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News: 02/15/2015

New regional park open on Sonoma Mountain


The North Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail, in the new North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park, offers expansive views of Bennett Valley. Photo courtesy of Sonoma County Regional Parks.


The North Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail, in the new North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park, offers expansive views of Bennett Valley. Photo courtesy of Sonoma County Regional Parks .
The valleyís newest regional park officially opened to the public on Feb. 14. North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve offers gorgeous views from the top of Sonoma Mountain and includes a 4.25-mile section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail that connects to Jack London State Historic Park. The trail can also be accessed from the park entrance off Sonoma Mountain Road, just east of Pressley Road, at 5297 Sonoma Mountain Road.

With its peak rising nearly 2,300 feet, Sonoma Mountain is a defining feature of the county, and this park greatly expands public access to the iconic landmark. The parkís North Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail is a nearly 4-mile trail winding along the north face of the mountain with a gradual climb of nearly 2,000 feet up the mountainís northern slope. The trail begins at the south fork of Matanzas Creek, weaves up through the mountainís woodlands, with stunning views of the Santa Rosa Plain, Sonoma Valley and surrounding peaks. The trail is open to hikers and equestrians, though park staff suggest riders first visit without their horses to become familiar with the park entrance. At this time, mountain biking is limited to the first two miles of trail. The trail eventually connects with Jack London State Park. A hike to the state park and back is 8.5 miles, so this trail appeals to hikers seeking moderate to strenuous outings.

North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park consists of six parcels totaling 736 acres. Five of the properties were transferred from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District to Regional Parks in fall of 2014 (Regional Parks already owned the sixth). Historically, much of the parkland was used for cattle, sheep, and horse ranching. The park includes headwaters to two branches of Mantanzas Creek, groves of coast redwoods, and a pristine vernal pool. The park supports a multitude of wildlife including mountain lions, bobcats, golden eagles, western pond turtles and Cooperís hawks.

At this time, North Sonoma Mountainís Ridge Trail does not provide public access to the mountainís summit because the District did not own that parcel when trail planning occurred. Access to the mountain top will be possible after environmental review and planning. In the meantime, Regional Parks will offer periodic guided hikes to the summit. A master planning process for the park is expected to begin in 2015.

Park hours are 8 a.m. to sunset. Parking fee is $7 for day use, free for Regional Parks members. Dogs are not permitted on trails at this time. You can find out more about Sonoma County Regional Parks and purchase a Regional Parks membership at parks.sonomacounty.ca.gov.



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