you hike for exercise, recreation, or to take in a spectacular view, there is
a good selection of choices in Sonoma.
New trails have opened,
one in the foothills near town called the Overlook Trail and also the Sonoma
Ridge Trail at Jack London Historic State Park in Glen Ellen.
is welcome to visit Bouverie Preserve through Guided Nature Walks scheduled
on selected Saturdays throughout the year. Prior reservations are required. Call
707/938-4554 for more information and to sign-up.
Trail For casual hikers with limited time who
want to experience a breathtaking view of Sonoma, the Overlook Trail is within
walking distance from the center of Sonoma. It is the most accessible and gratifying
route for anyone willing to walk a country mile to a spectacular view. Even young
energetic children and healthy octogenarians can master this excursion.
To reach this well-traveled, gentle two-mile loop trail, take
First Street West from the Plaza. Just beyond the Veterans Memorial Building at
126 First St. East, is a small lot to the right, which is adjacent to the cemetery
entrance. Marking the trail is a wayside sign that shows and describes the route.
The walk from and back to town with the trail loop
combined will require less than an hour and a half of time for most brisk walkers.
This well-maintained trail is open all year round from dawn to dusk.
of it is on a clay base and can be very squishy during rainy seasons. Substantial
sports shoes are sufficient, but hiking shoes are recommended. A good number of
hardy locals use the Overlook Trail as a jogging route.
Park Another trail with panoramic views of Sonoma and the Bay, from
easy-to-reach vista points, is the outer loop in Bartholomew Park. It is a little
over a mile and a half walk or drive to Bartholomew Park from the Town Square.
At the split in the road inside the Park, drivers should go to the left
to park their vehicles. The trails may be entered from either the west-end of
the picnic grounds or via the roadway that goes off to the right just beyond the
mansion. There are several loop routes on these grounds, ranging from about one
and three quarters to two miles in length. There is a descriptive signboard posted
at each of the gated entrances to the trails.
The grade is moderately easy
with occasional steep sections that are mostly articulated with curbed steps.
Several shaded spots and vista points are furnished with benches. This network
of trails is opened seasonally during posted Park hours - closed during the rainy
season. Much of the trail has been recently reconstructed with edging, wood "steps,"
and cleared ground cover. Hiking boots are definitely recommended.
primary "Rules of the Road" for both these trails are to be considerate
of other hikers and ALWAYS stay on the trail. This is for your own safety as well
as for the preservation of the natural environment.
Keep in mind the
surrounding woods and fields are strewn with poison oak! This prolific,
opportunistic plant can nestle inside blackberry patches, climb trees, and engulf
If you even suspect you are allergic to the touch of
poison oak, it is best to wear appropriate clothing and know where you can put
your hands on some over the counter products in cream, gel or soap form to use
before and after hiking.
Poison oak changes color with the seasons and is
even active in early spring before the leaves emerge.
more serious hikers who are looking for a day's recreational outing or a more
rigorous excursion, there are two fine state parks within a twenty-minute drive
of Sonoma Town Square. Each of these: Jack London State Historic Park in
Glen Ellen, and Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Kenwood, are worth at least
a half-day visit. Currently these two state parks are open year round daily 10:00
AM to 5:00 PM. Trails are occasionally closed for maintenance.
London Sate Historic Park has an excellent network of trails that includes
a nearly eight-mile (up and back) Mountain Trail to the summit, and the newly-cut
ten-mile (round trip) Sonoma Ridge Trail. Each of these is an extension
of the main trail that goes from the upper parking lot to the "Lake."
The Mountain Trail follows a fire road beyond the Lake and conjoins off
and on with the Bay Area Ridge Trail. This well-maintained trail/unpaved roadbed
winds through deep woods and meadows on a steady moderate grade up to redwood
grove. This designated rest and picnic area is located less that a quarter mile
beyond the intersection where the Sonoma Ridge Trail goes off to the left (south.)
From that point on, the trail to the summit is a bit rustic in sections, but never
difficult to follow.
There are several open views along the upper tail
and a spectacular vista point at the top, where you can scan the length of the
valley of the Moon to the Bay. A radio station is housed on the actual summit
of Sonoma Mountain, which is off-limits to hikers.
Sonoma Ridge Trail is a well-trimmed, narrow edge trail that follows the east-side
of the range, winding south on a steady uphill grade. Most of the passage is through
woods but there are occasional breaks in the trees that offer clear views down
the valley to the Bay. The point where this trail loops around is not clearly
marked. The hiker should know that the perimeters of the Park are marked with
barbed wire fencing. For those who choose to venture outside the Park, it is possible
to traverse a trampled barbed wire fence and continue south another mile. The
adventurer will be rewarded when he/she reaches a point along this section of
the Bay Area Ridge Trail that opens to a spectacular wide angle view of the Bay
as far east/south/west as the eye can reach. One must be mindful of signage that
marks private property.
are several other interesting loops off the Mountain Trail, the first being the
Fallen Bridge Trail that is a mile and a third round trip from May's Clearing
which is marked by a redwood viewing bench. The other trail that is currently
open is a Hayfields loop that forks off the Summit Trail about a half-mile from
the top. The upper Hayfields Trail slopes down an open hillside but cuts back
to the Mountain Trail via a rather sketchy, woodsy trail called the Cowan Meadow
Trail. For anyone wanting the security of a clearly marked trail, it would be
advisable to return from the Hayfields destination via the upper Hayfields Trail.
families with children who aren't up to making the longer treks, the gentle-grade
Lake Trail (2-mile loop) is very diverse and satisfying. From the parking lot
it passes through a large picnic area, by historic barns and the "summer"
cottage, the "Pig Palace" and silos, and around a lovely vineyard. At
the edge of the woods one can continue to follow the fire road or go off to the
left, up through a redwood grove to reach the Lake. From the "Bathhouse,"
there are two gentle loop trails available to anyone wanting more distance but
not too much exertion. The Upper Lake Trail loop is approximately a half-mile
circuit and the Quarry & Vineyard Trail loop is about three quarters of a
A sturdy pair of sports shoes will suffice
for the trip to the Lake, but hiking boots are highly recommended for longer outings.
Sugarloaf Ridge State
Park is accessible off Route 12 in Kenwood, by going northeast on Adobe Canyon
Road. This wilderness park houses an Observatory, which is the anchor for a "Planet
Walk" that is marked along several sections of the Park trails.
are many choices of round trip routes for hikers of varying ambitions and interests
to embark upon. For those who want to cover the outer perimeter of the Park there
is a combined loop that includes a rather hefty climb up the fire road or along
divergent trails trough meadows and woods to get to the top of Bald Mountain.
Depending on the route taken the length can range from two and three-quarters
to three and a half miles to reach the 360-degree view of Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
There a re two wayside illustrated signboards posted at the top that point out
the various peaks and towns that define each valley.
From Bald Mountain
one can follow the Ridge heading east on the Gray Pine Trail for a little over
a mile distance and then continuing on via the Bushy Peaks Trail. There are spectacular
open views along this series of trails.
The Bushy Peaks Trail starts its
decent at the location of Pluto on the "Planet Walk," situated about
a mile and a quarter beyond the Gray Pine trail junction. The Bushy Peaks Trail
then traverses a series of dips and peaks for about two-thirds of a mile until
it reaches Neptune, shortly after which it ducks into the woods. The trail then
switches back and forth about a mile and a half down the wooded hillside to Uranus
and the intersection of the Hillside and Meadow Trails. The Planet Walk continues
along another mile of open meadow Trail that leads to the Observatory.
Hillside Trail follows a gentle grade over a hill to an upper meadow and then
back down to the stream bed. It is just a short walk from either of these trail
heads to return to the parking lot. There are a dozen loops one can plot within
this (eight and a half to nine and a half mile) perimeter route, most of which
are well marked on the Park issue trail map and along the trails themselves.
offers many hiking options for families. A favorite destination for groups with
energetic youngsters is the waterfall. The Canyon Trail that leads to the falls
exits south off the Park drive a couple hundred yards below the entry kiosk. The
trail is quite rustic and very steep in sections, but is well maintained. The
falls are located less than half a mile down the path off the road. Parents should
be aware that most children find the slippery rock terrain an irresistible playground.
It is best to be prepared with dry shoes and clothes waiting in the car
during rainy seasons. Throughout the Park, in addition to clambering about, children
will also be delighted by the show of seasonal wildlife. Most youngsters are charmed
by the many deer that evidently have grown accustomed to sharing the Park with
friendly visitors. In addition there is a never ending a show of birds including
swooping hawks and noisy crows. Butterflies and lizards are abundant in the warm
seasons, and there is always something in bloom.
is recommended at all times in this Park. Rugged hiking boots, wind breakers and
hats are a must all year round. Anyone choosing to take one of the more rustic
trails should wear long pants no matter the temperature. Poison ivy is literally
everywhere. It is easy to slip on gravely sections along any of these trails,
wet or dry. Always carry water with you when hiking!
Primary rules and regulations:
No dogs allowed on any State Park trails. Most trail heads iconic signage
clearly marks where bikes are not allowed. Buy a map for a dollar at the entry
Parking fees, hours - check state parks web site Click
here for the Sugarloaf Ridge Park website