Celebrate Valentine's Day by taking time to explore the beauty of Sonoma County with someone you love. Here are suggestions for romantic hikes on the Sonoma Coast, in the Sonoma Valley, and along the Russian River.
Tuck into Isolated Beaches with Panoramic Views
Use one of six public access trails in The Sea Ranch, the private community on Sonoma County's north coast, to enjoy expansive views of sea, sky, and rocky ocean outcrops. The trails – Black Point, Bluff Top, Pebble Beach, Shell Beach, Stengel Beach and Walk on Beach – start at Highway 1 parking areas, cross bluff-top meadows and forests, and wind down cliffside staircases, ending at secluded beaches with sandy coves, tide pools, and rock formations.
Or walk across the bluffs. Walk on Beach serves as the southern starting point for the 3-mile (one way) Bluff Top Trail, which travels north into 195-acre Gualala Point Regional Park (or start your hike in Gualala Point and walk south). This park offers wonderful headland views and a vast expanse of white sandy beach and dunes.
Climb to the Top of the World
With nearly 2,000 acres on the northern end of Sonoma Valley, Hood Mountain Regional Park & Open Space Preserve offers 19 miles of trails geared to fit hikers. Trails wend through grasslands, into forests, and at this time of the year—beside lively creeks; most trails are steep and challenging, rewarding the hiker with fabulous views.
One of the most best hikes, and certainly the best-known, is the round-trip trek to a rocky outcrop known as Gunsight Rock, situated about 300 feet below the 2,730-foot Hood Mountain summit. Gunsight Rock is actually two rocks that form a majestic promontory, from which you can usually see Mount Tamalpais, San Francisco and its Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Oakland; nearer to you are Sonoma Mountain, Taylor Mountain, and the city of Santa Rosa.
Check Out the River
The northernmost of Sonoma County’s regional parks, 72-acre Cloverdale River Park graces a woodsy bank of the Russian River. From here, the river rolls south until, below Healdsburg, it turns west and makes its way to Jenner and the sea. Filled with winter rains, the river may be swollen and churning, creating a dramatic backdrop to your walk.
A paved trail of just over a mile winds through willows, oaks and cottonwoods, allowing you to observe riparian habitat. The many species of birds you might see include raptors, woodpeckers, osprey, ducks, egrets, kingfishers and heron. And the park contains a diversity of flora: mixed riparian forest (including walnut, buckeye, and California bay); north coast riparian scrub (cottonwoods, willows, blackberry, grasses); oak woodlands; and non-native grassland/meadow, which support a variety of wildflowers.
Plan your visit to The Sea Ranch public access trails, Gualala Point Regional Park, Hood Mountain Regional Park and Cloverdale River Park at the Sonoma County Regional Parks website. Park hours are sunrise to sunset. Parking at The Sea Ranch trails is free. Parking at Gualala, Hood Mountain and Cloverdale is $7 or free for Regional Parks members.
Editor's note: This blog post was originally published in 2016 and updated in February 2017.