0.7 mile loop hike through old orchards in the town of Sonoma.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 0.7 mile loop hike is very easy. Trails are flat.
Some pockets of shade, but largely exposed.
Less than 1 hour.
Very hot in summer, but good anytime.
From US 101 in Marin County, exit CA 37. Drive east about 7 miles, then
turn north onto CA 121. Drive northeast about 7.3 miles, then turn north
onto CA 12. Drive about 3.6 miles north to downtown Sonoma (where CA 12
takes a sharp left at a stop sign), then continue on CA 12 about 1.5 miles
to the junction with Verano. Turn left onto Verano and then turn left
into the park.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
(* based on Google
Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, restaurants, and pay phones along CA 12 in the surrounding
area. No camping.
$7 entrance fee (self register). Parking in a series of paved lots --
you could also park in adjacent neighborhoods and walk into the park.
There is a map on an information signboard, but no paper maps. Restrooms
and drinking water near the playground. There are designated handicapped
parking spots, and the park's paved paths are wheelchair accessible. Several
Sonoma County Transit buses run along surrounding streets. Visit the Transit
Information website for details.
Dogs are permitted on leash. Park is open from sunrise to sunset. Trails
are multi-use, although there is little (or none) equestrian traffic at
The Official Story:
Sonoma County's Maxwell
Farms Park page
Sonoma County's Regional Park office 707-565-2041
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
from Sonoma County Parks (download pdf)
Farms in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
little reason for out-of-the-area hikers to make a special trip to Sonoma's tiny Maxwell Farms Park, unless you are a fruit
tree enthusiast. The park boasts a few acres of old plum and apricot trees,
and from late winter to summer the trees bloom and fruit. Country folk
with a few acres in their backyard are accustomed to these common agricultural
delights, but for city people, fruit trees are a big deal. Since the park
is literally right on CA 12, it can be a nice rest stop on a daytrip to
Sonoma Valley vineyards or wineries, particularly during wine country's
tourist season, when traffic on CA 12 can slow to a crawl.
Surrounded on three sides by shopping centers,
CA 12, and residential Sonoma, Maxwell Farms is bordered on
the west by Sonoma Creek. The parcel was formerly owned by John Maxwell,
who, flush from gold mine profits, purchased the land in 1860. Sonoma
County opened the park in 1988, and in addition to the old orchards, Maxwell
Farms features soccer and softball fields, a skate park, tennis courts,
picnic areas, a playground, and a Boys and Girls Club.
There are a few official trails, all unsigned,
and a series of casual paths worn in by daily dog walkers and joggers.
Two meadows of plum and apricot are surrounded by woods dominated by California
bays. The park's small size precludes any serious hikes, and walks here
take only about 1/2 hour, unless you choose to picnic in the orchards
or frolic in the playground.
Start at the edge of the parking lot
near the Little League fields, on a broad dirt path. Verano Trail
passes the fields, then descends a bit to a junction. Continue straight.
The trail ducks under cover of walnut and California bay. Snowberry and
blackberry are common in the understory of the level trail. Traffic noise
from Verano Avenue in audible. At 0.13 mile, you'll reach a T junction.
Turn left, and then at 0.17 mile, the trail forks. Stay to the
The narrow path threads through California
bays. Sonoma Creek is revealed at a break in the vegetation on the right.
At 0.23 mile, the path ends at the edge of the first orchard meadow. On
an October walk I watched a hawk descend from
a tree at the edge of the meadow and pounce on some poor unsuspecting
creature. Turn right onto Three Meadows Trail.
With the creek still off to the right, trailside
vegetation reflects a riparian influence, and you may notice willow and
cottonwood. Other plants include young coast live and valley oak, coyote
brush, and fennel. At about 0.32 mile, a trail heads off through the trees
to the right. Continue straight/left.
Three Meadows Trail passes through a line
of trees, then emerges at the edge of the second orchard meadow. There's
a pretty big-leaf maple on the right. At 0.39 mile, another trail veers
off to the right. Continue to the left on Three Meadow Trail.
A tiny path
winds through the orchard on the left. On my October walk, one apricot
tree still dangled a few tiny orange 'cots. At 0.48 mile, a broad trail
crosses Three Meadow Trail. Continue straight on Three Meadow Trail.
California bays, valley oak, and blackberry
brambles cluster together on the right and left, but the trail steps through
the trees into the third meadow. A small path feeds in from the left.
A young valley oak is tangled with blackberry and wild grape vines on
the right. Three Meadows Trail tapers off at a parking lot for the Boys
and Girls Club. Continue straight up the gravel service road, then
return to the parking area.
Total distance: 0.65 mile
Last hiked: Thursday, October 3, 2002