With its mild Mediterranean climate, mountains, valleys, forests and more than 50 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, Sonoma County offers a generous range of outdoor activities.
Among the most popular activities among outdoor lovers are hiking and biking, often along trails in the county's 11 state parks and more than 50 regional parks. Most parks offer other diversions, including fishing, swimming, boating, equestrian trails, and camping.
Of course, you don't need to confine your walkabouts (or bikeabouts) to dedicated trails; it's fun to walk or cycle through urban areas, too. The historic plaza in the town of Sonoma , with its ties to early California, is fascinating — and offers lots of things to do.
Be prepared to be amazed when you stroll along Sebastopol's Florence Avenue, home to many whimsical sculptures by Patrick Amiot and Brigette Laurent. See the quiet side of Santa Rosa on the Santa Rosa Creek Trail. Bicycle to the coast along Highway 12 — and while you're at it, try to spot the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock in the tiny town of Bodega, where he filmed The Birds.
Another popular way to enjoy a day outdoors? Spend it on the coast. With more than 50 miles facing the Pacific Ocean, the county contains a great many fabulous beaches. Some are intimate coves that require a steep hiking descent to reach (and a steep climb to leave).
At others you can park your car and easily step onto the beach. No matter how you reach a beach, once there you can choose an activity that's perfect for you on that day: beachcombing, tide pool exploration, whale watching, curling up with a good book, building a driftwood fort, or simply sea-gazing.
There are wind-blown headlands upon which you can ramble quietly while thinking big thoughts. There are beaches with camping, where you can pitch a tent or park an RV. There are beaches from which you can launch a kayak or go diving for abalone or stand at a safe distance and watch Pacific harbor seals at play.
Here are just a few other ideas for outdoor adventuring in Sonoma County.
It's hard to beat Cloverdale and Sonoma County as a cycling destination. The range of terrain is so vast that it practically guarantees you'll never get bored.
Hop on your road bike one day, and you'll take off exploring a back-country road in a bucolic valley filled with vineyards (or a steep stretch of coast highway edging the ocean). The next day? Grab that mountain bike to peddle up a trail or deep into a redwood forest.
The best thing is that there's something wonderful for every level of rider. If you're a rank beginner or a family with young kids, there are plenty of fun — and flat! — routes to keep novices happy. And if you're a veteran of Race Across America or the USA Pro Challenge Professional Cycling Race — well, you will love the mountain ranges surrounding Cloverdale.
Bike rentals and cycling supplies are available at Cloverdale Cyclery.
Lake Sonoma was created in 1983 by the construction of the Warm Springs Dam. At capacity, the lake covers 2,700 acres and offers 50 miles of coastline. Managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, over 17,000 acres of lake and surrounding recreation area offer a wide variety of activities, including boating, camping, hiking, mountain bike and horseback riding, fishing and hunting. More than 40 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails meander around the two main arms of the lake. The lake features some of the best bass fishing in the state, along with steelhead, trout, catfish and perch. Lake Sonoma has 109 primitive campsites and two group-use campsites that are accessible by boat and/or trail only. One drive-in campground is also available.
The Visitor Center and Fish Hatchery are located at the park entrance and are open to visitors year round. Here, exhibits tell the story of Warm Springs Dam, explain the natural and early history of Dry Creek Valley, and offer a variety of audio-visual and ranger-led programs. Displays in the visitor center focus on the culture of the Pomo tribe of Native Americans - the original inhabitants of the Dry Creek Valley - and their way of life, with particular emphasis on their excellent basket making skills. Call (707) 431-4533 for additional information.
Explore the many coves on the 2,700 surface acres of water by canoe, sailboat or motorboat. Water skiing is allowed only in the areas designated on a map.
Boat launching ($ 3 launching fee) is provided at the public boat ramp on the west end of Warm Springs Bridge, and at Yorty Creek Recreation Area off Hot Springs Road (car top only). The marina is located off Stewarts Point Road and offers a boat ramp, boat slips, boat rentals and other services at a fee.
Information on fees and other questions regarding the marina may be obtained by phoning the Lake Sonoma Resort at (707) 433-2200 . The Warm Springs arm is subject to closure due to fluctuating water levels.
Boating laws are enforced by the Corps rangers and the Sonoma County Sheriff.
Whether you prefer the seclusion offered by primitive boat-in camp sites, or the convenience of a campsite in a developed campground, Lake Sonoma is for you.
Boat-in campsite are situated near the lake. Nine of these primitive sites are also accessible by the hiking and equestrian trails. Back country camp permits are required and are obtained at the Visitor Center.
Lake Sonoma's Liberty Glen Campground contains 113 individual campsites and two group camp areas for recreational vehicles and tent campers. The campsites are available on a first come, first served basis. Reservations are required for use of the group camp area and handicapped access sites.
To further your enjoyment, there are eight primitive campgrounds along the trail system. The campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and campers must obtain a back country camping permit at the Visitor Center. There is no potable water at these sites.
No camping is allowed outside these camp grounds. All campgrounds have restrooms, tables, grills and tent pads. You should carry your own water since the water you find along the trails is not drinkable. Washing your dishes. - or yourself - in springs, streams or the lake is not permitted.
Picnic sites are located throughout the park for daytime enjoyment. Fires are permitted only in those barbecues provided. Groups may reserve two Group Picnic Areas located near the Park Headquarters. Yorty Creek Recreation Area picnic sites are located near the park's swim beach.
Trees have been left in the upper stretches of Warm Springs Creek and Dry Creek in order to provide an underwater habitat for various species of fish. As a result, the lake provides some of the best bass fishing in the state. Game fish also include Sacramento perch, channel catfish and redear sunfish. For information about special provisions and limits, please refer to the latest copy of the California Fishing Regulations.
More than 40 miles of trails welcome hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers to Lake Sonoma, a 17,615 acre park 13 miles northwest of Healdsburg.
The trails provide access to hard-to-reach areas of the park. Passing through shady woodlands of oak, alder, bay and madrone, over sweeping grasslands and into redwood groves, the trails open onto impressive panoramas of the lake and surrounding hills. You will see a variety of wildlife including deer, jackrabbits and many birds. You may even be rewarded with glimpses of the rare peregrine falcons that nest here. For hints on what, where and how to look for wildlife and plant life, stop by the Visitor Center near the park entrance and talk to a ranger.
There are two types of trails at Lake Sonoma. Nature trails, which are relatively short hiking paths, and longer trails which are suitable for hikers and horseback riders. There is also a four-mile trail, "Half-a-Canoe Loop" which is open to all-terrain bicycles. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on any of the trails.
The trail system is closed to bicycle and horse traffic each winter until crews have worked on erosion and other weather related problems. Please check at the Visitor Center about seasonal closures.
Safety Hints The Lake Sonoma area has a large number of feral pigs. The ancestors of these animals were domestic pigs which escaped from the first Euro-American settlers. These animals are wild and can be dangerous if cornered.
Rattlesnakes are also a possible danger during the summer, so avoid wandering off the trails into high grass or rocky areas.
Ticks are also found at Lake Sonoma. The bite of the western black-legged tick may transmit Lyme disease. Trail users should check for ticks immediately after using the trails. You may obtain facts about the disease and its prevention at the Visitor Center.
Nature From early spring to early summer, the park puts on a brilliant display of color as wildflowers burst into bloom. Here are a few that will be on show: Fawn Lily, Spice bush, Iris, Wild Onion, Indian Pink, Lupine and California Poppy.
Another colorful park resident is the madrone. As summer growth begins, the bark of this tree peels off in thin layers, leaving a pale green, satiny surface that ages to terra cotta or light red. The tree produces dense blossom clusters which are followed in autumn by clumps of reddish, berry-like fruits.
Poison Oak is a common sight around the park. You can recognize poison oak by its green, three-part leaves that turn brilliant red in the fall. The entire plane is toxic year-round. If you or your clothing touch the plant, you can get a painful, itchy rash. Breathing the smoke of burned poison-oak can cause severe eye and lung irritation.
A Wildlife Management area of approximately 8,000 acres, jointly managed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the Corps, has been set aside as a reserve for animal species, including the endangered peregrine falcon.
The peregrine falcon, one of our nation's endangered species, is found at Lake Sonoma. Although sightings are infrequent, if you see a small, hawk-like bird with a steel-gray back, white front and black cap, you will have caught a glimpse of the falcon. Peregrines have faced extinction because the pesticide DDT builds up in their bodies. The DDT causes the birds to lay eggs with thin shells, which break before hatching, With nest manipulation, the peregrine falcons at Lake Sonoma have successfully fledged young birds back into the wild.
For Further Information Contact:
Corps of Engineers
3333 Skaggs Springs Road
Geyserville, CA 95441-9644
Cloverdale River Park offers access to a very scenic stretch along the upper Russian River. A pleasant multi-use trail connects McCray Road to First Street (near Asti Road), and offers convenient points of entry for kayaks, canoers and inner-tubes in the summertime, as well as fishing and wildlife viewing. Download Cloverdale River Park Map (Regional Parks)
The Russian River is a year-round fishery. Late Fall begins the Steelhead run, and continues through April. Next comes the "Mighty" Shad, April through June. Summertime is prime time for Smallmouth Bass, Bluegill, and Carp. The Russian River is a "barbless- hook" river all year. Check California Dept. of Fish and Game regulations for specific bag limits and rules. Fishing licenses, rods, reels, bait and tackle are available at: CVS Store, 1111 South Cloverdale Blvd., 707-894-5206.
The serene, majestic beauty of this Armstrong Redwoods, a short drive from Cloverdale, is a living reminder of the magnificent primeval redwood forest that covered much of this area before logging operations began during the 19th century. Armstrong Redwoods preserves stately and magnificent Sequoia Sempervirens, commonly known as the coast redwood. The reserve includes a visitor center, large outdoor amphitheater, self-guided nature trails, and a variety of picnic facilities. While you can drive into the park, the best way to experience the dramatic effect of the towering redwoods, is to park in the lot at the park entrance and walk in for free. All of the main park features are found along the Pioneer Nature Trail. This trail is a mile and a half long round trip, mostly flat and level with one set of steps. Although no camping is available in the redwood grove, there is a campground at Austin Creek State Recreation Area, which is adjacent to the park.
6250 Bohemian Highway Occidental, CA 95465 Local: 888-494-7868
Enjoy our two unique courses that feature zip lines, bridges and rappels for most ages and abilities . Marvel at panoramic forest views and deep ravines. Discover the world-famous California Coastal Redwoods in a way you never imagined. Sonoma Canopy Tours. It's high adventure that's green, family-friendly and educational.