San Francisco's North Bay Area

A guide to Marin and Sonoma counties.

Coleman Valley Road

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Head west on this narrow country road through picturesque old farmsteads, rolling pastures and forest canopies, and you will thoroughly enjoy the ride — until you get within two miles of the coast. That's where it will knock your socks off.


But before you get to that grand finale, start by exploring the small town of Occidental, where famous creative types have historically gravitated to. Head out of town by turning west at the central stop sign. Within a few forested residential miles, you'll want to turn right to stay on Coleman Valley Road. If you miss it, you'll find yourself continuing your joyride on Joy Road. There could be worse things.

When you make the turn, a sign warns you that RVs and trailers are not recommended for the next 8 miles. Heed the warning. There are places where the trees form low-ceilinged tunnels, where the road narrows to the width of a Yugo, and where the switchbacks are as tight as Lombard Street.

There's not much traffic here, but when there is, it tends to sneak up on you, so don't go too fast. The road itself is pretty good, but two-wheelers may appreciate knowing that there are cattle guards and occasional minor pot holes to negotiate.


As the road approaches the coast,  the cattle fences and power lines completely disappear and groups of lumbering cattle are likely to block your way. Your dog will love this part. Please keep him inside the car.


The road ends with a line of weather-beaten Eucalyptus trees leading to coastal Route One. Turn in either direction and within a minute there will be a place to pull over and enjoy the ocean view. I like to drive a couple miles north to Duncan's Landing for a tailgate picnic with goods I picked up in Freestone.


I wouldn't suggest driving Coleman Road westward at sunset, as the setting sun will blind you and you'll miss everything. But here's a sunset picture that was taken at the pullout on Route One just north of Coleman Valley Road, and it's just so beautiful to me, I had to include it: