Glen Ellen: Stunning Vistas Make for Stunning Hikes
Spend your mornings and early afternoons hiking along stunning trails, working off past and future calories, and ending up feeling like fitness personified in the town of Glen Ellen, an outstanding destination for guilt-free indulgence in Sonoma Valley.
Then (because you've earned it!) you'll have fun sampling a generous assortment of award-winning Sonoma Valley wineries before topping off the day with a great dinner at one of Glen Ellen's best restaurants.
To get you started, these four hiking destinations offer decidely different approaches to hitting the trail.
Sonoma Valley Regional Park: With its flat and paved multi-use trail - surrounded by hills, native grasses, seasonal wildflower displays and outstanding oak woodlands - this 202-acre park is easy and enjoyable to traverse for anybody, including folks in wheelchairs or families with tots in tow. If you'd prefer a path with a bit more challenge, take off on one of the dirt trails. And an extra added attraction: the family pooch can run free in the adjoining Elizabeth Anne Perrone Dog Park (dogs must be leashed elsewhere). You can download a map of the park (13630 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen, 707-539-8092).
Jack London State Historic Park: Hiking trails in this fabulous park are plentiful, ranging from easy to quite steep; you can get any sort of workout you like here. In addition, you can tour the cottage where Jack and Charmian London once lived, visit the small museum, explore London's Beauty Ranch and its buildings, and more. Additional details are available online at JackLondonPark.com (2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, 707-938-5216; park entry/parking $10 per vehicle; cottage entry $3 or free for children under 13).
Bouverie Preserve of Audubon Ranch: This splendid preserve's 535 protected acres support a diversity of wildlife and ecosystems, including vernal pools, mixed evergreen forests, oak woodlands, riparian, chaparral, and grasslands. Normally closed to the public, it's open for half-day guided nature walks on Saturdays in fall and spring (no fee, but reservations required), allowing you to amble the trails and learn about the surroundings. Nature workshops and other events are also held throughout the year (entrance at 13935 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen, 707-938-4554; reservations required for all visitors).
Quarryhill Botanical Garden: One of the world's most renowned Asian botanical gardens, Quarryhill includes many rare specimens collected in the wild. Along with the approximately 25,000 plants, you'll find miles of serpentine gravel paths wending beneath exotic trees, past waterfalls, and around colorful flowering shrubs. There are four gardens: the Woodland Garden, Chinese Heritage Rose Garden, Jane's Garden (named for founder Jane Davenport Jansen), and Stewartia Grove. Open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed all major holidays. Admission is $12 for adults; $10 seniors 65 or older; $8 for children ages 13-17, active military, and students; and free for age 12 and younger. Seniors, students, and active military are free the first Tuesday of every month. Docent-led tours (reservations required) are $17 for adults; $15 per person for groups of 10 or more; and free for age 12 and younger (12841 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen, 707-996-3166).