Most state and regional parks in Sonoma County offer activities for the entire family but, because of all its options, Spring Lake Regional Park is a standout.
On the eastern edge of Santa Rosa — just off Highway 12, and next to Trione-Annadel State Park — 350-acre Spring Lake is surrounded by hills. It’s home to a lake, ponds, oak woodlands, grasslands, meadows, and — in spring and well into summer — wildflowers.
Spring Lake includes the Environmental Discovery Center, which offers interactive displays and activities aimed at kids 6-12. Youngsters can touch sea creatures in tidal-action pools, meet Shelby the turtle, watch fish from the park’s lake swimming in an aquarium, view taxidermied mountain lions and coyotes, and learn about Mother Earth in the storytelling cavern. They have lots of fun — but they also walk away with knowledge of earth stewardship and earth science.
The center is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays, and features three rotating exhibits — “Habitat & Home,” “Down the Drain” and “Eco Kids.” Science Saturdays are held on the first Saturday of each month, with naturalists hosting fun science experiments. Naturalists also lead family hikes the third Saturday of the month (in September, and November to May). Admission to the center is free (but parking inside the park is $7).
Filled with filtered spring water and open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, the Spring Lake Swimming Lagoon offers both lap swimming and unstructured water play with no admission fee. Tube and life vest rentals are available.
The lagoon also includes a multi-station floating playground where children and adults can bounce, climb, slide, and balance on a series of floating play stations. Children must be at least six years old to use the water playground. Admission to the floating playground is $10, or $20 with a one-hour paddleboard or boat rental on the lake; a season pass to the water playground is $60. Swimming is free.
Each September, at the end of the swimming season, the lagoon hosts a multi-weekend off-leash dog party known as the Water Bark. For a small fee, dog owners are able to let their pets swim and play in the lagoon before it is drained for the year.
The water park, swimming lagoon, and boat consession are open 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. daily, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
A 72-acre reservoir, Spring Lake also offers year-round boating (no gas motors/engines): bring your own craft up to 16 feet in length or from May to September you can rent from the boat concession stand. Other Spring Lake activities include fishing (you’ll need a license if you’re over 16), camping (learn more), hiking, and biking. With 200 tables with barbecues, you can also enjoy a picnic.
And there’s even more! Spring Lake is directly connected to two other parks — 5,500-acre Trione-Annadel State Park (6201 Channel Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-539-3911) and Santa Rosa’s attraction-studded, 152-acre Howarth Park (630 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa, 707-543-3282), which has a small lake of its own and many resources for children including an amusement area with a miniature train ride.
Spring Lake Regional Park (393 Violetti Road, Santa Rosa, 707-539-8092) is open daily, sunrise to sunset; you can download a map of Spring Lake Regional Park. Entry is free, but a $7 parking free applies (free with a Regional Parks membership).
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez