Hours (October - March):
Permit holders may access the park Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to sunset. Trails are closed to permit holders during the Tolay Fall Festival in October.
Hours (April - September):
Permit holders may access the park Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to sunset.
$7.00 per vehicle for day use. $1 per person for vehicles carrying 10 or more people.
Permitted on leash no longer than 6' in length. License required.
Tolay Lake Regional Park is located between the Petaluma River and the Sonoma Valley. This unique 1,769-acre property contains pristine farm and grasslands, ridges, a seasonal freshwater lake, ponds, wetlands, and many other natural resources. It provides habitat for several species of special status, including the burrowing owl, California red-legged frog, northwestern pond turtle, golden eagle, white tailed kite, horned lark, northern harrier, and the tricolor blackbird.
Park access is allowed through a day-use permit program, guided hikes, and the annual Tolay Fall Festival, which is held for two weeks each October.
A Tolay Lake Regional Park Master Plan is being prepared to provide a spectrum of outdoor recreation and environmental education opportunities and to protect sensitive habitats and cultural resources. The master planning process will take about two years.
How to Stay Involved
Regional Parks and its consultant are evaluating public input for the next public meeting workshop planned for summer 2014.
- Learn about the Master Plan
- Consider draft park design and provide comment
If you would like additional information or want to add your name added to the project email list, please write to Tolayplanning@migcom.com. You can subscribe to the Park Planning Updates, which will automatically notify you when the web page changes. Please continue to check this page for periodic updates and new documents.
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 infrastructure. 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 the 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 of the trails are through open grassland and offer limited shade, so hikers are advised to bring plenty of water and wear sun protection on their adventures.
Leashed dogs and equestrians are welcome on the trails. Please be advised that there is an active livestock operation within the park and park users may encounter cows while on the trail. Information regarding livestock, opening/closing of cattle gates, and much more is provided through the Day Use Permit orientations. Completion of a Day Use permit orientation is required before visiting the park with the following exceptions: attendance of the Tolay Fall Festival, and participation in a guided hike.
Day Use Permit Program
Sonoma County Regional Parks is pleased to offer expanded public access at Tolay Lake Regional Park with the Interim Plan (IP) Day-Use Permit Program.
The IP Day-Use Permit Program allows the public to visit the park during posted hours once they’ve completed an hour-long orientation and obtained a permit. Regional Parks is offering these mandatory one-hour orientations, free of charge, which cover permit procedures, and rules & regulations. After the orientation, participants receive Tolay IP Day-Use Permits, along with maps, park rules & regulations, and gate access cards. Permit holders may use the park for a variety of activities, including hiking, bicycling, picnicking, or horseback riding. April through September permit holders may access the park on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8am to sunset. October through March, permit holders may access the park from 8am to sunset on Saturday and Sunday. Regular day-use parking fees apply.
Current Permit Holders
Trails are CLOSED to permit holders during the 2014 Tolay Fall Festival, October 9-12 and 15-19.
Permits did NOT expire on November 30, 2011. Your permit remains valid & key card is active. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Orientations start promptly – late arrivals will not be admitted. No reservations required.
The orientation takes place in a historic barn with an uneven floor surface. Should you require assistance with access to the barn please contact a staff member. The Stone Floor Barn is an un-heated facility; please dress accordingly. Want to explore Tolay on the same day? An optional, guided hike will precede or follow most orientations. Park entrance gate will open 30 minutes prior to the orientation or hike. Visit our Hiking page for details.
Tolay Fall Festival 2014
The Tolay Fall Festival offers two weeks of old-time, nature-based fun each October at Tolay Lake Regional Park, southeast of Petaluma. The public is invited to attend on the weekends of Oct. 11-12 and 18-19. School groups are invited on the weekdays of Oct. 9-10 and 15-17. More than just a pumpkin patch, 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. See the 2012 results (190 kB.)
- 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 are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults and teens and $1 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 membership cards and parking tags at the entrance. Parking for non-members is $7. Activities inside the Festival are free.
Tolay Lake Regional 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 during its two week run. Students make farm- and environmental-themed crafts, learn about local 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 trips closed October 1. If you already registered and have questions, please contact Christina McGuirk at (707) 789-9699 or email@example.com.
Read more about our other school programs
Cultural and Natural History
The exceptional cultural and historical value of the Tolay Lake Ranch is well documented. California State Parks Archeologist E. Breck Parkman noted, "Lake Tolay has a unique and perhaps nationally significant prehistoric archaeological history...” The stewardship of the property, ranging from Native Americans to pioneers to enterprising immigrants, is known to span over 8,000 years, and has preserved a unique natural and historical resource. A report prepared for California State Parks notes, "...the Ranch in its entirety possesses a high degree of integrity as a rural historic landscape because of the wide variety of landscape elements that are present." These natural history resources also provide the setting for a site that many consider unparalleled in the state of California for research and public educational activities in relation to Native American archeology, history, and culture.
The Tolay Lake site has been identified as an historic spiritual center for Native Americans from across California. Greg Sarris, Tribal Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, tells of the rich tradition among his people, "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.'' Many of the charmstones found at Tolay Lake were made from rock materials not found in the immediate region, including rocks from Yosemite Valley and northeastern California. Tolay Lake has also been called "Charmstone Lake," because of the abundance of the charmstone artifacts found there. Greg Sarris further notes, "The charmstones collected at Tolay Lake, over 1,000 and still counting, some dating back 4,000 years, mark not only the most significant discovery of cultural material for my people, but no doubt for all native people in California. Nowhere in North America is there such a collection of charmstones."
In addition to an unparalleled glimpse at the pre-European history of California, Tolay Lake Ranch also tells the story of the settling and populating of this region and of California. It provides the opportunity to both study and exhibit the history of immigrant populations that played key roles in local and state history. The artifacts and buildings present on the property document the days of the Spanish settlers and Vaqueros, and the successive waves of Chinese, Irish, Portuguese, Italian, and Mexican immigrants. Over the past forty years, the site had been used for an annual pumpkin festival, drawing crowds of nearly 30,000 each year.