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Black Friday Alternatives in Sonoma County

Hiking in Sonoma County

Avoid the mobs, jam-packed roads, and fighting for bargains on Black Friday and, instead, head to a favorite Sonoma County hiking spot to work off Thursday’s turkey and enjoy the calming beauty of nature.

Here are a few suggestions for a rejuventating, outdoor alternative to black friday shopping in Sonoma County on Nov. 25, the day after Thanksgiving 2016:

Hike Free in 116 State Parks: California State Parks (in conjunction with Save the Redwoods League and the California State Parks Foundation) is offering more than 13,000 free day-use vehicle passes to 116 particpating parks on Friday. Passes will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. You can reserve your day-use pass starting on Wednesday, November 16 at noon by visiting www.GreenFriday.org. Be sure to bring your printed pass with you to the park.

#OptOutside Hike: This Black Friday, REI has partenered with the Sonoma County Regional Parks and Team Sugarloaf for a free hiking adventure across Hood Mountain Regional Park and adjacent Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Join one of two guided hikes that will cover about 7.5 miles and climb more than 2,000 feet. Click here to learn more.

Hike off yesterday’s turkey at Jack London State Historic Park: The park’s yearly “After Thanksgiving Holiday Hike” is a refreshing and inspiring way to greet the Holiday Season. On this moderate four-mile jaunt, you’ll hike through mixed evergreens while enroute to the majestic Ancient Redwood. Please wear sturdy shoes, and bring water. Rain cancels hike. Limited to 17 participants. Meet in the ranch parking lot. The fee is $10 per person, plus parking. Register here.

Explore the Sea Ranch Access Trails: These fabulous access trails bring you along gorgeous coastal bluffs, accompanied by views of offshore sea stacks and white sandy beaches, the sound of crashing surf and barking sea lions, and the enlivening spark of brisk sea air.

As a privately-owned community, Sea Ranch’s roads and most of its trails are closed to the public — but laws allow the public to use trailheads located within Sea Ranch (and maintained by Sonoma County Regional Parks) that lead to the beach. Trails start at Highway 1 parking areas and cut across bluffs, through meadows and forests, to panoramic views of the coast. From there you can descend to the beach below via pathways or staircases, and picnic, go tide pooling, watch the sea birds and so much more.

Holiday Touch: Nearby Gualala will be holding its annual day-long Gualala Arts Festival of Trees on Nov. 25 and 26. Admission is free, and both Santa and Mrs. Claus will be flying in both days.

Stroll Around the Solar System: Located within Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, the Robert Ferguson Observatory is the largest observatory in the western USA dedicated to public viewing and education. For hikers, Ferguson offers the extraordinary opportunity of traversing PlanetWalk, a 4.5-mile trail through a scale model of the solar system displaying both relative planet size and relative distances between planets. The actual solar system has been shrunk more than 2,360,000,000 times, small enough to include the orbit of distant Pluto (officially reclassified as a “dwarf planet”), and large enough that the smallest planets can still be seen. One step represents about one million miles of empty space; if you take one step every five seconds, you’ll be walking at the speed of light. More Info: “Walking to Pluto at Ferguson Observatory.”

Holiday Extra: On Nov. 25, the observatory will hold daytime solar observing from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., allowing you to safely look at and listen to the sun. That night, from 6 to 10 p.m., the observatory’s three main telescopes will open for public viewing during a “Star Party,” with docents available to answer questions. Daytime viewing is free; there is a $3 charge for the Star Party (for anyone over 18); $8 parking fee applies.

Go whale watching at Bodega Bay: The annual north-to-south gray whale migration along Sonoma County’s coast is underway, with opportunities for whale-spotting getting better each day into the peak activity of winter months. So, grab your binocs, pile on layered clothing, and head to the coast to spy on whales spouting, displaying their flukes (tails) as they dive, or just hanging out. One of the county’s top whale-watching spots is Bodega Head, a small peninsula that juts well out into the ocean and affords closer-than-usual observations of cruising cetaceans.

Holiday Extra: On Fridays, including the day after Thanksgiving, the renowned Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory offers free docent-led tours from 2-4 p.m. The tours explore the dynamic biodiversity of Sonoma’s coast. You’ll see marine aquarium displays filled with local fishes and invertebrates, a tidepool display rich with wildlife, and a lot more.

The suggestions above are just the merest hint of the outdoor adventures you can enjoy in Sonoma County. With more than 50 diverse regional parks, 11 state parks, and many preserves and open spaces, there is no end of possibilities.

Create your own Green Friday adventure by reading our Guide to the Sonoma County Regional Park System or Sonoma County State Parks.

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