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People look out over ocean at Gualala Point Regional Park

Three Valentine's Day hikes in Sonoma County

Celebrate Valentine's Day by taking time to explore the beauty of Sonoma County with someone you love. Here are hikes on the Sonoma Coast, in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains, and along the Russian River that will make your heart race in all the right ways.

Tuck into isolated beaches with panoramic views 

Waves roll onto a sandy beach with craggy rock outcrops

Use one of public access trails in The Sea Ranch, the private community on Sonoma County's north coast, to enjoy expansive views of sea, sky, and rocky ocean outcrops. The trails – Black Point, Bluff Top, Pebble Beach, Shell Beach and Walk on Beach – start at Highway 1 parking areas, cross bluff-top meadows and forests, and wind down cliffside staircases, ending at secluded beaches with sandy coves, tide pools, and rock formations.

Or walk across the bluffs. Walk on Beach serves as the southern starting point for the 3-mile (one way) Bluff Top Trail, which travels north into 195-acre Gualala Point Regional Park (or start your hike in Gualala Point and walk south). Gualala Point offers wonderful headland views and a vast expanse of white sandy beach and dunes.

Why we love these trails now

We love these trails for their peace, quiet, and expansive serenity. Winter and early spring seasons on the northern coast bring crisp, clear skies, fewer foggy days, and you’re likely to have the beach all to yourself. The annual south-to-north Pacific gray whale migration hits its stride along the Sonoma Coast from late winter through spring, and Whale Watch Point, along the Bluff Top Trail at Gualala Point Regional Park, provides a prime vantage point on a clear day.

Shout it from the mountain top

Woman and dog ascend Alta Vista Trail at Foothill Regional Park

For a scenic but somewhat challenging hike, head to the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains and climb the Alta Vista Trail at the aptly named Foothill Regional Park in east Windsor. At its peak, the Alta Vista Trail (whose name means “high view”) offers an expansive 180-degree view overlooking the Santa Rosa Plain and Coastal Range beyond. The strategically placed bench at the summit is the perfect spot for a snack or to take in the views.

Alta Vista Trail can be done in a loop when starting from the parking lot on Arata Lane. Connect to Meadow Trail for a more gradual climb through grassy meadows and oak woodlands. Or head straight onto the Alta Vista Trail and start with a more intense climb up several switchbacks before finishing on a gradual descent along Oakwood and Meadow trails.

Why we love this trail now

Alta Vista Trail offers a satisfying blend of beautiful scenery and a rewarding challenge. Ascending its sweeping switchbacks becomes a shared journey, reflecting the efforts and triumphs that strengthen a partnership. As you traverse through the oak woodlands along the trail, notice these trees resprouting after the Kincade Fire of 2019, standing as a testament to nature's resilience and recovery and living symbols of renewal.

Riverside rendezvous

river flowing over rocks lined by plants and grasses

In northern Sonoma County, 72-acre Cloverdale River Park graces a woodsy bank of the Russian River. From here, the river rolls south until, below Healdsburg, it turns west and makes its way to the town of Jenner and the Pacific Ocean.

A paved, relatively flat trail of just over a mile runs alongside the river, winding through willows, oaks and cottonwoods. It’s a good place to spot plants and wildlife that call the river area home. The many species of birds you might see include raptors, woodpeckers, osprey, ducks, egrets, kingfishers and heron. You’ll see a variety of wildflowers start to bloom in early spring.

Why we love this trail now

The trail is a haven for nature lovers, offering a peaceful riverside stroll amidst a rich tapestry of plant and animal life, so don’t forget to bring binoculars. Filled with winter rains, the Russian River may be swollen and churning, creating a dramatic backdrop to your walk.

Know before you go

  • Plan your visit and find park maps at the Find a Park page.
  • All of these trails allow dogs on leash.
  • Parks close at sunset.
  • Parking at The Sea Ranch trails is free.
  • Parking at Gualala Point, Foothill and Cloverdale is $7 or free for Regional Parks members.
Published February 2024