Urban rambles in Sonoma County

By: DogTrekker Staff
sunrise over marshland with low fog in Petaluma
Sunrise at Shollenberger Park, Petaluma. Photo by Jessica Bay.

The town of Sonoma, with its historic plaza surrounded by high-end restaurants and shops, is the gateway to Sonoma Wine Country. But wineries aren’t the only places in this sprawling county to visit with your best friend, and Sonoma isn’t the only town with a dog-friendly, come-hither vibe. Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Petaluma have their own sets of canine-accommodating charms, and you and your tail-wagger will be all the richer for putting them on your itinerary.

In our estimation, pretty Petaluma is one of the most dog-friendly towns in California when it comes to places for on- and off-leash fun. Locals and visitors alike rave about Rocky Memorial Dog Park, named for a Petaluma police dog who died in the line of duty. At almost nine acres, it’s one of the largest dog parks in the state.

And that’s not all: at a dozen city parks, licensed pups under voice control can frolic leash-free at designated “dog run” areas during posted hours, generally in the morning. At all of them, four very sensible rules apply: stay in the area with the dog, keep the dog under voice control, clean up after the dog, and maximum three dogs per person. In addition, most other Petaluma parks allow leashed pets. Shollenberger Park, with a 2.2-mile trail, is especially lovely.

Continue north on Highway 101 to Santa Rosa and make tracks to the California Welcome Center in the historic Railroad Square district, where you’ll see a statue of the town’s most famous dog, “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz’s Snoopy. Pick up some maps and tourist literature and take a trek around the district, checking out shops, breweries and restaurants, before swinging west on Highway 12 to Sebastapol, where you’ll encounter The Barlow, a dog- and family-friendly shopping district with more than three dozen outlets connecting consumers with local artists, food producers, winemakers, distillers and brewers. Tree-lined streets, grassy areas and lots of outdoor seating make it a fun place to explore with your dog at your side. To get started, park yourselves on the deck at Woodfour Brewing Company, a farmhouse-inspired craft brewery. Choose from a rotating beer menu and pair your selection with a Mexico-inspired appetizer or entrée.

Ready to walk off lunch? The West County Regional Trail runs 5.5 paved miles between Sebastapol and Forestville along the right-of-way of the former Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway. Pastoral views of farms, hills and vineyards are yours to enjoy, and if you want to keep going, you can pick up the Joe Rodota Trail, which continues 8.5 miles along the abandoned rail line to Santa Rosa. These trails are especially beautiful in fall, when vineyards are aflame with color.


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