Yea, I said it. Take a hike. Or 3.
These 3 hikes offer dramatically different views of the county, and awesome ones at that. So grab some picnic supplies and get some fresh air while taking in the unique scenery found in these and the many other state and regional parks in the county.
1- Goodspeed Trail to Gunsight Rock: Sugarloaf State Park/Mt Hood Regional Park-
The 3.17 mi hike to Gunsight Rock is, if not the hike with the most rewarding view, definitely the most aptly named. There are several trails leading to this outstanding view of the Sonoma/Santa Rosa Valley; my favorite is Goodspeed Trail beginning in Sugarloaf State Park- (left on Adobe Canyone Road heading East on hwy 12; park by the first pull-off after the entrance sign to the park, below the main park entrance and fee area).
The trail progresses across a couple streams and meadows as it winds its way through moderate switchbacks towards Mt Hood Regional Park and Gunsight Rock, with spectacular vistas of the vineyard-filled valleys throughout. You will notice a significant increase in grade towards the top- but the view is more than worth the extra huff & puff at the end. Gunsight Rock is an inviting place to hang- so bring a picnic- and your sunscreen- and take some time to recoup and pick out some post-hike winery visits from the ultimate bird’s eye view!
2- Kortum Trail: Sonoma Coast State Beach-
The Kortum Trail traces the bluffs of the Sonoma Coast from Wright Beach to Blind Beach, nearly 4 miles total. Parking can be found in between at Shell Beach, and for a shorter hike (about 4 miles round trip) in either direction you can begin and end your hike there.
When I did this hike, I started at Shell Beach and worked my way North to Blind Beach. The trail is flat and well-kept, allowing you to keep your focus on crashing surf and, if hiked in-season, impressive wild flower display. About 1.6 miles in, the trail takes a slight uphill turn, leading you up and over a hill. If it is not too windy, spend a few minutes at the top before taking the easy descent down to Blind Beach.
This relatively flat and easy hike won’t take too much out of you. The wind, however, is almost always a factor so come prepared, even in the summer. After retracing your steps to your car, I suggest heading to the Boat House in Bodega Bay for some fish & chips, arguably the best in the area.
3- East Ridge Trail Loop: Armstrong Redwoods State Park
Now that we have covered vineyard and coastal views it is time to get up close and personal with some trees, and some big ones at that! Any trip to Sonoma County should include at least a stop by Armstrong Redwoods State Park, but if you have at least an hour to spare, why not add a little exploration and exercise into the visit?
The East Ridge Trail Loop trailhead is right next to the bathrooms in the parking lot outside the main park entrance. Don’t be too alarmed by the ‘Steep Trail’ sign at the start- it is a bit of an overstatement. That said, the first 1.2 miles of the trail does head up, and as you climb you see the scenery change, as dense redwoods give way to some decidedly smaller kin. At 1.2 miles, you have a choice. Extend the hike further on East Ridge Trail, or take the trail to the left towards the picnic area and canyon floor.
As you descend, redwoods take over once again, and within minutes you will find yourself surrounded by the giants in the picnic area parking lot. Take the Pioneer Trail back towards the entrance, and learn about the history and ecology of these ancient trees as you stroll along the leisurely path out.