Petaluma Adventures - Hike - Kayak - Bike


Perfectly Petaluma

If the closest you’ve come to Petaluma is whizzing by it on Highway 101, then it’s time to slow down and see a different side of the North Bay. Here’s an action-plan for exploring this 19th-century charmer by bike, boat, and boots.

Helen Putnam Regional Park

Heavenly Helen

There’s an easy way to enjoy far-reaching views of Petaluma Valley: Traverse the rolling hills of 216-acre Helen Putnam Regional Park, just a short jaunt from downtown. Eight small trails link to form a 2.2-mile route through the oak-filled park. Start at the Arroyo trailhead and embark on a steep half-mile climb up the Panorama Trail. Keep left along the next mile of connecting trails as you begin to wind through groves of live coastal oak and some black oak tinged in autumn orange and red. When you hit pavement, a quick right up the Ridge Trail will lead you down toward a quiet lake and the parking lot where you began.

Post hike, head to Tea Room Cafe for a pork loin sandwich with tomato chutney or an egg salad sandwich with pesto. Those who'd rather hit the sweet spot should head for Powell's Sweet Shoppe, where Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory screens all day. Find old-school candies like wax lips and newcomers like the foot-long Pez dispenser.

Helen Putnam Regional Park is open daily from dawn to dusk. Here's a map of the park. To get there from downtown, head west on Western Ave. about 1.8 miles until you see Chileno Valley Rd. Take a left at Chileno Valley, and .8-mile later you’ll arrive at Helen Putnam’s parking lot on the left. Parking is $6 per day per vehicle. Dog-friendly!

Kayak Petaluma River

A River Runs Through It

Give new meaning to downtown cruising. The Petaluma River cuts right through town, floating you the opportunity to nose right up to an afternoon lunch break on a do-it-yourself kayak trip. Clavey Paddlesports can set you up. While October is one of the best times to be on the river because winds are low, the tide determines the best time and place to start, so be sure to check with Clavey. (You can also arrange to have Clavey shuttle your kayaks to your starting point and retrieve them when you’re done.) For a solid two-hour tour (each way) start at Papa’s Taverna, a Greek restaurant equipped with a loading dock a few miles outside of town. Most days, there’s a $2 charge to dock. The Petaluma River is a tidal slew that stretches along farmlands, marshes, and industrial landscape, so the water can be murky (OK, mucky) in spots. Begin by paddling northwest past Shollenberger Park. When you see the Sheraton Hotel at the Petaluma Marina, veer left to continue toward downtown. Make sure to stay left at the next fork as well. Once downtown, dock beneath the footbridge and step out to explore the historic Victorians on the riverfront and the city center. Before heading back, fill up with a microbrew and some farm-fresh cuisine at Dempsey’s, a local waterfront favorite. Pair the Pub Appetizer—a sampling of olives, flatbreads, and cured meats—with an award-winning Petaluma Strong Ale, a punch (7.1% alcohol) of unfiltered, malty goodness. Just be sure to designate a paddler for the return trip.

Clavey Paddlesports is located at 409 Petaluma Blvd. South, 800-832-4226. For a single kayak, Clavey charges $60/day or $75/weekend, with a $10 charge for shuttle service. Cash and check only with credit card deposit. Open from 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. Monday–Friday and 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Saturdays.

Schollenberger Park

Wings 'n' Wheels

Whether you fancy herons, egrets, or black-necked stilts, feast your eyes on a flock while pedaling around one of the Bay Area’s most vibrant birding sites, Shollenberger Park. For easy viewing, bike the 2.2-mile loop around the 165 acres of wide-open wetlands bordering the Petaluma River. The flat terrain makes for a smooth ride. Some 20 avian species inhabit the area, with more than 150 migratory types visiting throughout the year. Keep an eye out for the resident American avocet, which are abundant this time of year, and the American white pelican, which stops by while heading south to warmer climes. Extend your trip 4 or 5 miles by continuing along Shollenberger’s adjacent trails to the nearby Ellis Creek or Petaluma Marina.

TIP: Check out Mike’s Bikes in downtown Petaluma for bike rentals.

For directions to Shollenberger Park visit their Web site. The park offers free parking and is open daily from dawn until dusk. Dog-friendly!

Barrels of Fun

Some places just know how to harvest good times. San Luis Obispo, home to two of the finest viticulture regions in the state (Paso Robles and Edna Valley), is rolling out the barrels—wine barrels that is—for its annual Harvest Celebration Weekend, November 4–6. And you can get in on the fun by winning a free 2-night stay. Plan your fall harvest grape escape, including stomping sessions, blending seminars, barrel tastings, and winemaker dinners. Saturday’s Grand Tasting at Avila Beach pairs 60 wineries and restaurants in one scenic seaside setting. Enjoy special discounts and tastings at Sunday’s open house tour of wine country. Take advantage of Harvest Hotel Packages: Quality Suites SLO gives guests a complimentary bottle of wine from a local vineyard plus a $50 gift certificate to use at your choice of one of the area’s finest restaurants. The Hidden Treasures of the Central Coast Package shows you the best of the region: two nights at the Apple Farm Inn, tastings at Paso Robles’ Sculpterra Winery (plus a tour of their famous sculpture garden), glass-bottom boat ride, vintage samplings at the Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room, and a visit with the Elephant Seals—whew! Visit to plan your harvest holiday.

Sign up for the Secrets of SLO newsletter and enter to win a free 2-night stay.

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