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.
BONUS: 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!