Lace up your boots — here are our standout hiking picks for each month of 2024:
January — Armstrong Redwoods
For those who haven’t yet returned since the park’s 15-month closure after the Walbridge fire, now is a great time to witness the landscape’s continued recovery. Bonus points for a rainy day, when dewdrops decorate the delicate leaves of redwood sorrel carpeting the forest floor. 17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville.
February — Bald Mountain
A steep, exposed trail leads to the summit of 2,729-foot Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. From there, forested ridgelines roll in every direction, Mount Diablo and San Francisco rise in the distance, and bright-yellow mustard glows between vineyard rows far below. 2605 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood.
March — Gualala Point
There’s no bad time to walk the Bluff Top Trail from Gualala Point Regional Park, whether through fog or heat (such as it is) or ocean breeze. But best may be on a clear March day, with the northward grey whale migration nearing its peak and mother-calf pairs hugging close to shore. 42401 Highway 1, Gualala.
April — Cloverdale River Park
Seven regional parks offer public access along the Russian River’s 64-mile course through Sonoma, this one being the farthest north. In April, as heady spring flows rush past, watch for wildlife among restored riparian habitat from the paved 1.1-mile trail. 31820 McCray Road, Cloverdale.
Southeast of Goat Rock and the Russian River mouth, on Pomo land and the site of a former ranch, lies 1,062-foot-tall Red Hill. On the hike up from Shell Beach, watch for sea pink, a native coastal wildflower that produces ball-shaped clusters of bright-pink blooms on long stalks every May and June. Highway 1 and Shell Beach Road, Jenner.
June — SDC’s Orchard
By the time the former Sonoma Development Center orchard was added to Jack London State Historic Park in 2001, it was nearly a century old. Today the revitalized plot still produces apples, pears, apricots, and plums. Walk the trails of the 40-acre orchard to marvel at this year’s budding crop. 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen.
July — The Grove of Old Trees
Easygoing trails weave through and around this small, secluded preserve, which includes 1,000-year-old coast redwoods saved from the logger’s saw in the 1990s. The grove’s restorative properties are enhanced on a hot summer’s day by the shade and stillness of these ancient beings. 17599 Fitzpatrick Lane, Occidental.
August — Santa Rosa Creek Trail
Urban and rural, pavement and gravel, creeks and ponds: this cherished (and mostly shaded) Santa Rosa greenbelt offers a bit of everything. That can also include river otters, hawks, and a rare opportunity to stroll just feet away from historic vineyards, now on the verge of harvest. 782 Willowside Road, Santa Rosa.
September — Jenner Headlands
Hiking to the 2,204-foot summit of Pole Mountain, the highest point on the Sonoma Coast, offering unobstructed views in every direction, is a true peak experience — but it’s also a challenging, 15-mile affair. Luckily, on a shining late-summer day, the bright-blue sea dazzles from the first step. 12001 Highway 1, Jenner.
October — Taylor Mountain
Don’t miss fall colors on this beloved peak, where the palette is even richer from the top. Hike the serpentine trail to the summit amid vivid big-leaf maple, bay laurel, and arroyo willow, then peer down the southwestern flank onto golden vineyards. 3820 Petaluma Hill Road, Santa Rosa.
November — Crane Creek
Those glossy, caramel-colored, nut-like things lying everywhere along the trail from the parking lot to the creek are one of the marvels of early winter: California buckeyes, free of their velvety shell after dropping from their namesake tree. 5000 Pressley Road, Rohnert Park.
December — Tolay Lake Regional Park
As rains arrive, the lake starts to fill, and resident and migratory raptors become more active. From the ridgetops or the more intimate, lake-level Causeway Trail, look for white-chested ferruginous hawks soaring, agile American kestrels hunting, and broad-winged northern harriers floating low over the grass. 5869 Cannon Lane, Petaluma.
Written by Nate Seltenrich