How to Make the Most of Tough Mudder Norcal: Exploring San Francisco & Sonoma

By Jade de la Rosa | April 4, 2017


Sonoma might be the capital of Wine Country, California, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be getting downright muddy at Tough Mudder NorCal. Start your weekend with a view at the Sonoma Raceway, and while the grassy knolls, green rolling hills, and big blue skies might make your event like a walk in the park, Tough Mudder is anything but. Expect mud, mud, and more mud. The upside? You’re in wine country and only one hour from the vibrant, foodie city of San Fransisco. Get ready to work hard–then play hard, too. Here’s how.

Northern California has no shortage of good food, and whether you’re traveling to nearby San Fransisco or staying in wine country, you’re bound to be satisfied. For a fun culinary experience, head to San Fransisco’s Ferry Building. Located at the foot of popular Market Street and featuring the iconic clock tower, the Ferry Building hosts a farmer’s market three days each week. Sample creamy cheeses at Achadinha Cheese Company and fresh loaves of sourdough bread at Acme Bread, or give your immune system a boost with Farmhouse Culture’s sauerkraut. Still hungry? For a twist on deli food, try Delica, a Japanese-style deli that focuses on sozai, small dishes like seaweed salad and salmon spring rolls to make up a full lunch or dinner meal. Feeling like seafood? Try Hog Island Oyster Company to down Hog Island sweetwaters or plump kumamoto oysters.

While perusing farmer’s markets are fun, your feet just might be tired after running a challenging 12 miles at Tough Mudder NorCal. For a tasty–and satisfying–breakfast, head to Plow, a cozy breakfast and lunch spot serving meals like Biscuits and Gravy, Chia Seed Pudding, and The Plow–a filling plate of eggs, house made pork sausage patties, bacon, lemon ricotta pancakes and crispy potatoes.

For a quick snack, head to the popular Tartine Bakery & Cafe for sweet treats like buttermilk scones, banana cream tarts, Mexican wedding walnut cookies, or try a savory hot pressed sandwich.

Looking to celebrate post-event? John’s Grill, a local secret, (though many celebrities are rumored to frequent the establishment, built in 1908) is your classic steak and seafood restaurant. Anything on their menu, which includes escargot in a garlic cream sauce, chicken jerusalem (featured in Gourmet Magazine), and featured steaks like John’s Steak, a thick, bone-in New York steak, is traditional and delicious.

If staying in Sonoma, check out the girl & the fig for country food with a French twist. Enjoy cheese spreads and fresh salads made with local ingredients on their patio. Or, for a vegan friendly option, try Peter Lowell’s, an organic cafe that uses sustainable, local ingredients with much of their summer produce coming from their own 2-acre farm. Three words: order their macrobowl.

Think Sonoma County means visiting wineries and sampling wines all day? Think again. Get your adrenaline pumping by hang gliding or paragliding with Sonoma Wings over the wineries. Or try your hand at kayaking the Russian River. Several companies, like SUP Odyssey, promise a trip that will have you paddleboarding next to local flora and fauna–all under the canopy of giant redwood trees. Sonoma has 52 regional and state parks in the county, so whether you want to hike to the top of Taylor Mountain, spot one of the 200 birds species seen at Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail, or cycle the Rails to Trails, a 28-mile trip that begins in Santa Rosa and ends in Forestville.

Sticking to San Fransisco? There’s activities inside the city, too. Head to Golden Gate Park to take an iconic post-race photo that’s represents your Tough Mudder NorCal weekend. If you choose to bike or walk over the Golden Gate Bridge, you can avoid a toll fee, too.

For a spectacular view, hike to the top of Grizzly Peak so named for the grizzly bears that once inhabited the area. (Don’t worry–the last one was unfortunately spotted in the late 1860s.) Lands End offers miles of hikes to jog, walk, or simply enjoy a picnic with views to match.

Looking for a fascinating excursion? Head to Alcatraz Island, home to the federal penitentiary with the same name. For a strenuous, though worthwhile, tour, try the new “Behind the Scenes.” You’ll take a 2 hour guided tour through the prison, in addition to seeing “off the beaten track” sights. Then, take a 45-minute award-winning Alcatraz Cell House Audio tour before getting the chance to see Alcatraz at night–which, as you might expect, can be a hair-raising experience. Bonus: round-trip ferry transportation is included in the tickets.

For any and all of these activities, Merrell has you covered. Check out their new 2017 line for the best gear around.

The centrally located Orchard Garden HoteI is as eco-friendly as they come. Heralded as San Fransisco’s first-ever LEED certified hotel, this boutique stay has all of the charm without any of the toxic detergents, air-fresheners, and even inks. Roots Restaurant, located in the hotel, is as good as they get for breakfast, too.

For a hip, trendier experience, stay at the Phoenix Hotel  in San Fransisco’s Tenderloin region. Bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and The Killers regularly crash at the Phoenix, so don’t we surprised if you hear a familiar tune coming from someone humming in the outdoor, heated pool.

For budget-friendly travel in several convenient locations, San Fransisco Hostels offers clean, safe rooms downtown, in city center, or along Fisherman’s Wharf. All three locations offer a complimentary continental breakfast, too, in addition to free wi-fi and luggage/bike storage.

For lodging close to Tough Mudder Norcal, check out these options.