Jack London State Historic Park,
California State Parks,
Sonoma County
In brief:
This Bay Area Ridge Trail segment is a 10.9 mile out and back hike through woods above Jack London's ranch.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 10.9 mile out and back hike is moderate, with about 1500 feet in elevation change. Park elevation ranges from about 400 to nearly 2400 feet. The featured hike starts at about 700 feet and climbs to 2100 feet, then descends back to the trailhead. Elevation changes are mostly gentle, but this is a long hike.

More shade than sun.

Trail traffic
Moderate around trailhead, light farther afield.

Trail surfaces
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time
5 hours.

Nice any time, but best in early spring.

Getting there:
• From US 101 in Marin County, exit CA 37. Drive east about 7 miles, then turn north onto CA 121. Drive northeast about 6.5 miles, then at a junction where 121 veers right, continue straight onto 116. Drive north on 116 about 1.5 miles, then continue straight on Arnold Drive as 116 bears left. Drive north on Arnold Drive about 8 miles to the town of Glen Ellen. Turn left onto London Ranch Road (the junction is not signed in advance). Drive west on London Ranch Road about 1.2 miles to the park's entrance kiosk. Once past the kiosk, turn right and drive less than 0.1 mile to the parking lot.
• From US 101 in Sonoma County, exit CA 12. Drive southeast on CA 12 about 25 miles, then turn right onto Arnold Drive. Drive south about 1 mile into Glen Ellen, then turn right onto London Ranch Road. Drive west on London Ranch Road about 1.2 miles to the park's entrance kiosk. Once past the kiosk, turn right and drive less than 0.1 mile to the parking lot.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 3821'22.88"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging
Gas, pay phone, stores, and restaurants in Glen Ellen and in small clusters along Arnold Drive and 12. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Pay $10 fee at entrance kiosk. Large paved parking lot. Portable toilet at the edge of the parking lot, and near the lake. Drinking water in the picnic area. No maps at the trailhead -- pick up a map for $1 at the entrance kiosk. There are no designated handicapped parking spots at this parking lot, although there are in the Museum parking lot. There is no direct public transportation to the park, but Sonoma County Transit bus #30 stops in Glen Ellen. From there it's a little over 1 mile (uphill) to the park. Visit the Transit Info website for details.

Park is open Thursday-Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some trails are multi-use, while others are hiking only. Dogs are permitted on leash on some trails, but not every trail described in this hike.

The Official Story:
Jack London page
Park office 707-938-5216

Map & book choices/More Information:
 This hike is described and mapped in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco, by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website). Order this book from Amazon.com.
• Download CSP's Jack London map (although it's out of date for the new Ridge Trail segments, this map is a good source to trails near park headquarters).
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Jack London hike.
•  The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order this book from Amazon.com) has a good park map and descriptions of the Jack London Ridge Trail segment.
• North Bay Trails, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a partial park map and some suggested hikes.
• Sonoma-Net's Jack London page
Bay Nature article about Jack London State Park.

Jack London State Park in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

The preservation of Jack London's estate permits the author's admirers to tour the ranch where London lived from 1911 until his death in 1916. TrailheadThe property includes London's grave site, and the remains of his dream home, Wolf Ranch, which was destroyed by fire the night before London and his wife were to move in.
     With Sonoma Mountain as a backdrop, the ranch is a classic wine country landscape, and visitors can tour the developed part of the park on an afternoon's stroll. But hikers, cyclists, equestrians, and nature enthusiasts may choose to spend the hours of their visits on trails tracing the eastern flank of Sonoma Mountain, where London found "a place to get out of Nature that something which we all need, only the most of us don't know it." Lake TrailPristine hillsides of madrone, Douglas fir, black oak, buckeye, and bigleaf maple, grassy meadows, and redwood filled canyons can be explored on trails both short and long, including a Bay Area Ridge Trail segment.
     Hikers can choose from a variety of out-and-back and loop trails. From the Museum parking lot, it's a 1 mile round trip to the ruins of Wolf House and London's grave site. More ambitious hikes entail a 1 mile hike through Beauty Ranch to the lake, and then a choice of loops and out-and-back treks. Quarry Trail, Mountain Trail, Vineyard Trail, Orchard Trail, and Fallen Bridge Trails can be combined for easy hikes ranging from about 2 to 6 miles. For longer, more strenuous hikes, continue uphill on Mountain Trail, and then head north toward the park summit, or south on a Bay Area Ridge Trail segment, Sonoma Ridge Trail. Lake Trail
     Spring and autumn are the standout seasons at Jack London State Park. In spring you can search for wildflowers in the woods and grassland, and in autumn the park's black oaks and bigleaf maples are gorgeous. Although summer temperatures soar in eastern Sonoma County, many trails are almost entirely shaded. During the wettest months of the year waterfalls and streams overflow with storm runoff, and trails can be muddy.
     Begin at the edge of the parking lot on Lake Trail, following the Bay Area Ridge Trail symbols (the equestrian segment of Lake Trail starts at the north end of the lot and emerges near the path to Pig Palace -- an optional route). The trail rises a few feet to a picnic area, then drops to a junction near Beauty Ranch's barns, on the left. Turn right.Mountain Trail
     Lake Trail approaches London's Cottage and the winery ruins, on the left, an optional add-on. At 0.16 mile, the trail bends right and runs along a private vineyard. Eucalyptus trees and a few toyon and hawthorn shrubs line the trail on the right. At 0.21 mile, the equestrian trail feeds in from the right, then the signed path to Pig Palace departs on the right. Stay to the left on the wide fire road.
     An unsigned path veers off toward the silos, while the fire road heads west toward the forested slopes of Sonoma Mountain. Some blue and black oaks grace the right side of the trail. Continuing to follow the Bay Area Ridge Trail symbols, you'll skirt the vineyards and reach a signed junction at 0.52 mile. The gated fire road continues straight, while a hiking-only trail breaks off to the right. Turn right onto Lake Trail.Redwoods at North Asbury Creek, on Sonoma Ridge Trail
     At a slight incline the narrow path winds through a woodland of California bay, madrone, tanoak, black oak, Douglas fir, bigleaf maple, and hazelnut. Redwoods, clustered in fairy circles, are fenced for protection in sections along the trail, where trilliums are common in late winter. At 0.65 mile, you'll reach a bench and junction. Continue to the left.
     Lake Trail approaches and then runs beside the fire road for a short distance. Plunging back into the woods, the trail continues easily uphill, ending at 0.98 mile near the eastern shore of the lake. Huge black oaks tower overhead. Walk a few feet left, then turn right onto Mountain Trail, a fire road.
     After a few steps you'll reach a multiple junction. Turn right, remaining on Mountain Trail. The broad multi-use trail begins an easy climb, through a forest of redwood, bigleaf maple, madrone, California bay, and hazelnut. At the trail's first hairpin turn, Upper Lake Trail sets out on the right. Continue to the left, uphill on Mountain Trail.Sonoma Ridge Trail
     The trail ascends at an easy pace. At 1.37 miles, at another sharp corner, the trail levels out and emerges into an open area, with a grassy sloping meadow and a signed junction with Fallen Bridge Trail on the left. The views southeast are nice, but you'll get better vistas further uphill. Continue uphill on Mountain Trail.
     Back in the woods the trail ascends, maintaining an easy grade. You may see small mammal and deer footprints in the dusty trail surface. At 1.60 miles, the other end of Fallen Bridge Trail is signed on the left. Continue straight on Mountain Trail.
     In addition to the previously spotted madrone and California bay trees, Mountain Trail weaves through a forest of some large Douglas fir, Oregon oak, and buckeye. At 2.33 miles, Mountain Trail meets Sonoma Ridge Trail at a signed junction. Turn left.View north to Mount St. Helena from Sonoma Ridge Trail
     The narrow but multi-use trail, built with the assistance of many volunteers, sets off south. Sonoma Ridge Trail is gently graded and an easy ascent. With little understory vegetation, a variety of trees are conspicuous along the trail, where some giant madrones mingle with towering redwoods, Douglas fir, buckeyes, and California bay. As the trail approaches the North Fork of Asbury Creek, redwood groves linger near the streambed. The creek runs year long, and it's pleasant to hear water trickling in autumn, when everything in the area seems so dry. In this mature forest some of the deciduous trees are so tall that you may resort to identifying them by the leaves they drop in autumn. Black oak and bigleaf maple are the foliage standouts, but Oregon oaks also shed their leaves. Near the end of Sonoma Ridge TrailBuckeye are a bit shorter and more showy, and grouped together along the trail the native trees may be newly leafed, flowering, or reduced to bare branches and dangling seed pods, depending on the season. On one late winter hike I enjoyed hundreds of milkmaids and hounds tongue sprinkled all along the trail. At a break in the vegetation on the left, there are views stretching across Sonoma Valley to a ridge defining the Sonoma-Napa County border. Sonoma Ridge Trail reaches its first of six switchbacks as it makes its way up the side of the mountain. Tall red-barked manzanitas are prominent near the second switchback. Where views extend to the north, you can enjoy a great view of Mount St. Helena. The trail, ever ascending, passes through more black oak, bigleaf maple, Oregon oak, and California bay. As views continue to open up, patches of grass gradually spread to occupy the understory, and tanoaks are common. Returning on Sonoma Ridge Trail The hilltop seems close but remains elusive, as Sonoma Ridge Trail stays on the eastern side of the mountain,downslope from the ridge. Black oaks, California bays, and grassland dominate the landscape. On a clear day, in some spots you may be able to see southeast all the way to Mount Diablo. At 5.3 miles, you'll reach a signed junction with Sonoma Ridge Loop Trail. Turn left.
     The multi-use trail skirts a wooded hilltop, meandering through a familiar mix of black oak, California bay, and madrone. The tree cover blocks all views. At 5.4 miles, Coon Trap Trail departs to the left. On my last hike I made a loop back to the trailhead, using Coon Trap, Orchard, and Fallen Bridge trails, but Coon Trap is very steep (dropping 1000 feet in the first mile) and not as scenic as Sonoma Ridge Trail. I don't recommend this option. Continue to the right on the loop trail.Sonoma Ridge Trail
     Ascending a bit through large and lovely black oaks, the trail draws near the property boundary to the west. At the far reaches of the park and near 2100 feet, it's disappointing that views are obscured, but the landscape is lovely. At 5.6 miles, the loop closes back at the junction with Sonoma Ridge Trail. Turn left and retrace your steps to London Lake.
     Back at the junction of Mountain Trail and Lake Trail at 9.9 miles, walk downhill on Lake Service Road, a broad fire road. At 10.34 miles, you'll reach the junction with Lake Trail. Continue straight and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance : 10.86 miles
Last hiked : Sunday, March 3, 2013