A dramatic winter sky at Doran Beach

Cloudy Day Hikes in Sonoma County

By Suzie Rodriguez

Nov. 30, 2016

One of the special things about winter hiking is the show often taking place in the sky. Whether a dark storm is approaching, puffy clouds are clearing, or the setting sun casts an orange glow, winter skies can be breathtaking in Sonoma County’s parks. 

Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail cloudsLaguna de Santa Rosa

The Laguna de Santa Rosa is beautiful and fascinating in any kind of weather, but offers a unique setting for winter walks. The sky is so open here, it's a constant element of your visit. As Sonoma County’s largest freshwater wetlands complex, the Laguna offers plenty of wildlife viewing as well as the wonder of being close to marshes, vernal pools, woodlands and other rich riparian habitat. Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail sunsetAs you’d expect, the Laguna is a vital stopover for migrating birds as well as a permanent home to other bird species. The 1.8-mile Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail runs between Highway 12 and Occidental Road and offers expansive views that extend far past the wetlands to Mount Saint Helena to the east. Learn more about the Laguna Trail or download PDF filethe map.

Doran Beach on a cloudy dayDoran Regional Park

Situated on Bodega Bay, with views that stretch forever over the Pacific Ocean, Doran is justifiably one of Sonoma County’s most popular parks at any time of the year. In winter, the 2-mile stretch of sand is the perfect place for wind-swept beach walks. As you hike along, you’ll study swift-moving cumulus clouds and watch seabirds dance in and out of waves rolling onto shore. Wander into the grassy dunes, where trails branch off, and soak up the magnificent surroundings from a different perspective. Learn more about Doran Beach

Shiloh Ranch Regional Park

A former cattle ranch southeast of Windsor, Shiloh Ranch is home to diverse ecosystems ranging from open grasslands to moisture-loving plants that thrive beside a shaded creek, now bubbling and moving swiftly along thanks to the rains. Shiloh Ranch view from Ridge Trail Nearly 8 miles of multi-use trails welcome hikers, bikers and equestrians. The Ridge Trail, which rises more than 700 feet and offers far-ranging western views from the top, makes for an excellent hike on a winter day — or try the  fern-lined Creekside Trail. Wildlife sightings include raptors, rabbit, fox, bobcat and coyote. Learn more about Shiloh Ranch or download the PDF filetrail map 

Parking at the Laguna Trail is free. Parking at Shiloh Ranch and Doran Beach is $7 or free for Regional Parks members. Dogs on leash are welcome on the Laguna Trail and at Doran Beach.

About the Author

Suzie Rodriguez is a Sonoma-based writer, editor, lifelong outdoors enthusiast and past president of Bay Area Travel Writers.

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