Like to scope out new horizons from a two- and four-legged point of view? The Sonoma County coast, the Sonoma Valley and the Russian River region are yours to explore through a network of 50 regional parks, 35 of them with dog-friendly walking and hiking trails, maintained by Sonoma County Regional Parks. The park system’s 140 miles of trails provide markedly diverse experiences, from rugged mountain treks to gentle bluff-top and riverside ambles. Bear in mind that, to be legal, your dog must be leashed on all park trails and be licensed in your home jurisdiction.
For strenuous hikes with superb payoff in terms of views, head to Hood Mountain Regional Park & Open Space Preserve outside Santa Rosa. This 1,750-acre wilderness park offers many DogTrekker opportunities. Among them is the 3.5–mile round–trip trek from the Los Alamos Road trailhead to the headwaters of Santa Rosa Creek. The route will give you both a workout as it climbs and dips through rugged terrain to end up at a stream-side spot perfect for a rest, a picnic and some splash time for Rover. Consult a map for a stiffer hike up to the Gunsight Rock overlook where, on a clear day, the Golden Gate Bridge is visible.
DogTrekking hikers looking for something a little more moderate can try Taylor Mountain Regional Park & Open Space Preserve, a prominent, 1,100-acre Santa Rosa landmark comprised of sweeping grasslands, oak woodlands, 5.5 miles of trails—and, for Frisbee dogs who can toss as well as catch, an 18-hole disc golf course. Helen Putnam Regional Park in Petaluma has 6 miles of trails traversing grassy hillsides (go on a cool day) and ridge-top trails with panoramic views. Tolay Lake Regional Park, also near Petaluma, is a 1,769-acre property (formerly the Cardoza Ranch) that many Bay Area residents know as the site of a gigantic fall pumpkin festival. Some 8.6 miles of hiking trails are available to permit-holders (one-hour orientation required) and can be combined to form a loop. Most popular, however, is the 5-mile, out-and-back route to Three Bridges Vista Point, where the views go to forever (or at least, to San Pablo Bay, the Bay Bridge and the Highway 37 overpass).
If you and your four-legged sidekick prefer something shorter, easier and less time consuming, try the 2-mile Santa Rosa Creek Trail or an amble along Atascadero Creek at Ragle Ranch Regional Park, which also has a fenced dog park. Just outside of Windsor, Riverfront Regional Park, adjacent to the Russian River, features two former gravel pits reclaimed as lakes. A 2-mile, multi-use trail encircles Lake Benoist, while a half-mile loop trail leads up Redwood Hill and down to the shore of Lake Wilson.
Photo Credit: Mike Lewinski (CC)