Looking for a spring hike in Sonoma County that's so lovely it will take your breath away? Head to the rolling hills just west of Petaluma, where Helen Putnam Regional Park features jaw-dropping views of bright green countryside, baby blue skies and cotton candy clouds.
About Helen Putnam Park
Helen Putnam Regional Park is just two miles from downtown Petaluma, on bucolic Chileno Valley Road. Its 216 acres includes 6 miles of trails that cross grassy hillsides and weave through groves of heritage oaks. Ridge-top trails provide panoramic views of the city to the east and the Sonoma-Marin countryside to the west. (Get inspired by this photo slideshow.)
The looped trail system lets hikers create walks of varying length and difficulty, making Helen Putnam a great choice for beginning hikers looking for a bit of a challenge. Trails are open to cyclists and horseback riders as well. ( Download the trail map.) Other features include a large fishing pond, picnic area, and playground.
Like many other regional parks, the property used to be a ranch before it was purchased by the county in 1978 and opened as a park in 1983. The park is named after Helen Putnam, a former Sonoma County supervisor and Petaluma’s first female mayor.
From the parking lot, follow the paved Ridge Trail, which is actually a segment of the larger Bay Area Ridge Trail. At.3 miles, you’ll come to the fishing pond. Continue north up the Ridge Trail on a mild incline.
Stay on the paved Ridge Trail, passing the intersections with the South Loop and Panorama trails, and soon you'll enjoy views of Petaluma far below you, to the east.
At the intersection with Filaree Trail, turn left and follow Filaree into the park's interior, through woodlands of gnarled oaks. When Filaree meets the Pomo Trail, continue ahead on the Pomo Trail (do not turn to the left.)
After .25 miles, you'll reach the intersection with the Panorama Trail, where you emerge from the forest to unbelievable views of the countryside to the south and west.
Take Panorama Trail to the right, passing an old oak with low branches perfect for kids who love to climb. Follow Panorama trail as it bends toward the park’s boundary, then switches back and descends the hill to the Arroyo Trail and the parking lot. On the way down, you'll be treated to more incredible views of the Sonoma-Marin countryside.
This hike is only 2.2 miles, but it is not short on spring scenery.
Note: This post was originally published March 3, 2017 and has been updated to clarify trail directions.
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