Take a Drive in Lake County, Part 1: Middletown to Kelseyville Riviera

It’s springtime; the birds are back and busy building nests, the wildflowers are blooming, and the weather’s getting warm. There’s no better time to take a road trip around Lake County. If you’ve got a free day, get in the car and enjoy some of the county’s most beautiful, unique, and tasty places.

Part one wanders from Middletown, up and over Cobb, until it winds up in the Kelseyville Riviera, edged up against the side of Mt. Konocti. Come take a ride with us.

PART 1: Middletown

Named because it was the mid-point on the stage run from Calistoga to Lower Lake, Middletown’s still the first place many people see as they enter Lake County. It’s also the perfect place to begin the road trip. While you’re there, be sure to take some time to visit the MAC, also known as the Middletown Art Center. It’s home to regularly rotating exhibitions that feature some of the region’s best artists. And, if you time it right, you can take a class from one of their many skilled teachers and learn something new. Before heading out of town, do some shopping at Middletown Florist and Gifts and Koontz Mercantile, then grab a bite to eat at Buddha Thai, Los Compas Taqueria, The Cowpoke Café, or La Parilla. All serve great food.

PART 2: Middletown to Cobb

From the MAC, head up Highway 175 to the mountains. You’ll wind through the Collayomi Valley, the steep slopes of Cobb Mountain dead ahead. To your left, you’ll see steam rising from the power plants of The Geysers, the world’s largest geothermal facility. Soon you’ll begin to climb, eventually reaching nearly 3,000 feet in elevation. The oak trees give way to pines, and the temperature drops. As you move into the town of Cobb, grab a coffee at Mountain High, then head a bit further up the mountain to Boggs Mountain Demonstration Forest. If you’ve got a vehicle that can handle dirt roads, take a trip through the forest. Much of it burned in the 2015 Valley Fire, but that just opened up vast views that stretch from Mt. Lassen in the Sierras to the northeast, the ocean in the west, and the Bay Area in the south. If you happen to be hungry, grab lunch at Adam Springs Golf Course, a lodge-style restaurant built almost entirely from local wood. 

PART 3: Cobb to the Red Hills

Continue down Highway 175 until you reach Red Hills Road, then turn right. You’re entering a famous wine region known for its bright red dirt that’s filled with Lake County Diamonds, a quartz crystal only found in Lake County. Now’s the time to do some wine tasting. Make your first stop at Laujor Estate Winery; it’s got some of the best views of Konocti in Lake County and fantastic wines. Once you’re finished there, make the trip to Boatique Winery. Even if you’re not in the mood for a tasting, it’s well worth a stop; the winery houses an extensive collection of antique wooden boats and a car boat. 

PART 4: Red Hills to the Kelseyville Riviera

By now, the day may be winding down, and you’re ready for dinner. Continue down Red Hills Road, go through the stoplight at Kit’s Corner, and head towards the Kelseyville Riviera. If you’re curious, you can always stop at the Ely Stage Stop. If you catch it on the first Sunday, they’ve got a great Fiddlers’ Jam and a fully restored stage stop museum you can peruse. If not, continue on to what locals call “The Riv”. It’s probably time for dinner, so make sure you spend the evening at Arti Natural and Organic Indian Café. It’s known throughout the region for its high-quality Indian food. If that’s not your thing, stop at Pogo’s Pizza. They make their pizza from scratch and don’t skimp on the toppings. And, if you’re lucky enough to end up in The Riv on the first Sunday evening of the month, check out the Open Jam at Riviera Hills Restaurant and Lounge. It’s where the area’s best musicians come to play and have a good time.

That’s enough Lake County excitement for one day. Check in next week for Part Two of our Lake County Road Trip.

David Wakefield

David and Trudy Wakefield started The Bloom in 2018 to showcase the best parts of Lake County and to provide a local outlet for community events, arts, music, and writing.

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