If you’re heading to Santa Rosa, CA, you’re in for a treat. With its vibrant atmosphere and cool vibes, the city is a great destination for a fun-packed vacation. Thanks to its location in the heart of wine country, the city is hugely popular with wine buffs looking to explore the region’s numerous wineries. If you’d rather engage in something a little more active, you’ll find plenty to tempt you in the numerous state parks and preserves that surround the city. Packed with trails, stunning panoramas, and all manner of flora and fauna, the parks are a nature lovers dream. If your ideal vacation involves a backpack and a pair of hiking boots, here’s everything you need to know about hiking in Santa Rosa, CA.
Sonoma Coast State Beach
Sonoma County might have 82 state parks to its name, but few of them can compete with the majestic beauty of Sonoma Coast State Beach. Comprising of a string of gorgeous beaches separated by headlands and rocky outposts, the park stretches for a full 17 miles. Crammed with hiking trails and offering plenty of opportunities to kick back and relax in the sand, it’s as ideal for hikers as it is for beachcombers. If you want to make your visit an overnighter, you’ll find a plethora of camping opportunities at Wright’s Beach and Bodega Dunes. Will Creek Environmental Camp is also a great place to pitch your tent, although be warned: the facilities are a little primitive.
Santa Rosa Creek
Santa Rosa Creek is a 22-mile-long stream that begins in Hood Mountain and ends at the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Running alongside the creek for 2.14 miles between Willowside Road and the Prince Memorial Greenway into downtown Santa Rosa is the Santa Rosa Creek Trail, a short but sublime trail that’s a popular destination for runners, cyclists, and hikers. The trail is well-maintained, safe, and peaceful, offering stunning views over farms, vineyards, the waterway, and the mountains in the distance.
Point Reyes has a huge array of hiking trails suitable for both day hiking and longer adventures. One of its most popular trails is Bear Valley Trails, a challenging trek that takes you through shaded canyons and flower-strewn meadows before winding its way down to the ocean. The Earthquake Trail is a 0.6-mile loop that offers plenty of intriguing sights along the way. According to Wikipedia, it even includes a fence that was pulled 18 feet apart during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. On the western edge of the Point Reyes Peninsula, you’ll find the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, an enchanting sight that can be accessed by the Chimney Rock hike, a trail that’s famous for its spring wildflower displays. Another trail worth a visit is the Tomales Point Trail, which offers gorgeous ocean vistas.
Salt Point State Park
Salt Point State Park consists of 6000 acres of coastal bluffs, coves, and wooded uplands, along with over 20 miles of hiking trails. Regardless of which trail you choose, you’ll be blessed with panoramic views, pristine prairies, swathes of grassland, and rugged coastline. There’s even a pygmy forest and an underwater park to explore. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of picnicking spots to rest up at. If fishing or water sports are your thing, there are several points throughout the park where fishing is permitted. If you want to extend your visit overnight, there are over 100 sites available along the way.
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Venture just a little outside Santa Rosa and you’ll stumble on Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, a stunning park packed with over 25 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails. Along with the trails, there’s also great trout fishing at Sonoma Creek in late spring and early summer, and the intriguing Robert Ferguson Observatory to explore. With so much on offer, you might struggle to pack it all into one day. Fortunately for those looking to extend the fun for as long as possible, the park offers a group campsite for overnight stays.
Stilwater Cove Regional Park
Spread over 210 acres, Stilwater Cove Regional Park offers an incredible array of activities to enjoy, including fishing, bird watching, kayaking, and, of course, hiking. Regardless of which trail you take, you’re guaranteed amazing ocean views. The top pick, however, has to go to the half-mile trail that leads to the historic one-room schoolhouse at Fort Ross, an unmissable sight that will transport you back in time.
Pepperwood Preserve is a large, private reserve offering outstanding panoramas over Sonoma County. The 3,200-acre preserve is home to over 900 species of animals and plants, making it the perfect place to escape the city and enjoy nature. Studded throughout the preserve are miles of trails, all offering varying degrees of challenge. If you want to learn more about the preserve’s history and ecosystem-climate research, there’s even the possibility to book a guided hike with one of the center’s well-informed docents. As the preserve isn’t always open to the public, check the opening hours before planning your visit.
Hood Mountain Regional Park
Hood Mountain Regional Park occupies almost 2000 acres of land that couldn’t be more perfect for hikers if it tried. Scattered throughout the grasslands, forests, creeks, and peaks are 19 miles of trails, all offering enchanting views and plenty of challenge. If you want to turn the trip into an overnighter, there are several environmental, tent-only campsites located about a 2-mile hike for parking areas.
According to Trip Advisor, Howarth Park offers some of the best hiking trails in Santa Rosa. Although the park is relatively small, many of its trails hook up to the trail network at the larger Spring Lake Park, letting you extend the experience for just as long as you like. The park itself is a great place for family fun, featuring a carousel, a small lake with ducks and paddleboats, and even a small train.
Austin Creek SRA
Sonomacounty.com describes Austin Creek SRA as a ‘recreational dream.’ Spread over 6000 acres, the park boasts 20 miles of trails that take you through wildflower-strewn meadows, rolling hills, and dense woodland, Trails vary from moderate to strenuous. If you really want to test your abilities to the limit, try the supremely challenging East Ridge and Austin Creek trails.