and a paved parking spur for your vehicle. Aside from the prime location and a view of the gorgeous, rugged Sonoma Coast, the best part (in our opinion, at least) about this slice of nature is that your dogs are allowed.

Last but not least, Schoolhouse Canyon Park is a quiet, tent-only campground nestled in a redwood grove just outside of Guerneville. This family-owned spot has been in continuous operation since the 1960s, and maintains a nostalgic appeal for families looking to enjoy the great outdoors like the good old days. Reservations aren’t required, but are recommended for summer weekends.

Where to Glamp

Boon Hotel + Spa
Photo courtesy of Facebook: Boon Hotel + Spa

Ahh, glamorous camping. When you want less pack-in and pack-out, and more sleeping pack in luxury, but still want to be surrounded by nature, check out Boon Hotel + Spa. While there are actual rooms available at this modern boutique hotel in the Russian River Valley, they also offer a few seasonal glamping tents, allowing “campers” to enjoy the same luxuries as the rest of the guests. Boasting a 24 hour “honor bar,” a solar-heated saline pool, and an on-site spa, this zen woodland retreat is an adult-focused property, perfect for a couples’ retreat or an extended date-night for parentals.

For a more homey (but no less luxurious) stay, look into Russian River Vacation Homes, for a wide variety of vacation rentals. No matter if you’re looking to house two people or 28, you can choose from posh estates, creek-front retreats, redwood-forested properties, hilltop getaways, or spacious riverfront homes. You can even search by pet-friendly rentals.

For something a little less conventional, AutoCamp might be more your speed. Inspired by the wanderlust of camping and the great American road trip, this Airstream-heaven campground features modern and luxurious accommodations in a grove of Sonoma redwoods. Kayak the Russian River; stock up on local wine, beer, snacks, and essentials at the camp canteen; gather ’round fire pit lounges or bike to downtown Guerneville; whatever activity you choose, you can do so knowing you’ll be laying your head down to rest in refinement that night.

Things to Do

Getaway Adventures
Photo courtesy of Getaway Adventures

No matter where you stay, nothing should distract you from the natural beauty that abounds all along the Russian River. It’s arguably one of the most peaceful places in Northern California, making it an easy spot to sit back and enjoy the soothing sounds of nature for hours on end. However, when you want to get your blood flowing, be sure to check out one of the outdoor activities offered by Getaway Adventures. This premiere adventure tour operator offers guided bike, kayak, and hiking tours throughout the Sonoma region and along the Russian River (and can accommodate all levels and abilities).

Stroll through the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, where you’ll find groves and groves of stately and magnificent coast redwoods. There are plenty of self-guided nature trails (the Pioneer Nature Trail is one of the most popular) and picnic facilities, where you can marvel at these silent giants — some of which are over 2,000 years old and can tower over 350 feet.

Once you’ve had your fill of gazing upward, try the Sunset Beach River Park, which offers easy access to the Russian River and is perfect for swimming, paddling, picnicking, fishing, and bird-watching.

Where to Drink

Korbel Champagne Cellars
Photo courtesy of Korbel Champagne Cellars

This is the beauty of camping in Wine Country — just because you’re sleeping in the great outdoors doesn’t mean you can’t also visit a fine winery or two. Korbel Champagne Cellars is an easy stop if you’re camping at River Bend Resort, and who doesn’t want a little bubbly to sip while enjoying nature’s views? Enjoy a complimentary tasting, or grab some sandwiches from the on-site Delicatessen to savor with a glass.

At J Vineyards, you’ll find a stylish and modern winery known for their varietal and sparkling wines that represent the terroir of the Russian River Valley. For a gourmet bite to go with the bubbly, visit The Bubble Room at J Vineyards, one of the first educational wine and food pairing programs in Sonoma County.

Located just across the way is Rodney Strong Vineyards, which offers a variety of wine flights and food pairings. Make an appointment to enjoy the wines in the remodeled tasting room or out on the terrace or lawn, and accompany your tasting with cheese and charcuterie or a boxed lunch.

Where to Eat

Nimble & Finn's
Photo courtesy of Nimble & Finn's

Looking to take a break from camping fare, and want to exchange the canned goods for something a little more upscale? Then definitely check out the aforementioned The Bubble Room at J Vineyards, where a five-course meal inspired by the bounty of Sonoma County awaits.

You can also venture north to experience the booming culinary scene of Healdsburg, home to the Three Michelin-starred SingleThread to local favorites like Valette and Barndiva.

Or skip the fine dining experience completely, and pick up some sandwiches (and wine, always wine) from Guerneville’s Big Bottom Market. It’s a great place to stop mid-adventure and load up on some picnic supplies and a cup of joe. The biscuits and gravy is also a mouthwatering reason to stop by.

For those hot summer days, visit Nimble & Finn’s for ice cream. With an impressive, innovative flavor list that changes with the seasons (goodies like Strawberry Buttermilk, Maple Bourbon Bacon Brittle, Coriander, Icebox Cake, Lavender Honeycomb… we’re salivating a little bit over here), there’s something to scratch everyone’s ice cream itch.