125 Great Hikes Around Sonoma County
Great news for hikers of all skill levels who live in or visit Sonoma County: Robert Stone’s highly-rated Day Hikes Around Sonoma County, first published in 2005, has just been released in a second edition. It’s available in both paperback and Kindle versions.
The new edition has undergone major revision. “There are about 30 new hikes,” Stone told me in a recent telephone interview. “Sonoma County is better at getting new trails and developing new trails than any county I know of. It’s amazing. It shows incredible devotion on your county’s part to doing that.”
Among the new hikes in the second edition are Taylor Mountain, Laguna de Santa Rosa, the North Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail, the Ancient Redwood at Jack London State Historic Park, and the 3.5-mile Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve. Day Hikes Around Sonoma County has received Best Guidebook Awards from Outdoor Writers of California, Northwest Outdoor Writers Association and Rocky Mountain Outdoor Writers and Photographers.
Each trail guide in the book tells you exactly what you need to know to get on the trail and enjoy your hike. A map is included for each hike, and a chart offers that hike’s distance and approximate time to complete, configuration (loop, out-and-back, double loop, etc.), elevation gain, level of difficulty, exposure, and whether dogs are allowed. This important data is followed by a section that offers up interesting history and/or sociological information about the land you’ll traverse, precise directions to the trailhead, and a clear explanation to the trail itself that will keep you from getting lost.
Stone—who shares his time between Montana and San Luis Obispo—is the writer, photographer and publisher of 20 current Day Hike books that cover California and a few regions in the western U.S. The series appeals to a wide audience, “from people who want an easy 1- or 2-mile hike to long and steep hikes. I’ve got trails that accommodate a woman pushing a stroller to a hard-core hiker who wants a serious climb.”
I asked Stone to suggest a couple of hikes for newcomers or visitors to Sonoma County.
“Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve is so fantastic,” he said. “The nice thing is that people can take short hikes, the interpretive trails, or take a connecting trail to adjoining Austin Creek State Recreation Area, which has really extensive hiking. Also, Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve is a great place—it’s not a long trail, but it’s gorgeous.”
Asked to name his own favorite hike, he said what most of us would say, including me: it depends on his mood and the weather that day.
“But,” he added, “I always love hiking at Jack London State Historic Park. You just can’t go there and not be awed by it. The trick is to go early in the morning when it’s very quiet—but it’s always quiet once you pass the lake and start heading up to the North Sonoma Ridge Trail. And you can also come the reverse way, starting at the Ridge Trail and heading into Jack London.”
Best little-known hike? “Helen Putnam Regional Park,” he said. “There’s just something about those rolling hills and oak forests, those oak trees with their big twisted limbs. It’s such an open, gorgeous place. I feel the same way about Taylor Mountain, but some people don’t want to be going uphill and downhill, they might not be crazy about that. At Helen Putnam, though, people don’t need to climb. They can just enjoy the beauty and the day.”
Stone paused a moment. “Sonoma County is unique,” he said. “It’s so diverse. As a hiker, you’ve got anything you could possibly want. I love your county. It feels like home to me even though it isn’t my home. You’re lucky to live here.”
Find more info about nature parks in Sonoma County.