Hiking the Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetland Trail
Sonoma County is the land of plenty for public parks and hiking areas, many are all centered within 5-10 miles of Santa Rosa, population 150,000+. The city is the heart of the Sonoma County vineyard gateway, whether north to Healdsburg, Lake Sonoma, east to the Valley of the Moon, or west to Sebastopol.
Santa Rosa finally completed the much needed hiking trail completing the loop in the Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetlands, an area consisting of 14 miles of wetlands from Occidental Road to south of Hwy 12. In the winter, after rains, the laguna area becomes a huge lake where all kinds of animals and birds migrate or live near. Until rains, the area is open, flat, farm, pasture and marshy areas.
The laguna area is perfect for hiking, walking, running, equestrian and walking the dogs. It is free, no parking fees and the distance between the Occidental Road entrance (just after the Hanna center but before a vineyard-easy to miss, there is no sign, only parking area) and the Hwy 12 entrance (just before you reach the Chevron gas station going towards Sebastopol) is 1.8 miles one way, so a round trip is a nice 3.6 miles along a nice 4-5 ft. wide path. Parking on the Occidental side is limited to not more than 10 cars, Hwy 12 entrance offers much more parking, a map and bathroom.
If the mileage is not sufficient enough, add more miles by turning off onto the many hiking trails that basically lead you into the wetland area in dry periods. These areas are usually filled with water from January-March, depending on rain. You can easily walk to Sebastopol by veering off and adding another two miles or so. Most of the hike is flat in a very picturesque setting with wild birds, ducks, geese, marshland, vineyards. Most of the trails are dirt, but the main trail is compacted of decomposed granite, wheelchairs could go there, bikes, yes, not roller blades or skateboards.
It is a beautiful place to get exercise in moderate amounts without a marathon. For directions, when you Google, the trailhead addresses are: 6303 Highway 12 and 5420 Occidental Rd. Enjoy!