The Sonoma Valley has long been considered a great place to drink – Sacramentans flock there each summer for its established fine wine offerings and growing craft beer scene. Not as well known is that it’s a pretty nice place to hike, too.
Situated conveniently off Highway 12, Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve contains 5.5 miles of unpaved hiking and biking trails just minutes from downtown Santa Rosa.
Still in its infancy, the 11-acre park shows promise. Taylor Mountain opened in 2013, adding a second entrance this June. Its master plan includes 17 miles of trails, hike-in campsites and a visitor center.
The mountain itself is named after Gold Rush pioneer John Shackleford Taylor, who settled there in 1853 to make wine and raise dairy cows. Now the 1,500-foot summit marks a boundary between two federally designated wine growing regions – the Sonoma Valley American Vitacultural Area to the west and the Sonoma Coast American Vitacultural Area to the east. Cows still roam the property.
With two main routes to the peak, the Eastern Trail is a sweat-inducing, 1,000-foot ascent, while the Western Trail offers a more gradual route upward, joining with the steeper Eastern Trail only in the final stretch. Both trails alternate between open prairies with stunning views of the Sonoma Valley and shaded paths flanked with oak and native flowers.
Route: About 3 miles round trip for either loop
Difficulty: Moderate (eastern) or advanced (western)
Getting there: Take Highway 37 West to 101 North. Exit at Yolanda Avenue, make a right onto Kawana Terrace
Dogs: Permitted on a leash (maximum length 6 feet)
Toilets: Portable, at the trailhead
Parking: Free on Kawana Terrace off Kawana Springs Road, or $7 in the lot