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Soda Springs Reserve

Six shady summer hikes in Sonoma County

By Regional Parks staff

On hot days, hikers naturally seek out the cool green shade of a forest. Sonoma County Regional Parks offers more than a few options for tree-lined trails, and we’ve selected six favorites. Read on for some shady forested hikes that are perfect for escaping the heat of summer.

Stillwater Cove Regional Park - Canyon Trail

Creek at Stillwater Cove Regional Park

The Canyon Trail at Stillwater Cove Regional Park is a cooling paradise of redwoods, leafy ferns, rhododendrons and other riparian plants growing along the babbling Stockhoff Creek. Tucked along Highway 1 north of Fort Ross, this 1.6-mile loop connects to the main parking area and is easy to complete. (Some may find the drive more challenging than the hike itself). Don’t miss the historic one-room Fort Ross schoolhouse in a meadow on the northern edge of the loop or, once your back to the main trailhead, the cove trail that takes you to the ocean.

Shiloh Ranch Regional Park - Creekside Trail

Creekside Trail at Shiloh Ranch Regional Park

The Creekside Trail at Shiloh Ranch Regional Park in southeast Windsor is shaded by a dense mix of oaks, madrones, bays, buckeyes and firs. This consistently shady trail runs above a creek (hence the name), and although the creek runs dry by midsummer, ferns and other riparian plants give the place a cool fairyland feel year-round. To stay in the shade, make this a 2.4-mile out-and-back hike.

Spring Lake Regional Park – Unpaved trails

Hikers walk along trail at Spring Lake

Everyone knows the paved loop around Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa. But are you familiar with the unpaved trails that ring the popular asphalt path? These dirt trails offer significant stretches of tree cover and are much less traveled than the paved loop. You’ll find them on the park map as the multi-use trails, Fisherman’s Trail and Horse Loop. Bonus feature: Great blackberry snacking when trailside vines ripen in late summer.

Taylor Mountain Regional Park - Todd Creek Trail

Hikers walk along trail at Taylor Mountain

Todd Creek Trail at Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve is a scenic wander through shady oak woodlands at the base of Santa Rosa’s iconic mountain. From the park's Kawana Springs entrance, Todd Creek Trail loops off lower Western Trail, winding its way between stands of gnarled oaks and over the creek, and featuring views of Santa Rosa to the west. At less than a mile one way, this is an easy out-and-back or can be part of a longer loop with Western or Red Tail trails.

North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park – Ridge Trail

Picnic table under redwoods at North Sonoma Mountain

The Ridge Trail at North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve begins in a tunnel of bay trees and quickly leads to a redwood grove and a picnic area along the south fork of Matanzas Creek - a lovely shaded spot for lunch or to hang out on a warm afternoon. The trail next crosses an exposed meadow, but as it zig-zags up the mountain’s north slope, you will mostly hike in the shade of oak and bay trees. At about 2 miles, you reach the Bennett Valley Overlook, which makes a scenic resting or turnaround point. The trail continues for another 1.7 miles to Jack London State Historic Park for an extended adventure.

Soda Springs Reserve

Redwoods tower at Soda Springs

Soda Springs Reserve is arguably Regional Parks’ most remote and undiscovered park. A drive to the coastal ridges of Annapolis leads to this North County redwood park, where you’re likely to have the grove of giant trees and the shaded banks of Soda Springs Creek all to yourself. (That's the creek in the photo at the top of the page.) You won’t burn many calories walking the paths in this small park. But you will enjoy the cool shadows and appreciate the grassroots effort that decades ago protected the trees and guaranteed public access.

The park is about 11 miles east of The Sea Ranch, and the last few miles are on a gravel/dirt road with several wooden bridge crossings, which makes this journey an adventure of its own.

Know before you go

These are just a few of the shady hikes Regional Parks has to offer. See our Find a Park page to explore other parks and trails

  • Know your route ahead of time by checking park maps and updates.
  • Always bring water. Some parks do not have drinking water sources.
  • Dogs are not allowed on trails at Shiloh Ranch or North Sonoma Mountain.
  • Follow Leave No Trace guidelines.
  • Parking is $7 or free for Regional Parks members.

Published July 2021