Don’t miss this hidden gem in the heart of Sonoma County, with warm hospitality, idyllic surroundings, and unforgettable chipas.

Nestled in the heart of the Russian River Valley, Dawn Ranch is a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city among the majestic redwoods of Guerneville. Originally established in the early 1900s, the historic property has evolved into a charming cabin-style resort that blends rustic elegance with modern comfort. Spread across 22 acres, Dawn Ranch provides a tranquil haven for nature lovers, adventurers, and those seeking relaxation amidst beautiful surroundings.

The Lodge at Dawn Ranch

The allure of Dawn Ranch lies not only in its picturesque setting—which spans a river, apple orchard, and meadow—but also its rich history. The resort was founded as Murphy’s Ranch before it was purchased by a new owner in 1978. Renamed Fife’s, it became the area’s first and arguably most influential gay resort. “It’s a big part of the radical acceptance, and openness, and how Guerneville has become this place where all types of people come together and coexist,” says General Manager Teach Mayer. “It’s…what makes Guerneville as quirky and as wonderful as it is, and this property was a big catalyst.” The resort later changed hands and reopened as Dawn Ranch in 2005, before undergoing major renovations in 2023.

The Orchard

The updated accommodations at Dawn Ranch are as inviting as they are cozy. Guests can choose from 86 lodging options including charming cottages, rustic cabins, and spacious bungalows. All are thoughtfully appointed with modern amenities, ensuring a comfortable stay while still retaining the rustic charm of the property. Whether nestled among the towering redwoods or overlooking the Russian River, every room offers a peaceful retreat where guests can unwind and rejuvenate. Scenic trails wind through ancient redwood groves, providing the perfect setting for leisurely walks or invigorating hikes. Dawn Ranch also offers exclusive access to the river, where kayaking, canoeing, floating, and swimming await those seeking adventure on the water during the summertime.

Accommodations at Dawn Ranch

One of the most unique aspects of Dawn Ranch is its belief in “co-authored experiences,” encouraging guests to curate their own stays. The sprawling resort is ripe for exploration, and their hope is that guests will feel creatively inspired as they wander the property or partake in its events and workshops. “Dawn Ranch is as much about coming for a stay as it is about exploring the area,” says Mayer. Upon check-in, guests can peruse a variety of items for loan at the reception desk including Swarovski Optik binoculars for birdwatching, Fender guitars, Retrospec bicycles, and HigherDOSE Go Mats. These wellness mats—which combine Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) and infrared therapy—assist with meditation and relaxation, easing chronic pain, and post-workout recovery.

Wellness lounge at The Spa

In addition to thoughtful amenities, Dawn Ranch offers an array of activities to enhance the guest experience. For those seeking relaxation, The Spa at Dawn Ranch provides a full menu of luxurious treatments designed to melt away stress and tension. Spa guests will want to set aside time after their treatment to indulge in an open-air bath ritual featuring Japanese-inspired redwood soaking tubs, as well as the wellness lounge, steam room, and outdoor glass-enclosed infrared sauna. Wellness seekers can also explore movement and meditation with complimentary onsite yoga and sound bath classes led by practitioners from Guerneville’s Sol Rio Studio. Other experiences include scent-making classes with Jess Mennella—a local perfumer, educator, and founder of FLWR Napa Valley—birding walks, stargazing workshops, writing salons, and more.

Of course, a good holiday isn’t complete without hearty fare to fuel your adventures. Developed by Chef Fernando Trocca, and led by Chefs Juliana Thorpe and Ignacio Zuzulich, the menu at The Lodge at Dawn Ranch delights diners from breakfast to dinner. Dishes celebrate the local bounty, created with an emphasis on fresh, sustainable, locally sourced ingredients. Trocca is also inspired by the union of traditional Latin American fare with Northern Californian cuisine, and the idea of “revolutionizing simplicity.” The menu is ever-changing, but you can expect to enjoy anything from scallops to pork belly, with inventive seasonal flavors such as sunchoke cream, fennel stock, and cashew foam. Meanwhile, the onsite bar serves up a tempting selection of craft cocktails, local wines, and artisanal brews, perfect for unwinding after a day of exploration. A couple of tips: swing by The Lodge first thing in the morning to try a chipa, a mouthwatering Paraguayan cheese bread that often sells out by noon. You can also enjoy lunch al fresco with Dawn Ranch’s picnic packages, featuring a tote filled with artisanal delights. Snack on local cheese, charcuterie, chocolates, and fresh picks from the property’s fruit trees—which grow persimmons, plums, figs, cherries, and more—with a bottle of wine as you lay out on a blanket in the meadow or admire riverside views from the boathouse.

Once you’ve had your fill, opportunities to explore and gather creative inspiration continue offsite. Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is a mere five-minute drive (or 15-minute bicycle ride) from the resort. The 805-acre park offers an awe-inspiring look at these natural giants, with the oldest tree in the park more than 1,400 years old, and the tallest tree over 310 feet high. Guests can also stroll into the town of Guerneville for a wealth of spots to eat and drink, or shop and browse. Don’t skip the Guerneville Bank Club, a retail space and art gallery housed inside a beautiful historic building offering handcrafted pies and ice cream. Another nearby favorite is Boon Eat + Drink, a farm-to-table bistro serving seasonal Californian cuisine. Wine lovers will want to dedicate a full day to visiting local tasting rooms, with more than 50 wineries within a 20-minute drive of Dawn Ranch. Enjoy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at Flowers Vineyards in Healdsburg, a stunning winery designed to evoke the feeling of enjoying wine at one’s home—that is, if one had impeccable taste in art and interior design (the elegant winery has won multiple design awards, locally and globally). Further on down the road is the family-owned Arista Winery, a small-lot producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay whose property features a Japanese water garden and micro-farm with chickens and goats.

When all is said and done, eaten and sipped, and seen and conquered, return to Dawn Ranch for a good night’s rest. However, night owls who aren’t ready to turn in just yet will find an inviting scene after dark at the property’s nightly bonfires. Gather with friends—or make new ones—at the outdoor fire pits as you sip on specialty nightcaps such as Brazilian hot chocolate, enjoy complimentary s’mores, and perhaps even make a little music.

Whether you’re seeking to get in touch with your inner self, spark your creativity, or simply escape to nature, Dawn Ranch offers a blend of historic charm and modern luxury amidst the towering redwoods and tranquil Russian River.

Photographs by Gentl & Hyers

For reservations and more information, visit Dawn Ranch.