Sonoma Valley Regional Park,
Sonoma County Regional Parks,
Sonoma County
In brief:
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.

Exposure:
Mostly exposed.

Trail traffic
:
Light-moderate.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trails and fire roads and one paved path.

Hiking time
:
1 hour.

Season
:
Hot in summer, nice in spring.

Getting there:
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:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/35

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 3821'51.48"N
Longitude
12230'44.00"W
(* 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.

Trailhead details:
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.

Rules:
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

Map Choices:
Park map
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order 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.

Sonoma Valley Park in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page


Saddled with a rather generic name, Sonoma Valley Regional Park is a 162 acre preserve of gently rolling oak woodlands. TrailheadIn 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 wildflowers' habitat.
     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. Unnamed trail along the park's southeastern boundarySince 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 fire road.
     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.Fire road near Lake Suttonfield
     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.Oaks and manzanita along the trail
     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. The paved trail 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