This Bay Area Ridge Trail segment is a 10.9 mile out and back hike through
woods above Jack London's ranch.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 10.9 mile out and back hike is moderate, with about 1500
feet in elevation change. Park elevation ranges from about 400 to nearly
2400 feet. The featured hike starts at about 700 feet and climbs to 2100
feet, then descends back to the trailhead. Elevation changes are mostly
gentle, but this is a long hike.
More shade than sun.
Moderate around trailhead, light farther afield.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
Nice any time, but best in early spring.
From US 101 in Marin County, exit CA 37. Drive east about 7 miles,
then turn north onto CA 121. Drive northeast about 6.5 miles, then at a
junction where 121 veers right, continue straight onto 116. Drive north
on 116 about 1.5 miles, then continue straight on Arnold Drive as 116 bears
left. Drive north on Arnold Drive about 8 miles to the town of Glen Ellen.
Turn left onto London Ranch Road (the junction is not signed in advance).
Drive west on London Ranch Road about 1.2 miles to the park's entrance kiosk.
Once past the kiosk, turn right and drive less than 0.1 mile to the parking
From US 101 in Sonoma County, exit CA 12. Drive southeast on CA 12
about 25 miles, then turn right onto Arnold Drive. Drive south about 1 mile
into Glen Ellen, then turn right onto London Ranch Road. Drive west on London
Ranch Road about 1.2 miles to the park's entrance kiosk. Once past the kiosk,
turn right and drive less than 0.1 mile to the parking lot.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phone, stores, and restaurants in Glen Ellen and in small clusters
along Arnold Drive and 12. No camping.
Pay $10 fee at entrance kiosk. Large paved parking
lot. Portable toilet at the edge of the parking lot, and near the lake.
Drinking water in the picnic area. No maps at the trailhead -- pick up a map for $1 at the entrance kiosk. There are no designated handicapped parking
spots at this parking lot, although there are in the Museum parking lot.
There is no direct public transportation to the park, but Sonoma County
Transit bus #30 stops in Glen Ellen. From there it's a little over 1 mile
(uphill) to the park. Visit the Transit
Info website for details.
Park is open Thursday-Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some trails are multi-use, while others are hiking only. Dogs
are permitted on leash on some trails, but not every trail described in this hike.
The Official Story:
Park office 707-938-5216
Map & book choices/More Information:
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
is described and mapped in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco,
by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website). Order
this book from Amazon.com.
Download CSP's Jack
London map (although it's out of date for the new Ridge Trail segments,
this map is a good source to trails near park headquarters).
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Jack
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a good park map and descriptions of the
Jack London Ridge Trail segment.
North Bay Trails, by David Weintraub (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a partial park map and some suggested
101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area, by
Ann Marie Brown (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and descriptions of a featured
Nature article about Jack London State Park.
Jack London State Park in a
nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.
photos from this hike.
preservation of Jack London's estate permits
the author's admirers to tour the ranch where London lived from 1911 until
his death in 1916. The property includes London's
grave site, and the remains of his dream home, Wolf Ranch, which was destroyed
by fire the night before London and his wife were to move in.
Mountain as a backdrop, the ranch is a classic wine country landscape,
and visitors can tour the developed part of the park on an afternoon's
stroll. But hikers, cyclists, equestrians, and nature enthusiasts may
choose to spend the hours of their visits on trails tracing the eastern
flank of Sonoma Mountain, where London found "a place to get out
of Nature that something which we all need, only the most of us don't
know it." Pristine hillsides of madrone, Douglas fir, black oak, buckeye,
and bigleaf maple, grassy meadows, and redwood filled canyons can be explored
on trails both short and long, including a Bay Area Ridge Trail segment.
Hikers can choose from a variety of out-and-back
and loop trails. From the Museum parking lot, it's a 1 mile round trip
to the ruins of Wolf House and London's grave site. More ambitious hikes
entail a 1 mile hike through Beauty Ranch to the lake, and then a choice
of loops and out-and-back treks. Quarry Trail, Mountain Trail, Vineyard
Trail, Orchard Trail, and Fallen Bridge Trails can be combined for easy
hikes ranging from about 2 to 6 miles. For longer, more strenuous hikes,
continue uphill on Mountain Trail, and then head north toward the park
summit, or south on a Bay Area Ridge Trail segment, Sonoma Ridge Trail.
Spring and autumn are the standout seasons
at Jack London State Park. In
spring you can search for wildflowers in the woods and grassland, and
in autumn the park's black oaks and bigleaf maples are gorgeous. Although
summer temperatures soar in eastern Sonoma County, many trails are almost
entirely shaded. During the wettest months of the year waterfalls and
streams overflow with storm runoff, and trails can be muddy.
Begin at the edge of the parking lot
on Lake Trail, following the Bay Area Ridge Trail symbols (the equestrian
segment of Lake Trail starts at the north end of the lot and emerges near
the path to Pig Palace -- an optional route). The trail rises a few feet
to a picnic area, then drops to a junction near Beauty Ranch's barns,
on the left. Turn right.
Lake Trail approaches London's Cottage and
the winery ruins, on the left, an optional add-on. At 0.16 mile,
the trail bends right and runs along a private vineyard.
Eucalyptus trees and a few toyon and hawthorn shrubs line the trail on
the right. At
0.21 mile, the equestrian trail feeds in from the right, then the signed
path to Pig Palace departs on the right. Stay to the left on the wide
An unsigned path veers off toward the silos,
while the fire road heads west toward the forested slopes of Sonoma Mountain.
Some blue and black oaks grace the right side of the trail. Continuing to follow
the Bay Area Ridge Trail symbols, you'll skirt the vineyards and reach
a signed junction at 0.52 mile. The gated fire road continues straight,
while a hiking-only trail breaks off to the right. Turn right onto
At a slight incline the narrow path winds
through a woodland of California bay, madrone, tanoak, black oak, Douglas
fir, bigleaf maple, and hazelnut. Redwoods, clustered in fairy circles,
are fenced for protection in sections along the trail, where trilliums are common in late winter. At 0.65 mile, you'll
reach a bench
and junction. Continue to the left.
Lake Trail approaches and then runs beside
the fire road for a short distance. Plunging back into the woods, the
trail continues easily uphill, ending at 0.98 mile near the eastern shore
of the lake. Huge black oaks tower overhead. Walk a few feet left,
then turn right onto Mountain Trail, a fire road.
After a few steps you'll reach a multiple
junction. Turn right, remaining on Mountain Trail. The broad multi-use
trail begins an easy climb, through a forest of redwood, bigleaf maple,
madrone, California bay, and hazelnut. At the trail's first hairpin turn,
Upper Lake Trail sets out on the right. Continue to the left, uphill on Mountain Trail.
The trail ascends at an easy pace. At 1.37
miles, at another sharp corner, the trail levels out and emerges into
an open area, with a grassy sloping meadow and a signed junction with Fallen Bridge Trail on the left. The views southeast are
nice, but you'll get better vistas further uphill. Continue uphill
on Mountain Trail.
Back in the woods the trail ascends, maintaining
an easy grade. You may see small mammal and deer footprints in the dusty
trail surface. At 1.60 miles, the other end of Fallen Bridge Trail is
signed on the left. Continue straight on Mountain Trail.
In addition to the previously spotted madrone
and California bay trees, Mountain Trail weaves through a forest of some
large Douglas fir, Oregon oak, and buckeye. At 2.33 miles, Mountain Trail meets Sonoma Ridge Trail at
a signed junction. Turn left.
The narrow but multi-use trail, built with
the assistance of many volunteers, sets off south. Sonoma Ridge Trail is gently graded and an easy
ascent. With little understory vegetation, a variety of trees are conspicuous
along the trail, where some giant madrones mingle with
towering redwoods, Douglas fir, buckeyes, and California bay. As the trail approaches the North Fork
of Asbury Creek, redwood groves linger near the streambed. The creek runs
year long, and it's pleasant to hear water trickling in autumn, when everything
in the area seems so dry. In this mature forest some of the deciduous
trees are so tall that you may resort to identifying them by the leaves
they drop in autumn. Black oak and bigleaf maple are the foliage standouts,
but Oregon oaks
also shed their leaves. Buckeye are a bit shorter and more showy, and
grouped together along the trail the native trees may be newly leafed,
flowering, or reduced to bare branches and dangling seed pods, depending
on the season. On one late winter hike I enjoyed hundreds of milkmaids and hounds tongue sprinkled all along the trail. At a break in the vegetation on the left, there are views
stretching across Sonoma Valley to a ridge defining the Sonoma-Napa County
border. Sonoma Ridge Trail reaches its first of six switchbacks as it
makes its way up the side of the mountain. Tall red-barked manzanitas
are prominent near the second switchback. Where views extend to the north,
you can enjoy a great view of Mount St. Helena. The trail, ever ascending,
passes through more black oak, bigleaf maple, Oregon oak, and California
bay. As views continue to open up, patches of grass gradually spread to
occupy the understory, and tanoaks are common. The hilltop seems close
but remains elusive, as Sonoma Ridge Trail stays on the eastern side of
the mountain, downslope
from the ridge. Black oaks, California bays, and grassland dominate the
landscape. On a clear day, in some spots you may be able to see southeast
all the way to Mount Diablo. At 5.3 miles, you'll reach a signed junction
with Sonoma Ridge Loop Trail. Turn left.
The multi-use trail skirts a wooded hilltop,
meandering through a familiar mix of black oak, California bay, and madrone.
The tree cover blocks all views. At 5.4 miles, Coon Trap Trail departs to the
left. On my last hike I made a loop back to the trailhead, using Coon Trap, Orchard, and Fallen Bridge trails, but Coon Trap is very steep (dropping 1000 feet in the first mile) and not as scenic as Sonoma Ridge Trail. I don't recommend this option. Continue to the right on the loop trail.
Ascending a bit through large and lovely
black oaks, the trail draws near the property boundary to the west. At
the far reaches of the park and near 2100 feet, it's disappointing that
views are obscured, but the landscape is lovely.At 5.6 miles, the loop closes back at the junction
with Sonoma Ridge Trail. Turn left and retrace your steps to London Lake.
Back at the junction of Mountain Trail and
Lake Trail at 9.9 miles, walk downhill
on Lake Service Road, a broad fire road. At 10.34 miles, you'll reach
the junction with Lake Trail. Continue straight and retrace your steps
back to the trailhead.
: Sunday, March 3, 2013
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