Outdoor Fun with Sonoma County's ParkRx for Health

Hiking through the vineyards in Sonoma County.

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Outdoor Fun with Sonoma County's ParkRx for Health

This spring, Sonoma County's state parks, Sonoma County Regional Parks, and Sonoma County trails launched a countywide initiative, ParkRx for Health.

Have you heard of ParkRx? A nationwide collaboration between health care providers and park professionals (including the National Recreation and Park Association, the Institute at the Golden Gate, and the National Park Service), it encourages Americans to engage with nature and get regular exercise. 

ParkRx health care professionals "prescribe" activities that introduce their patients to safe, low impact walking or outdoor physical activities in nature. Patients are warned about side effects, which may include happiness, laughter, and improved health and well-being.

Participating parks in Sonoma County include: Jack London, Sugarloaf Ridge, Armstrong Redwoods, Austin Creek, Sonoma Coast, and Trione-Annadel state park; most Sonoma County Regional Parks; and the Sonoma Overlook trail. The participating health partners are Kaiser Permanente, St. Joseph Health, Sonoma Valley Hospital, and Sutter Health.

Here's how it works: If you're a Sonoma County resident whose care is provided by a participating partner listed above, ask your doctor for a prescription for monthly ParkRx activities at participating parks or trails. The activities consist of hikes, volunteer trail repair, a fitness series, forest therapy, trail walks with a doctor, and so on. You can see a calendar of upcoming activities here.

Sure, you don't really need a doctor's prescription to take a hike, but there are benefits to participating in ParkRx—especially if you've been shy about getting yourself out there on a trail. You'll meet other people interested in improving their fitness, you'll be out and about in nature, and you'll get an exercise routine underway.

On top of that, many of the activities are free with your prescription (for example, the May 27 Forest Therapy excursion at Sugarloaf Ridge is free for prescription holders; others pay $20). And at Jack London Park, all fees — including registration for specific ParkRx walks and parking fees — will be waived for patients who show their prescription at the park's entrance kiosk.

Can't beat that!

To learn more, visit parkrx-sonomacounty.org

Suzie Rodriguez