A Picturesque Hike in Dairy Country at Petaluma's Helen Putnam Park

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Delightful Helen Putnam Regional Park is a small wilderness area that lies just outside of Petaluma. There you’ll discover 216 acres of grassy hillsides, native oak forests, a fishing pond, and killer panoramic views.
The variety of terrain and nearly six miles of trails offer up an excellent hiking experience for any skill level. 


In spite of its compact size, the numerous trails crisscross across the park to create a myriad of hiking options, no matter the weather or time of year. 

 The Hike

  1. Head out from the parking lot on the Ridge Trail three tenths of a mile to the Pond.
  2. Cross the dam, keeping an eye open for sunbathing turtles, and then continue the Ridge Trail as it climbs up. (0.3 miles).
  3. At the crest you’ll encounter a lot of trail choices, but continue on the Ridge as it curves down (0.3 miles).
  4.  At the next intersection (with the Fillaree trail) turn right, then left to climb up to the hill in front of you for a 360° view.
  5. Back track and turn right on the Fillaree for 0.4 miles as you enjoy the shade of the oak forest.
  6. At the junction with the Pomo Trail turn left and loop back to the Ridge Trail (0.4 miles).
  7. Cross the Ridge Trail and enjoy the half-mile long South Loop Trail, taking in views south of the San Antonio Valley.
  8. Cross the Ridge Trail again and get on the Panorama Trail, it soon crosses the Pomo, bends left and then re-encounters the Pomo  (0.6 miles).
  9. Continue on the Panorama as it descends to the parking area (0.4 miles).

Park Notes and Amenities

Restrooms and drinking water are available adjacent to the parking lot ($7 parking fee), as well as a picnic area and gazebo. There is also a playground should your young ones need a diversion. Unfortunately, there is no public transportation to the park. There is disabled access via the Ridge Trail as it is paved, but the upper sections above the pond are steep as well as the entire section downhill to Oxford Court (all in all the paved Ridge trail totals 3.4 miles and is also a good option for all hikers on wet days). Dogs are allowed on leash. Check Sonoma Parks website for more details as well as a detailed hiking map.

How to Get There

1. The easiest way from San Francisco is to drive north on Hwy. 101 taking the last Marin County exit at San Antonio Rd.

2. Head north on the west side frontage road for two miles, then turn left onto San Antonio Rd.

3. Go another 3.4 miles before turning right on D Street, followed by a left on Windsor Dr. 3.1 miles further.

4. After the traffic roundabout, turn left on Western for 0.4 miles, then left on Chileno Valley Rd.

5. Just after the crest, at 0.8 miles, turn left onto Armstrong and the park entrance.

Other Things to Do

To reach downtown Petaluma, retrace your drive in, and then continue straight 1.9 miles on Western. Once primarily noted for antiques shops, things are more upscale these days. The town has numerous eateries; one of our favorites is Dempsey's, which is located at the footbridge of water street. It's a laid-back brewpub serving house-brewed beers and hearty tavern fare with an outdoor seating area that overlooks the river. Also quite pleasant is nearby Water Street Bistro. Walnut Park Grill (fomerly the PDQ Drive-in) across from the park of the same name offers up classic burgers, fries and milkshakes. The Mystic Theatre is also downtown; they book a lot of vintage acts - in the next few weeks you can catch Soul Asylum and The Church, check their website for the show times.

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