Tolay Lake Regional Park

5869 Cannon Lane, Petaluma

  • Biking
  • Birding
  • Equestrian Trails
  • Fishing
  • Hiking/Walking Trails
  • Picnic Facilities

Hours (April - September): Permit-holders only Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to sunset.

Hours (October - March): Permit-holders only Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to sunset. Trails closed during Tolay Fall Festival.

Parking: $7 per vehicle

Dogs: Permitted on leash. License required.

Ranger Phone: (707) 539-8092

Tolay Lake Regional Park is a unique 3,434-acre property located in the hills southeast of Petaluma, between the Petaluma River and Sonoma Valley. The property features a seasonal freshwater lake, Tolay Creek, wetlands, grasslands, and ridges with views of San Pablo Bay and San Francisco.

The park is the largest in the Regional Parks’ system and provides critical watershed and habitat protections. The site is especially known for its bird populations, including the burrowing owl and golden eagle, and has significant archaeological and ranching histories. Grazing continues within the park.

A master plan is being prepared to fully open the park to the general public. In the interim, public access for hiking, birding, mountain biking, horseback riding and picnicking is allowed through a free day-use permit program. The park also hosts school field trips and guided hikes throughout the year and the Tolay Fall Festival each October.

Parkland includes the 1,769-acre Tolay Lake Ranch property purchased by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and transferred to Regional Parks in 2005 and the 1,665-acre Tolay Creek Ranch property purchased by the Sonoma Land Trust and transferred in March 2017.

Tolay Lake Regional Park Trails

Length:8.6 miles of trails

Tolay Lake Regional Park offers 8.6 miles of trails that may be accessed with a day-use permit or on a guided hike. All trails originate from the park center complex, which includes picnic areas, a small pond and ranch buildings.

Hikers may combine several trails to form a loop, or elect to take the popular out-and-back route to the Three Bridges Vista Point. This popular 5-mile hike follows the Causeway Trail across seasonal Tolay Lake and climbs through oak woodland to join the East Ridge Trail. The trail ends at a vista point, where breathtaking views encompass the 1,769 acre park and much of the San Pablo Bay, including the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, Bay Bridge, and Highway 37 overpass.

Other trail options include shorter trips along Tolay Creek and visits to several ponds. Most trails cross open grassland and offer limited shade, so hikers are advised to bring plenty of water and wear sun protection.

Leashed dogs and equestrians are welcome on the trails. Please be advised there is grazing within the park, and park users may encounter cattle along the trail. Information regarding livestock, opening/closing of cattle gates, and much more is provided through the day-use permit orientations. Completion of an orientation is required before visiting the park outside of special events or guided hikes.

Walk on the Wild Side - April 9, 2017

Apr 9, 2017 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM


Raptors from Ridges - April 9, 2017

Apr 9, 2017 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM


Winging It Wednesday - April 26, 2017

Apr 26, 2017 8:30 AM - 10:30 AM


Sneak Peek at Tolay Creek - May 6, 2017

May 6, 2017 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM


Walk on the Wild Side - May 13, 2017

May 13, 2017 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM


View our calendar for more activities

Day-Use Permit Program

The free Day-Use Permit Program allows the public to visit Tolay Lake Regional Park during posted weekend hours once they've completed an online orientation and obtained a permit.

Permit-holders may use the park for hiking, mountain-biking, picnicking, birding, and horseback riding. Permits are not required to attend guided hikes or special events. 

Current Permit Holders

Permits will remain valid until the park opens to the general public, which is expected in late 2017. 

Orientation Program

  1. Watch the 6 minute Tolay video
  2. Complete the self-orientation module
  3. Download & print or save the documents:
    1. PDF fileDay-Use Permit Rules & Regulations (145 kB)
    2. PDF fileDay-Use Permit Terms & Conditions (51 kB)
    3. PDF fileLivestock Notice (63 kB)
    4. PDF fileTrail Map (3.07 MB)
    5. PDF fileMap of Park Center (242 kB)
    6. PDF fileA brief history of Tolay Lake (1.21 MB)
    7. PDF fileOut on the Trails: Let's All Get Together (1.18 MB)
    8. PDF fileEasing Down the Road, Trail or Path (42 kB)
  4. Your permit should arrive in the mail within 10 business days.

Email tolaypermit@sonoma-county.org with questions. 

Tolay Fall Festival 2017

Boy with Tolay goat 150 The Tolay Fall Festival offers two weeks of old-time, nature-based fun each October at Tolay Lake Regional Park. The public is invited to attend the weekends of Oct. 14-15 and 21-22 while school groups are invited the weekdays of Oct. 12-13 and 18-20.

The Tolay Fall Festival is a seasonal celebration that connects visitors with the beauty and history of this special park. Activities are low-key, hands-on and educational by design.

  • Explore the "Nighttime Creatures Barn" with its exhibits of native and exotic snakes, birds of prey, tide pool animals, and taxidermied wildlife.
  • Venture into the "Creepy Crawly Room," where tarantulas and scorpions glow under black lights.
  • Take a hayride to a pumpkin patch in the park's back 40 and find the perfect Halloween pumpkin.
  • Visit a replica of a Native American village and try farm activities like wool carding and candle dipping.
  • Enter the World-Record Pumpkin-Seed Spitting Contest for a chance to win a year of bragging rights.
  • Join experts in archery, fly fishing and astronomy for hands-on demonstrations.
  • Participate in gunnysack races, find your way through a straw maze, and pet barnyard animals.
  • Enjoy food and desserts from local vendors or bring a picnic to enjoy at the park

Weekend hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $5 for adults and teens and $3 for children 12 and under. Regional Parks members get free, one-time admission for two adults and two children and free parking when they present their parking tags at the entrance.

Parking: $7

Activities: Free

The park is at 5869 Lakeville Highway, at the end of Cannon Lane.

School Field Trips to the Fall Festival

More than 7,000 school children visit the Fall Festival on weekday field trips. Students make farm and nature crafts, learn about wildlife through live displays in a historic barn, take hayrides to a pumpkin field, and play old-fashioned games. This special field trip introduces students to the role of agriculture and farming in healthy communities. Registration for the Fall Festival field trip opens in late May. For more information, contact Christina McGuirk at (707) 789-9699 or christina.mcguirk@sonoma-county.org.

Read more about our other school programs

Cultural and Natural History

Tolay Lake has well-documented history. The stewardship of the property, ranging from Native Americans to pioneers and immigrants, is known to span over 8,000 years and has preserved a unique natural and historical resource.

Tolay Lake is within the Coast Miwok territory and has been identified as a historic spiritual center for Native Americans from across California. “The lake and surrounding area was highly sacred and was considered one of three areas in all of Northern California where Indian doctors from different tribes convened for sacred ceremonies and the exchange of ritual objects and songs for the purpose of healing,” according to Greg Sarris, chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

Tolay Lake history also tells the story of the settling and populating of the North Bay and California. Artifacts and buildings on the property document the days of Spanish settlers and successive waves of Chinese, Irish, Portuguese, Italian, and Mexican immigrants.

Tolay Lake was historically the largest freshwater lake in Sonoma County. It is a naturally occurring lakebed that floods in the wet seasons and draws down in dry seasons. Over the past 100 years, the park was used for ranching and farming and the lakebed was altered to accommodate those purposes. Restoration plans will return the lake to a natural system.

Acquisition of the lands that make up Tolay Lake Regional Park has protected the bulk of the Tolay Creek watershed, which drains to San Pablo Bay. The park also provides critical habitat linkages and wildlife corridors, with several thousand acres of conserved lands surrounding the park.

View Map and Get Directions

Tolay Lake Regional Park MapPDF filePark Map (3.07 MB)

Permit Orientation Program

It's as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4

  1. Watch the video
  2. Complete the module
  3. Print or save documents
  4. Permit arrives by mail

For details, click on the "Permit Program" tab to the left of this page.

Questions?

Email Tolay Permit Program

Tolay Fall Festival

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