Sonoma County, California: Jenner Headlands Preserve
Updated: Feb 27, 2022
Summary: Located just two hours from San Francisco, California and just under and hour from the City of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California, is a 5,600+ acre coastal preserve. This dog-friendly park has several trails, ranging from 4.5 miles to 15.1 miles. Trails include views of the Sonoma Coast and redwood forests. Make a day of it by driving through the Russian River area via River Road and return through Bodega Bay and the small town of Bodega, stopping in Sebastopol for dinner at the Barlow.
Getting there. We think the best day trip to Jenner Headlands is to go the "long route." From San Francisco, take Highway 101 North to Santa Rosa. Head West on River Road. This suggested scenic drive will take you through the Redwoods of west Sonoma County and through the cute towns of Guerneville and Duncan Mills. River Road dumps you out on Highway 1, where after taking a right onto the highway, the Jenner Headlands sits just up the road on the right. Parking is somewhat limited on the weekends. Bring water both for you and the pups.
Getting home. On the way back, take a different but equally beautiful scenic drive back through Bodega Bay and the small town of Bodega (where the Alfred Hitchcock movie, "The Birds," was filmed). Stop for dinner at Sebastopol's industrial chic shopping and restaurant district called "The Barlow." Reservations are often recommended for this popular destination.
About Jenner Headlands Preserve. This preserve is part of the Wildlands Conservancy, a non-profit organization that buys properties in California and converts them into nature preserves for public use and education. The Jenner preserve acquisition was part of a multi-agency, multi-organization effort that resulted in the single largest nonprofit land acquisition in Sonoma County history. There are no entrance or parking fees for this well-maintained 5,630 acre preserve.
The Trails. For a moderate family hike, the Sea to Sky, Raptor Ridge hike is a great choice. At 4.5 miles and ~900 feet of elevation gain, this relatively easy trail follows the coastline before veering into cattle pasture (yes, there are cattle there), then up and over the Ridge before making its way back down to the parking lot again. Tip: Wear long pants and/or tick repellant.
There is also a challenging 15.1 mile out and back trail, "Pole Mountain." This hike covers over 3,700 feet of elevation gain and, with all trails here, does not have a water source so plan accordingly.
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