Wine events are wonderful opportunities to experience the wonders and benefits of wine country living, but after participating in numerous wine related events over the past few weeks it seemed like a great time to clear ones head, and lungs, by getting out into Nature. Sonoma County is very well known for wine and agriculture but sometimes its other natural resources need to be explored. Lake Sonoma in northern Sonoma County is an exceptional example of that Nature. Located in the coastal mountain range about 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Lake Sonoma Recreational Area has an extensive trail network with lake, vineyard and mountain views as far away as the Mayacamas mountains that separate Sonoma County from Napa County. This time the trail was the Little Flat to Bummer Peak Camp.
The trail head is located about 3 miles from the Lake Sonoma Visitors Center, more about that later, and requires driving across the Lake Sonoma Bridge to Rockpile Road, yes, that Rockpile (think Zinfandel by Mauritson, Valdez Family, Rosenblum, Paradise Ridge and Carol Shelton) and take the first right into the Little Flat parking lot. The trail was a little rigorous with 600 feet in elevation change and 2 hours round trip for the 3.5 miles but we had little trouble completing it. The trail starts right at the parking lot and soon after crosses Rockpile Road with a steep down slope toward the Warm Springs Arm of Lake Sonoma (the other Arm is the Dry Creek Arm).
The weather was a perfect 78°F with a nice breeze coming from the Pacific Ocean, as previously reported, about 60 mils to the west. We carried lots of water and definitely needed our walking sticks to negotiate the narrow up and down trails. The route was well marked and we could see the Lake Sonoma marina and, sometimes, hear the party boats on the lake. A little incongruent considering the isolated nature of the hike and most of the time it was quiet solitude with only the Madrones, chaparral and turkey vultures to see, smell and hear. We only saw one other hiker during the 3.5 hours.
We stopped at the Bummer Peak Camp to enjoy our lunch and something to drink. There were picnic benches, fire pits and amazing views of the lake. The shade and breeze were a welcome respite. We saw a lot of scat along the trail but nothing that would raise concerns. The lake level was down but did not look exceptionally low considering the 4 years of drought and the late summer time of year.
We have done a couple other Lake Sonoma trails including the Dry Creek Trail and the Woodland Ridge Trail and they were fairly easy while this trail was a little more challenging. We really enjoyed this trail and would do it again. The vistas and views were beautiful and, fortunately, the smoke from the Lake and Napa County fires had dissipated enough to be more than tolerable.
If trail hiking in not your thing then Lake Sonoma offers other diversions including boating, swimming, fishing, riding, camping, hunting, a visitors center, a fish hatchery and a really cool fish ladder. The fish hatchery and fish ladder, located just below the dam allow Coho and Steel Head to migrate for spawning during the January through April spawning season. A great place to teach kids, and adults, about the way some fish reproduce.
If you just have to have some wine, before or after or instead of your hike then you are in luck with Sbragia Winery practically at the foot of the dam at the northern end of Dry Creek Valley on Dry Creek Road. Sbragia is a family winery that boasts historic credentials in the Dry Creek Valley and Ed Sbragia, winemaker for Beringer in Napa Valley for over 30 years and his winemaker son, Adam, are often onsite. Also close by are Ferrari-Carano, David Coffaro Estate (a personal favorite), Dutcher Crossing and Cast wineries.
Okay, so I collapsed back to writing about wine, so sue me. Hope you make an opportunity to hike Lake Sonoma.
Lake Sonoma Park Headquarters
3333 Skaggs Springs Rd
Geyserville, CA 95441
Lake Sonoma Visitor Center
3288 Skaggs Springs Rd
Geyserville, CA 95441