October 2018 Outdoor Events Roundup

The Tolay Fall Festival is just one of many wonderful October outdoor experiences to be had in Sonoma County.

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October 2018 Outdoor Events Roundup

With the start of October, autumn begins moving to center stage—a time of year in Sonoma County that you just don't want to miss. Days grow cooler, pumpkins appear in farm stands and fields, migrating birds fly through the air or in great flocks, and vineyards blaze with color. Here are a few ideas to get you out and about this month.

Have Fun in Sonoma County Regional Parks

Now through November

Tolay Fall Festival, Petaluma, California

Plan fun and fabulous autumn activities at beautiful regional parks (most activities are free). Take a guided family hike, or sign your kids up for a Junior Ranger course on wilderness skills. Enjoy a bird walk at Maxwell Farms, attend the annual Tolay Fall Festival, explore tide pools with an expert, join an accessible hike at Spring Lake geared to people of all ages and abilities — and a great deal more. Learn all about these and other activities by downloading Sonoma County Regional Parks' free Activities Guide for Fall.

Tour Bodega Marine Laboratory

Every Friday in October (Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26)

Bodega Marine Laboratory, Bodega Bay, California

Learn about the dynamic biodiversity of California's northern coast during a free, docent-led tour of the Bodega Marine Laboratory. All ages are welcome. You'll enjoy numerous marine aquarium displays containing colorful fish, invertebrates, and other sea creatures (some are unique). One of the highlights: an aquarium with a small kelp forest that holds residents of the local estuary. Friday tours are 2-4 p.m., with no reservations required.

Bodega Marine Laboratory, 2099 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay

Start the Weekend with a Morning Fitness Hike

Oct. 6 (Saturday)

Jump into your weekend with gusto and a good brisk guided hike at Jack London State Historic Park. If you're a beginning hiker or just want to enjoy the scenery at a relaxed pace, join this easy/moderate hike, a two-mile loop to the lake and back (10 a.m.-noon). Up for more of a sweat? Opt for the trek to Fern Lake, about 7 miles (10 a.m.-2 p.m.). Meet at the Ranch parking lot. Hikes are free, but parking fees may apply. For more details, visit this page.

Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen.

Join in Autumn's Bounty at Historic Fort Ross

Oct. 13 (Saturday)

Fort Ross State Historic Park, Jenner, California

Come and celebrate autumn's bounty at the annual Fort Ross Harvest Festival, enjoying gorgeous ocean views, crisp sea breezes, and an all-around joyous occasion. Aside from the fun of apple and pear picking, you'll enjoy Russian songs performed by Kedry (in costumes), games for kids, a performance by the Fort Ross Choir, a demonstration of the windmill, interpretive talks, and more. The event is free; parking is $8. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. For more info, visit this page, email [email protected], or phone 707-847-3437.

Fort Ross State Historic Park, 19005 Coast Highway, Jenner.

Explore Sonoma County's Farm Trails

Oct. 13 & 14 (Saturday & Sunday)

Sonoma County Farm Trails, Sonoma County, California

The annual 'Weekend Along the Farm Trails' provides a wonderful way to explore the county's gorgeous back roads. During this event, the gates and barns of Farm Trails members open up for visitors, who find fun activities, tasty things to much on, and even gifts to buy. Among other things, you and the family can select the perfect pumpkin for your porch, take a farm tour, dance to live music, meet farmers and vintners, and more. Most stops along the route are free, but you'll need to register for the event to receive a list of participating venues. To register, visit this page. Download a free Sonoma County Farm Trails Map & Guide here. For more info, write [email protected]

Celebrate Autumnal Splendor with the Kids

Oct. 13-14 & 20-21 (Saturdays & Sundays)

Tolay Lake Regional Park, Petaluma, California

The always-popular Tolay Fall Festival, with an emphasis on family fun, runs on two separate weekends. You and your kids can get creeped out in the infamous 'Nighttime Creatures Barn' (it's loaded with snakes, birds of prey, and even taxidermied wildlife). You'll take a hayride to a pumpkin patch, learn about acorn processing and making baskets, and maybe even take part in a pumpkinseed-spitting contest. And that's just the start. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. each day. Admission: $5 for adults and teens, $3 for kids. Parking is $7 (except for Regional Parks members, who park for free and also get free admission for two adults and two children).

Tolay Lake Regional Park, 5869 Lakeville Highway, Petaluma

Go Birding on the West County Trail

Oct. 18 (Thursday)

West County Regional Trail, Sonoma County, California

All levels of birding experience are welcome to join members of the Madrone Audubon Society for a field trip on the West County Trail. No signup needed — just bring binoculars, a field guide, and ample water. Wear layers and a sunhat, as well as good walking shoes or hiking boots. 8:30-10:30 a.m. Meet at the parking lot on Ross Station Road between Graton and Forestville (if you travel north on Highway 116, turn left on Ross Station Road; the parking lot is on your left). For more info, phone Janet Bosshard at 707-526-5883.

Parking Lot, West County Trail at Ross Station Road.

Take a Full Hunter's Moon Walk at Quarryhill Botanical Garden

Oct. 24 (Wednesday)

At twilight, walk through the spectacular 25-acre Quarryhill Botanical Garden, home to rare Asian plants, to the Lakeview area. Here you'll watch the Hunter's Moon — the second full moon to occur after the autumnal equinox — rise over the hills. Your guide, William McNamara, the garden's president and executive director, will entertain you with lesser-known stories about Quarryhill. Light refreshments will be served. This walk is limited to 35 people.  6-7:30 p.m.; $15/members, $20 non-members. More info.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden, 12481 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen

Treat Yourself to a Wednesday Wellness Walk 

Oct. 24 (Wednesday)      

Add to your health and happiness with a leisurely, docent-led stroll through the beautiful redwoods of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. The one-hour walk, from 10-11 a.m., starts at the Visitor Center located in the parking lot (parking is free). No registration necessary, just show up. Wear a sun hat, sturdy shoes, and layered clothing, and bring water for hydration. More information here or call 707-869-9177. This event is sponsored by Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods.

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, 17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville

Learn to Read a Skull

Oct. 28 (Sunday)

Riverfront Regional Park, Healdsburg, California

If you want to learn how to look at an animal skull and understand what you're seeing, come to Riverfront Regional Park for 'Skulls and Their Stories.' You'll not only learn how to 'read' a skull, but also discover what animals live in local river habitats, along with fascinating facts about way they live. On a 1-mile walk you'll search for tracks, scat, and other animal signs. Free; parking is $7. For more info, visit this page or call 707-483-0940.

Riverfront Regional Park, 7821 Eastside Road, Healdsburg

Suzie Rodriguez