Tolay in spring

Hit These Sonoma County Trails to Celebrate Spring

By Tina Luster

The sun is shining and the temperature is mild – spring is the perfect time to enjoy a hike at one of your favorite Sonoma County parks. So, download a park map, fill that water bottle and start exploring.

With more than 55 parks – and 150 miles of trails – the choice may be overwhelming, so I invited my Regional Parks teammates to join me in recommending some of our spring favorites.

Here are our suggestions for five parks that will wow you with verdant landscapes, wildflowers bursting with color and trails ranging from easy to challenging.  

Crane Creek Regional Park – Rohnert Park

Crane Creek hikers and cow

If you ask my 4-year-old granddaughter what her favorite park is, she will tell you Crane Creek Regional Park. Our favorite trail there is the easy Creek Trail. She loves to hike down to the creek and splash among the rocks. Spring is the best time to visit because poppies are blooming and water is running in the creek. It’s great fun. And, if we are lucky, the cows grazing in the park will cross the creek near us. We bring a snack to enjoy at a picnic table under a wonderful old oak tree. Carol Eber, chair, Regional Parks Foundation

Helen Putnam Regional Park – Petaluma

Helen Putnam spring hills

Helen Putnam Regional Park provides panoramic views of Petaluma to the east and Chileno Valley to the west. In the spring, the hills are vibrant green and the weather is superb. The sun warms you while the famous Petaluma breeze picks up just enough to keep you comfortable. The trails here give you the opportunity to plan a hike or run that’s best suited for you – easy to challenging, short to long. I like to run or hike the Panorama, Pomo, Fillaree and Ridge trails, a challenging 4-mile round trip. – Lesley Pfeiffer, recreation supervisor

Shiloh Ranch Regional Park - Windsor

Creekside Trail at Shiloh Ranch Regional Park

I love the Creekside Trail at Shiloh Ranch Regional Park. The trail has lovely shade, so it’s cool and comfortable even on hot days. It’s lined with ferns, and in the spring, it’s bursting with wildflowers. It's just 1.2-miles one-way, but you can combine it with Pond, Canyon, Ridge and Big Leaf trails for a challenging, 4-mile loop through oaks, maples and Douglas firs that really gives you a feeling of being away from it all. Shiloh burned in the 2017 Tubbs fire, so this is an opportunity to see the remarkable regrowth that’s taken place since. –Melissa Kelley, director, Regional Parks Foundation

Sonoma Valley Regional Park – Glen Ellen

Sonoma Valley Regional Park spring walkers

The easy, one-way 1.3-mile paved Valley of the Moon Trail at Sonoma Valley Regional Park starts off sunny – a good warm up – and leads you into a canopy of oaks. It’s an undulating path meandering near seasonal streams that’s perfect for an easy stroll and is ADA compliant. On a Sunday afternoon in spring, it’s like walking through a friendly neighborhood. There are people picnicking, walkers, dog walkers, cyclists, runners and those running with their dogs. (Speaking of dogs, there’s an off-leash dog park right next door.) For a little more oomph, take an unpaved trail and head up the hills. – Tina Luster, marketing specialist

Tolay Lake Regional Park – Petaluma

Tolay Lake sunrise

Tolay Lake Regional Park & Preserve is a marvelous place to hike when the sun of spring has not yet reached its full power. The morning vistas are wide as you enter the park and offer a glorious sunrise view of the hills and valley below. Spring is the perfect time to explore the longer ridge hikes, which can be too hot in the summer. Now, the serpentine wildflowers and views of San Pablo Bay are simply stunning. On early spring evenings, enjoy a cool walk down the Causeway Trail, which is usually underwater during a wet spring. You just might hear nearby coyotes calling to their friends. – Sandi Funke, programs manager

Know before you go

Tina Luster is a marketing specialist for Sonoma County Regional Parks.

Posted: March 2020

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