View of Lake Benoist from the trail. Blackberries will be in ripe in about a month.

View of Lake Benoist from the trail. Blackberries will be in ripe in about a month.

Kicking off my first Sonoma County Regional Parks Trails Challenge, I decided to visit an old favorite this week, Riverfront Regional Park. Nestled among the vineyards on the western reaches of Windsor, this tiny gem of a park is packed full of enticing features. With two lakes and river access, it is frequented by fishermen, families looking for a picnic spot, and those looking to take a dip in the Russian River. However, the mostly flat terrain is perfect for a quick trail run before work, or a leisurely dog walk that can be accomplished in under an hour.

The 300-acre park, formerly a quarry with mining pits, has been converted into two lakes stocked with fish. Both bodies of water permit kayaking and canoeing but no swimming is allowed. If you want to do that, the park has 1 mile of Russian River frontage, which can be accessed through a more rustic trail accessible from the main Lake Benoist loop.

The Trails challenge guidebook recommends a 2.18 mile loop trail passing Lake Wilson and circling Lake Benoist. The flat dirt trail, perfect for beginners, is surrounded by redwoods, willows and cottonwoods. If you would like to add a bit of a challenge to your hike, head up the 0.2 mile Redwood Hill Trail, which offers a bit of a climb to your route and takes you through a nice forested area. This trail can be accessed from the picnic area near the parking lot, and is a good addition to the rather mundane path from your car to Lake Benoist.

The trail around Lake Benoist is a nicely shaded loop, which does not sit directly on the water. Look out for a few trail spurs down to an inner loop, that will take you right to waters edge. Be careful on the rocks along a washed out portion of the Lake Benoist trail, easy to get around, but challenging for folks with limited mobility. The northern portion of the trail, has a few additional spurs down to the Russian River, including one that will take you down to a rocky beach.

January to July, is nesting season for great blue herons in the park and from time to time you may see these birds as well as egrets and green herons along the edges of the lakes or nestled high above in the trees.

One down, 4 to go on my trails challenge, perhaps I will tackle all 16 trails in the guidebook by the end of November!

Click on this link for a larger slideshow I made of our hike.

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