Spring in Sonoma County is practically a Technicolor experience, and a picnic in the park is one of the best ways to enjoy the season's vivid beauty.
You'll find picnic areas at the entrances of many Sonoma County Regional Parks, and these are great sites if you have limited time or are with a large group. But if you're up for a little adventure, you can discover more remote picnic sites, settings where it seems you've got the park all to yourself and you're immersed in the sights, sounds and scents of spring.
Here are a few of our favorite out-of-the-way picnic spots:
The Umbrella Tree Trail on North Sonoma Mountain is a steady climb of less than a mile to a giant, multi-trunked California bay tree and amazing mountainside views. The trail begins above the ranger residence at this regional park southeast of Santa Rosa and follows an old ranch road through a forest of oaks and bays. The last section of trail opens to expansive grasslands glowing emerald green in spring. The trail ends at the edge of the mountain, where the enormous Umbrella Tree stands sentinel. Near the tree is a lone picnic table with 1,500-foot views across the Santa Rosa Plain to the Coast Range to the west and Bennett Valley and beyond to the north. Trail map
With golden poppies dotting green meadows, Crane Creek Regional Park east of Rohnert Park is the epitome of spring. Benches and picnic tables can be found throughout the park, but our favorite spot is under a huge sprawling oak next to the creek. From the entrance, follow the Creek Trail nearly a half mile to the namesake creek running through the park. Here, the trail intersects with the Buckeye and Sunset trails, and you’ll find a shaded, creekside picnic table under gnarled oak branches. Kids will love climbing the low, sturdy limbs and rock-hopping across the creek. Adults will love that the kids are keeping themselves entertained. Map
The Oakwood Trail runs along the northern spine of Foothill Regional Park, a compact wilderness park in northeast Windsor. As its name suggests, the trail weaves through an oak woodland. Branches arch overhead, covered in new, green leaves. Tall grasses rustle in the spring breeze. From the park entrance, take the Westwood Trail on the left and make a half-mile climb to a ridgetop. Connect to the Oakwood Trail and follow it a short distance to several picnic tables spaced along the path. Each offers far-off views beyond the tree tops. Trail map<a>
Because you'll hike up to a mile to reach these sites, keep your load light – sandwiches, fruit and other portable items you that fit in your day pack. It's OK to enjoy alcohol in the parks, so if there's room in your pack for your favorite Sonoma County wine or craft beer, here's to you!
Keep it real
Keep in mind all of these picnic sites are a little rugged. They're not set amid manicured grounds, and the tables could be described as "vintage." But that's part of the adventure, right?
Note: This blog was published in May 2016 and updated in April 2017.
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