Sea Ranch Headlands

Winter Hikes in Sonoma County

By Regional Parks Staff 
January 7, 2019

For outdoor enthusiasts, one of the best things about living in Sonoma County is the moderate weather. Except for days with heavy rains, hiking here can be a year-round pleasure.

In fact, venturing out in winter has its benefits: Seasonal streams flow, hillsides green, the air is crisp, and the sky is brilliantly clear or painted with clouds. So, to keep you moving this winter, here are some of our favorite hikes. 

West Ridge Trail at Tolay Lake Regional Park: This trail leads to the southern reaches of Sonoma County’s largest park and verdant views of the Petaluma River, San Pablo Bay and Cougar Mountain at Sears Point. And at 8 miles round trip, it’s a worthy workout. 

Alta Vista Trail at Foothill Regional Park: In English, alta vista means “view from above,” and the reason for the trail name becomes clear when you crest the top. Alta Vista is not a long trail, but it is the park’s most challenging, and it's certainly an invigorating climb on a brisk day. 

Alta Vista Trail at Foothill Regional Park

Valley of the Moon Trail at Sonoma Valley Regional Park: The paved Valley of the Moon Trail is one of our favorite wet-weather outings. No worries about muddy crossings when wandering along this corridor of blue and black oaks.  

Creekside Trail at Shiloh Ranch Regional Park: A hike on the Creekside Trail is like a walk through magical Ferngully. This trail is all about forested solitude along a burbling winter creek. It’s easy to imagine fairies living here.

Bluff Top Trail at The Sea Ranch: When you want a moody hike, Bluff Top is your trail: Wind-swept headlands, jagged shorelines, pounding waves, and leaning cypress groves await. This is also a prime whale-watching venue in late winter. 

Bluff Top Trail at The Sea Ranch

Todd Creek Trail to Western Trail at Taylor Mountain Regional Park: When you need a quick wilderness fix, this looped hike lets you escape into the damp woods on the flank of Santa Rosa’s iconic peak. 

Panorama Trail at Helen Putnam Regional Park: This trail west of Petaluma lives up to its name, offering expansive views of rolling pastureland and sprawling coast live oaks. The winter greenery is so brilliant it looks like a screensaver image.

Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail: The Laguna comes alive when winter rains fill the wetlands. A hike along this solid-surface trail is sure to provide first-rate birdwatching, and the open sky makes for great cloud-viewing as well. 

Horse and rider on Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail

These are just a few of the winter hikes Regional Parks has to offer. For a full list of parks and trails, visit the map at the Find a Parks page at SonomaCountyParks.org.

No matter which you choose, be sure to prepare for the adventure: 

  • Unless noted above, these trails are not paved. Some sections can be quite muddy after rains, especially low-lying areas of the Laguna Trail.
  • Know your route ahead of time by checking park maps and updates.
  • Keep in mind that it gets dark early this time of year.
  • Dress in layers to maintain a comfortable temperature.
  • Due to erosion or tree-safety issues related to the 2017 wildfires, Sonoma Valley and Shiloh Ranch regional parks may temporarily close during high wind advisories or heavy rains.
  • Parking is $7 or free for parks members. Parking is free at The Sea Ranch and the Laguna Trail.

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