With time to kill on a weeknight before a downtown Sonoma appointment, I headed to the Sonoma Overlook Trail.
I had hiked on property on either side of the Overlook Trail (the interesting Bartholomew Park path and a exploration of the Montini Ranch property), but the three-mile overlook trail was new to me.
It’s a popular spot for locals, some jogging, some walking. I counted about 20 other people during the hour-long roundtrip – and four deer that had no compunction about wandering right up to the walking path. It’s past wildflower season, but if you’re an oak fan, this hike provides a diverse mix – I counted at least four or five different types, and there are probably more. (I’m no botanist, but the Sonoma Ecology Center has helpfully marked the different oaks with signs.)
The trail technically closes at dark, even though there’s no gate or fence. But it’s tricky footing the entire way so unless you’re well-lighted and sure-footed, it’s probably not a great idea to be out there too much after sunset. But there’s the rub – you want to be at the top of the overlook for sunset. That’s where I was, and it was good as I hoped, with sweeping views over Sonoma Valley, and toward San Pablo Bay and farther as well.
A map at the peak points out landmarks, and there’s a memorial stone bench to rest on. Other benches dot the entire path periodically too. The stones are a nice homage to the role of stones from Sonoma quarries in constructing buildings all around the Bay Area, as well as cool rock fences around area ranches and vineyards. The area abuts an old quarry, and the trail itself is now run by a local community group.
To reach the parking lot for the main trailhead, go on First Street West about four blocks north of the Plaza and look for a small parking area on the right. You can also hike in from a trailhead within Mountain Cemetery on Toyon Road.