Soothing North Sonoma

Hike North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and Visit Matanzas Creek Winery

Shooting stars don’t just happen at night. They happen in spring on the hills of North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, along with fellow wildflowers Douglas iris and California poppy. The 820-acre park southeast of Santa Rosa has some of the richest biodiversity in Sonoma County.

Explore it on a 4-mile out-and-back hike that’s part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. From the trailhead, pass a small redwood grove with a few picnic tables, cross a wooden bridge, and gently wind up the trail festooned by spring flowers. You’ll pass under a canopy of live oaks, valley oaks, buckeyes, madrones, and Douglas firs. The main trail is the Ridge Trail, and it connects all the way to Jack London State Park (ideal for those who love a good, long through-hike).

For this particular hike you’ll ascend to Bennett Valley Overlook, your turnaround point. At 1,720 feet, relish a wide-open view west and north toward the Santa Rosa Plain and hills galloping out as far as the eye can see. You can also spot distant Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Hood Mountain.

Special Event May 22: “Soak in Spring”: A hike at Sonoma Mountain Regional Park that helps you slow down, relax, and take in the sights, sounds, scents, and essence of nature.

Post-Hike Wine, Lavender, Bocce, Picnic: Book ahead for nearby Matanzas Creek Winery, a Weekend Sherpa favorite. The wine is excellent and the serene, laid-back outdoor setting is easily one of the best in wine country.

Picnic tables are spaced throughout the grounds, and a large patio overlooks Taylor Mountain. The beautifully sculpted lavender garden sets the stage upon entry, with drought-resistant Provence and Grosso lavender. It’s an aromatic haven in shades of purple (and yes, there’s plenty of bath and body products created from it and sold at the winery … indulge!) Reserve a game on the bocce court, currently flanked by California poppies.

The merlot at Matanzas is amazing (we like the 2014 Jackson Park Vineyard), as are the 2019 Bennett Valley pinot and the 2019 Kelli Ann Vineyard chardonnay. A comparative tasting is a reasonable $30 for six distinct wines. Sit back relax and un-wined.

North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park is southeast of Santa Rosa (map). Print out a park map to bring with you. There’s a $7 parking fee. No dogs. Matanzas Creek Winery is at 6097 Bennett Valley Road. Reserve a tasting.

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