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Best Parks For a Picnic

Picnic in a gorgeous setting at Doran Beach Regional Park on the Sonoma coast.

Many state, regional and community parks in Sonoma County contain picnic areas with tables, barbecues, and rest rooms nearby. They’re usually located in beautiful areas — perhaps beside a lake, offering a panoramic view, or within walking distance of a children’s playground or other recreational area.

Here are a few parks, located in different regions of Sonoma County, in which you can create unforgettable picnic memories:

Revel in Redwoods

When you picnic at 805-acre Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, you’ll feel as if you’re dining in an open-air cathedral created from live redwood trees. The world’s tallest living things, they soar skyward on all sides, while the sunlight filtering through the canopy 300 feet above resembles a stained glass window. The picnic area contains 78 individual picnic sites; there’s also a separate group picnic area that can hold up to 150 people (it can be reserved up to a year in advance). After lunch, stroll one of the gentle trails to take in famous trees such as 1400-year-old Colonel Armstrong and 310-foot Parson Jones. 

Experience the Wild North Coast

Situated where the Gualala River enters the Pacific Ocean, stunning Gualala Point Regional Park offers fabulous views of the ocean and craggy bluffs, a vast expanse of white sandy beach and dunes, a summertime sandspit at the river’s mouth, and lovely picnic areas with great views. You can hike the bluffs, construct driftwood castles, roll down sand dunes, hunt for sea glass, collect shells, and try your hand at fishing (depending on the season). 

Enjoy a Family Beach Outing

Doran Regional Park is the perfect destination for a family get-together. At this beautiful, two-mile stretch of golden sand, which rests between Bodega Harbor and the open ocean, you’ll not only picnic in an awesome setting, but you and your kids can stay busy flying kites, building sand castles, searching for shells or — in warm weather — splashing around in the water (Doran’s calm waters rank among the county’s safest for swimming). You can also launch a kayak or a speedboat from a jetty at the harbor’s mouth, or take a lovely walk on dozens of nearby trails (including the Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail).

Spend an Old-Fashioned Day in the Park

Tucked on the southeastern edge of Santa Rosa, 350-acre Spring Lake Regional Park offers an amazing diversity of activities for individuals and families alike. It’s a lovely place, guarded by rising hills and generously endowed with a lake, ponds, oak woodlands, grasslands, and meadows. In spring it’s ablaze with wildflowers. You can boat, paddle, and windsurf on the lake; swim, during warm weather, in the three-acre swimming lagoon (which has lifeguards, plus an inflatable water playground — admission to the Water Park area is $10-$15); go fishing; hike and cycle. There’s also an amazing Environmental Discovery Center for kids. Best of all: Spring Lake is perfect for picnics, offering 200 tables with barbecues in various picturesque spots around the park as well as five separate group picnic areas. 

Hang out on the River

Situated along the county’s beautiful Russian River, Riverfront Regional Park includes 305 serene and peaceful acres — an ideal place to just relax in the beauty of nature. The lake-view picnic tables and barbecue pits are found in two areas (choose between a shady redwood grove and a sunny meadow), and there’s also a reservable group picnic area capable of accommodating 25-150 people. Two small man-made lakes offer excellent large mouth bass fishing (no swimming allowed, though). An accessible two-mile trail circles one of the lakes, and in summer paddle boards can be rented. 

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