Under 2 mile loop in oak foothills near Lake Suttonfield.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 1.6 mile loop hike is easy, with about 230 feet
of elevation change. Elevation changes are pretty slight, but there are
some short and steep paths.
Dirt trails and fire roads and one paved path.
Hot in summer, nice in spring.
From US 101 in Marin County, exit CA 37. Drive east about 7 miles, then
turn north onto CA 121. Drive northeast about 7.3 miles, then turn north
onto CA 12. Drive about 3.6 miles north to downtown Sonoma (where CA 12
takes a sharp left at a stop sign), then continue on CA 12 about 6.5 miles
to the signed park entrance on the left side of the road.
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:
There's a deli/bakery on CA 12 near the park entrance, and more restaurants,
stores, gas, and pay phones south in towns along CA 12. No camping.
Parking in a paved lot inside the park, with some side of the road parking
along CA 12. $7 entrance fee (if you park in the lot). There are portable
toilets and drinking water at the trailhead. No maps. Sonoma County Transit
bus #34 has limited service along CA 12 within walking distance to the park.
Visit the Transit
Info website for details. There are designated handicapped parking spots,
and one paved trail is initially suitable to wheelchairs.
Dogs are permitted on leash. Park is open from sunrise to sunset. Most trails
are multi-use, but some are allegedly hiking-only (there are many informal
trails in the park and it can be hard to tell). Note: Some of the
trails described below technically pass through private property (owned
by the state), but as of October 2002, the land was unfenced, not signed
as private, and commonly used by local runners, walkers, cyclists, and equestrians.
If on your visit, conditions have changed, respect fences and signs and
reroute your hike.
The Official Story:
Sonoma County's Sonoma
Valley Park page
Sonoma County's Regional Park office 707-565-2041
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Sonoma
Valley Regional Park hike.
North Bay Trails, by David Weintraub (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map which shows trails described
in a featured hike.
Valley Park in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
with a rather generic name, Sonoma Valley Regional Park
is a 162 acre preserve of gently rolling oak woodlands. In autumn the
park's blue, black, and white oaks are a slight to behold, with patches
of gold, blue, and red leaves conspicuous throughout the grassy hillsides.
Spring is also a delightful time of year to visit, as Sonoma Valley Park
is for the most part free from invasive thistles that can overtake native
While Sonoma Valley Park itself is rather
small, a parcel of land on the park's southeastern flank owned by the
California State Lands Commission has become an informal extension of
the park. As of this writing the state lands are unsigned, mostly unfenced
(some fences remain near the reservoir), and commonly used by locals.
If on your visit you encounter no trespassing signs and fences, do respect
them. Since trail signs are few and far between at Sonoma Valley, it can be hard to
stay within the park borders, even if your intentions are honorable. If
you want to be completely sure that you're within the park borders, hike
out and back on the paved path.
Begin at the edge of the parking lot
near the portable toilets, on an unnamed paved trail. The multi-use
trail sets a level pace through grassland. Look on the right side of the
trail for a plum tree and massive blackberry bramble, fed by a seep. After
about 250 feet, a service road continues straight, while the trail curves
right. A few steps later, at about 0.07 mile, the paved trail sweeps right
again, and a fire road continues straight. Continue straight on the
The multi-use trail runs between two oak-dotted hillsides. At 0.14 mile, bear right
at an unsigned junction. A fire road veers right and uphill, while
another heads downhill. Continue straight.
Gorgeous blue oaks sprawl through grassland
on both sides of the descending trail, which is quite rocky. You'll pass
a small pond on the left. Vinegarweed blooms along the trail in late summer.
The trail levels out and follows along a fenceline, with mature blue oaks
providing shade. Ignore all the deer trails and shortcuts worn into the
hillside on the right. At 0.58 mile, you'll reach a sloping meadow and
unsigned junction. An informal path cuts through the grassland, but continue
on the fire road until it meets another near a fenceline running perpendicular
to the junction. Turn right.
On my October hike I watched a jackrabbit
scamper up the hillside to the left, where black and white oaks mix through
the blues. The fire road climbs easily toward a ridge. At 0.63 mile, a fire
road departs on the right. Continue straight.
The fire road continues uphill to a crest
and junction at 0.67 mile. Straight ahead Lake Suttonfield, a reservoir,
stretches west, with Sonoma Mountain as a backdrop. Turn right.
Skirting the reservoir, the fire road climbs
gently through oak grassland. At 0.80 mile, you'll reach an unsigned junction
with a footpath. Turn right.
The path ascends a few feet to a hilltop,
then begins a descent through blue oaks. At 0.86 mile the path ends at
a T junction with a fire road. Turn left.
An arm of the reservoir is visible on the
left as the fire road ascends, then drops down to a multiple junction
at 0.96 mile. Turn right onto a steep footpath.
The narrow path climbs sharply through grassland.
Just before the crest of the hill, at 1.02 miles, the footpath
crosses a fire road. Continue straight.
Look for a bench under the tree on the right
-- this is a nice place for a lunch break. Almost immediately the trail
begins to descend through a forest of blue oaks, with a few manzanita,
black oak, and buckeye.The trail curves left around a fallen tree, then
runs parallel to a small seasonal creek. Buckeyes are common in the creekbed,
while the oaks prefer the slightly drier hillsides. At 1.18 miles, the
trail levels out and meets the paved trail. Turn right.
Tucked between two ascending hillsides
to the left and right, the paved multi-use trail winds along a seasonal
creek, with blue and black oaks and buckeyes providing partial shade.
There are picnic tables along the trail in areas. As the hills spread
out a bit, blue oaks and grassland dominate the landscape. Some of the
trees are draped with lace lichen. At 1.51 miles, the paved trail reaches
a familiar junction. This time bear left, remaining on the pavement,
and return to the trailhead.
Total distance: 1.57 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, October 3, 2002