Parks for Mountain Biking and Bikepacking
You'll find some of the best parks for mountain biking in the majority of Sonoma County's 60+ state and regional parks. However, the list below - with great rides ranging from easy to challenging, and covering diverse terrain - will help you get started. If you are looking for bikepacking in Sonoma County by combining mountain biking and camping, you can find a great list of campgrounds here.
Located in Santa Rosa at the northern edge of Sonoma Valley, Trione-Annadel State Park holds some of the county's best mountain biking. Forty excellent miles of trails take you up steep climbs and down sharp descents while traversing beautiful forests, oak woodlands, and grasslands. Trione-Annadel is so popular with mountain bikers that it has its own meetup group, which you are welcome to join. Camping is available at adjacent Spring Lake Regional Park.
A former cattle ranch with far-ranging views, Windsor's Shiloh Ranch contains nearly eight miles of multi-use dirt trails that are perfect for mountain bikers with a yen for steep uphill climbs and rocky patches. The trails run through rugged-but-beautiful terrain, with diverse eco-systems that include a mixed conifer forest, oak groves, open grasslands, and creekside moisture-seeking plants. It's a good place for birdwatching, and it's not unusual to spot wildlife such as deer, rabbits, fox, and even the occasional coyote or bobcat.
The 5.5-mile West County Regional Trail is flat and paved, making it perfect for families with newbie mountain bikers - or any biker who wants a relaxed and scenic ride through gorgeous vineyards, beautiful red barns, and rising hills. Built along the route of a former railway line, the trail is mostly car-free, and there are loads of interesting stops along the way (the picturesque village of Graton, for example, or Hallberg Butterfly Gardens, a nine-acre wildlife sanctuary providing habitat for dozens of colorful butterfly species).
Although it's close to downtown Petaluma, the rolling hills and panoramic views at Helen Putnam Regional Park will make you think that you've traveled to a remote wilderness area and left the world far behind. Six miles of mostly gentle trails make Putnam a great place for beginning or rusty mountain bikers to build up confidence and skill. You'll enjoy great birdwatching, five different kinds of oak forest, extensive grassland, and - in season - a remarkable variety of wildflowers.
Known for its splendid 180-degree views of Santa Rosa and the Mayacamas Mountains, 1,100-acre Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve offers nearly six miles of aggressive multi-use dirt trails that run past creeks and through thick forests and grassy meadows. The Eastern Trail, with a steep 1,000-foot ascent to near the top of 1,407-foot Taylor Peak, is recommended for advanced bikers. A somewhat gentler way to reach the peak is via the Western Trail, which climbs gradually until it connects to the last leg of the Eastern Trail (and then get ready for a short but steep climb). There are also a few short and fairly flat trails that will take you through beautiful terrain (download the trail map).
One of the county's newest and most-anticipated parks, 820-acre North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park offers sweeping and sensational views. The park includes a four-mile section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail that connects to Jack London State Historic Park. Although bikers are permitted only on the first two miles of the Ridge Trail, the terrain and views are so spectacular that it's worth a ride - and the steep uphill climb you'll experience, nearly 2,000 feet up through oak and bay laurel, provides a hefty workout. Access for bikers ends at 1720 feet at the Bennett Valley Overlook (download the trail map to see the route).
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.