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Spring hillsides at Helen Putnam Regional Park

Spring hikes in Petaluma's Helen Putnam Regional Park

Looking for a spring hike in Sonoma County that's so lovely it will take your breath away? Head to the rolling hills just west of Petaluma, where Helen Putnam Regional Park features jaw-dropping views of bright green countryside, baby blue skies and cotton candy clouds. 

About Helen Putnam Park

Helen Putnam Regional Park is just 2 miles from downtown Petaluma, on bucolic Chileno Valley Road. Its 216 acres includes 6 miles of trails that cross grassy hillsides and weave through groves of heritage oaks.

Ridge-top trails provide panoramic views of the city to the east and the Sonoma-Marin countryside to the west. (Get inspired by this photo slideshow.)

The looped trail system lets hikers create walks of varying length and difficulty, making Helen Putnam a great choice for beginning hikers looking for a bit of a challenge. Trails are open to cyclists and horseback riders as well. (Download the trail map.) Other features include a large fishing pond, picnic area and playground.

The park is named after Helen Putnam, a former Sonoma County supervisor and Petaluma’s first female mayor. Like many other regional parks, the property was a ranch before it became a park. 

Suggested hike

From the Chileno Valley Road parking lot, follow the Ridge Trail, which is actually a segment of the larger Bay Area Ridge Trail. At .3 miles, you’ll come to the fishing pond. Continue north up the Ridge Trail on a mild incline.

Stay on the paved Ridge Trail for another .3 miles until reaching Wildflower Junction, where the South Loop, Panorama and Pomo trails intersect. Take the Pomo Trail from here, which curves westward into the park's interior.

After .65 miles of gnarled oaks and bays, and past an intersection with Filaree Trail, you'll reach the intersection with Panorama Trail at Hollow Oak Junction. Here, you'll emerge from the forest to unbelievable views of the countryside to the south and west.

Take Panorama Trail to the right, passing an old oak with low branches perfect for kids who love to climb. Take the Panorama Steps - a 121-step staircase and enjoy the incredible views of the Sonoma-Marin countryside descending to the Arroyo Trail and the parking lot.

This hike is only 2.2 miles, but it is not short on spring scenery. 

Know before you go

  • This park has two entrances - one on Chileno Valley Road and one on Windsor Drive. 
  • Dogs on leash are allowed.
  • Parking is $7 or free for Regional Parks members.
Note: This post was originally published in 2017 and updated in 2024 to clarify trail directions.