Happy Trails to You: The Food-Focused Journeys You Must Take in Northern California
Over the years a number of food-centric trails have sprung up in the Northern California area. In addition to the well-traveled “trails” of the wine country in Sonoma, Napa and Monterey, there’s a new crop of trails that range from scoops of ice cream to sips of local craft beers. In short, there are plenty of excuses to indulge your taste buds.
Because the locations of farms and producers on trails can be far apart, we suggest you have a plan before embarking on your adventure. Do your homework and make full use of the resources available on each of the websites listed to leave as much time as possible for indulging in the bounty of local produce, brews and other tasty temptations. In some cases, it may be wise to call ahead to make sure that the location you plan to open has seasonal hours and/or if reservations are needed before visiting.
Here are a few of our favorites:
California Cheese Trail
Discover rich and tasty cheese making traditions on the California Cheese Trail. Seven driving tours are among the itineraries posted on the website. They include Sonoma, Central Coast, Central Valley, Marin County, North Coast, Southern California and north of Sacramento/Sierras. Say cheese! www.cheesetrail.org
Sonoma Farm Trails
In 1973 a group of forward-thinking famers in Sonoma County created a map and guide for local agriculture and encouraged visitors to meet local farmers and learn more about the origins of their food. Today there are more than 165 Sonoma County Farm Trails members who welcome the public to their farms and ranches throughout Sonoma County. And you can always find an array of local produce and food products at the weekly farmers’ markets held countywide. www.farmtrails.org
Concord Beer Trail
Visit Concord has put together a three-day itinerary that includes visits to local parks and neighborhoods. Popular taprooms and revered beer makers who are contributing to the city’s burgeoning beer scene are also included in the itinerary. Whether you’re an amateur beer drinker or an aficionado of local brews, you will have your chance to learn about the best suds of Concord—all you need to do is follow the trail! www.visitconcordca.com
Oakland Ale Trail
Oakland’s brewers are rooted in the spirit of the city’s earliest manufacturers, but this new breed of makers is developing flavor and style combinations that are making them stand out in the increasingly crowded world of American craft beer. The Oakland Ale Trail, developed by Visit Oakland in collaboration with a variety of partners from Oakland’s craft beer industry, celebrates the strength of the Oakland’s craft beer community. Grab your passport and go! Visit all of Oakland's brewery taprooms and earn a free Oakland Ale Trail branded growler. www.visitoakland.com
Oakland Urban Wine Trail
Like everything else in Oakland, the wine scene is a little different. Oakland’s urban wineries are housed in renovated warehouse spaces, but the wine quality is second to none. Being so close to California wine country doesn’t hurt either; grapes are sourced from all over the state. Head out on Oakland’s Urban Wine Trail, stopping along the way to explore everything Oakland has to offer. The trail is walkable and easily accessible from San Francisco by ferry, BART and Amtrak which has a depot in nearby Jack London Square.
Tri-Valley Ice Cream Trail
The Tri-Valley, located in the East Bay of San Francisco's Bay Area, is not just home to a great wine and beer scene. There's also the Tri-Valley Ice Cream Trail for fans of the frozen treat, featuring 14 ice cream or gelato shops across the region. It's the only ice cream trail in the Bay Area. www.visittrivalley.com
Tri-Valley Beer Trail
There are many microbreweries and brewpubs to choose from in the Tri-Valley area, 21 of which can be found on the Tri-Valley Beer Trail. Download and print a Tri-Valley Beer Trail Passport that provides a list of locations along with a map. Be sure to get “stamps” on your Passport from the places you visit. Collect at least 10 stamps and you will be eligible for a free t-shirt or pint glass.
Tri-Valley Wine Trail
Wine tasting in Livermore's wine country is a must-do on many visitors' lists while in the San Francisco area. The laid-back and approachable atmosphere in the East Bay's Tri-Valley region, just 30 miles east of San Francisco, highlights the welcoming, warm, and relaxing experience of local California. The first grapes planted in the 1840s and the region occupies a prominent position in California wine history. With more than 55 wineries in close proximity to each other, it's easy to plot out stops and make a day of tasting, enjoying the weather, and seeing beautiful countryside with this handy map.
Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail
Santa Clara is certainly known for Levi’s Stadium where the San Francisco 49ers play football and California’s Great America theme park. Santa Clara is also home to some 30 wineries of every persuasion, and in 2014 a 28-mile trail, the Santa Clara Wine Trail, was created to guide motorists to more than 25 local wineries. Visit www.santaclarawines.com for more information about the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail and a trail map. www.santaclara.org
Now that we’ve piqued your appetite, check out these food-related walking tours of San Francisco and nearby cities.