On the Trail to Spring Picnics in Sonoma County
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:
Umbrella Tree Trail at North Sonoma Mountain
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 (such as the one at top of this page). 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. Park info and map
Creek Trail at Crane Creek Regional Park
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. Park info and map
East Ridge Trail at Tolay Lake Regional Park
For a vigorous climb that will work up an appetite, try the East Ridge Trail to Three Bridges Vista Point at Tolay Lake Regional Park near Petaluma. This 5-mile round-trip route follows Causeway Trail across Tolay Lake and climbs through an oak woodland to join the East Ridge Trail. At the top, three picnic tables and 360-degree views are there to greet you. On a clear day, you may be able to spot the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and Bay Bridge. Bring binoculars, plenty of water, and sun protection, as there is little shade at the top. Park info and map
Because you'll hike up to a mile to reach these sites, keep your load light – sandwiches, fruit, and other portable items 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!
Know Before You Go
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?
Please practice Leave No Trace: If you bring it into the outdoors, take it back with you. Discarded to-go containers, soda cans, plastic floats, etc. all have far-reaching, negative impacts on wildlife and the environment.
Pack out everything you pack in – not all these picnic sites have trash cans nearby – and be a hero and pick up other trash and litter to leave the place better than you found it.
Published May 2016; updated April 2023