By Suzie Rodriguez
Some of the best mountain biking in Sonoma County can be found in its regional and state parks. From beginning rides at parks like Helen Putnam in Petaluma or Foothill in Windsor to epic climbs at Hood Mountain or the rocky singletrack at Annadel, this list will get you on the trails.
A former cattle ranch with far-ranging views, Shiloh Ranch Regional Park southeast of Windsor holds nearly 8 miles of multi-use dirt trails that are the joy of mountain bikers who yearn for steep climbs and rocky patches. Trails run through ruggedly beautiful terrain with diverse ecosystems that include a mixed-conifer forest, oak groves, open grasslands, a creek, pond, and moisture-seeking plants. Shiloh is a good place for spring wildflowers, too, and it’s not unusual to spot wildlife such as deer, rabbits, fox, and even the occasional coyote or bobcat. Download the trail map. 5750 Faught Road, Windsor.
Visit Shiloh Ranch Regional Park
Note: Much of Hood Mountain Regional Park burned in the Glass Fire of September 2020. Please check the park's website to learn if it has reopened.
With nearly 2,000 acres on the northern end of Sonoma Valley, Hood Mountain offers miles of rugged trails that run along creeks, through grasslands, into forests, and straight up to peaks. Along the way, you’ll pass meadows, a pygmy forest, woodlands of coast live oak and big-leaf maple, and fern-filled riparian zones. A bike ride here provides a challenging, strength-training workout, ultimately rewarding your efforts with stunning, far-reaching views. Bring plenty of water. The multi-use Hood Mountain Trail brings bikers to the 2,730-foot summit, but only hikers can continue to the famed panoramic views at Gunsight Rock overlook. Download the trail map. 1450 Pythian Road, Santa Rosa (Southwest entrance) or 3000 Los Alamos Road, Santa Rosa (North entrance.)
Visit Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
The 211-acre Foothill Regional Park, damaged in the 2019 Kincade fire, is a look at Mother Nature’s restorative powers in action – with help from parks staff. Many of the trails have been repaired and are open for visitors. The park, in northeast Windsor, contains numerous easy trails and some challenging climbs that bikers share with hikers and equestrians. On the Oakwood Trail, two overlooks, each with 425-foot elevation, provide excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Download the trail map. 1351 Arata Lane, Windsor.
Visit Foothill Regional Park
Although it’s near downtown Petaluma, the rolling hills and panoramic views at Helen Putnam Regional Park will make you think you’ve left the developed world far behind. Six miles of mostly gentle trails make Putnam a great place for beginning or rusty mountain bikers looking to build confidence and skill. You’ll enjoy great birdwatching, five different kinds of oaks, grasslands, and - in season - a remarkable variety of wildflowers. Download the trail map. 411 Chileno Valley Road, Petaluma.
Visit Helen Putnam Regional Park
Renowned for its splendid 180-degree views of Santa Rosa and the Mayacamas Mountains, 1,100-acre Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve offers nearly 6 miles of aggressive multi-use dirt trails that run past creeks and through forests and meadows. Advanced bikers will love the Eastern Route, with its steep 1,000-foot ascent to near the top of 1,407-foot Taylor Peak. If you prefer a somewhat gentler way to reach the peak, try the Western Route. It climbs gradually until joining the last leg of the Eastern Route (then get set for a steep climb). The park also contains a few short, fairly flat trails through beautiful terrain. Download the trail map. Two entrances: 2080 Kawana Terrace, Santa Rosa, and 3820 Petaluma Hill Road, Santa Rosa.
Visit Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
One of Sonoma County’s newer parks, 820-acre North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park & Preserve offers sweeping and sensational views. The park includes a 4-mile section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail that connects to Jack London State Historic Park. Although bikers are permitted only on the first 2 miles of the Ridge Trail, the terrain and views are so spectacular that it’s worth a ride — and the steep uphill climb you’ll experience. Climbing nearly 2,000 feet through oak and bay laurel trees provides a hefty workout. Access for bikers ends at 1,720 feet at the Bennett Valley overlook. Download the trail map. 5297 Sonoma Mountain Road, Santa Rosa.
Visit North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
Trione-Annadel State Park offers perhaps the most exceptional mountain biking in Sonoma County. Located in Santa Rosa adjacent and the northern edge of Sonoma Valley, Annadel offers mountain cyclists a unique opportunity, in one ride, to experience three parks operated by different entities. Start in Howarth Park (city of Santa Rosa) and ride through Spring Lake (regional) and continue into Annadel (state). Forty miles of trails take you up steep climbs and down sharp descents while traversing beautiful forests, oak woodlands, and grasslands. Trione-Annadel is so popular with mountain bikers that it has its own race, the Annadel Classic (Aug. 13, 2017), and its own meetup group, which you are welcome to join. The park has multiple entry points, including from connecting trails within Spring Lake. The park's official entrance is at 6201 Channel Dr., Santa Rosa.
Parking in Sonoma County Regional Parks is $7 or free for Regional Parks members.
Suzie Rodriguez is a Sonoma-based writer, editor, lifelong outdoors enthusiast and past president of Bay Area Travel Writers.
Published July 2017/Updated September 2020