Maxwell Farms Regional Park,
Sonoma County Regional Parks,
Sonoma County

In brief:
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.

Exposure:
Some pockets of shade, but largely exposed.

Trail traffic
:
Light.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time
:
Less than 1 hour.

Season
:
Very hot in summer, but good anytime.

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 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:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/32

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 3818'7.75"N
Longitude
12228'45.44"W
(* 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.

Trailhead details
:
$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.

Rules:
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 park.

The Official Story:
Sonoma County's Maxwell Farms Park page
Sonoma County's Regional Park office 707-565-2041

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from Sonoma County Parks (download pdf)

Maxwell Farms in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.



Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page



There's 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. TrailheadThe 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. Verano TrailThe 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. Three Meadow TrailThe 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 right.
     
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.Old orchard along 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. Three Meadow Trail 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