Shiloh Ranch Regional Park,
Sonoma County Regional Parks,
Sonoma County
In brief:
3.7 mile loop through oaks and grassland at a park on the edge of wine country.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.7 mile loop hike is easy, with about 600 feet in elevation change. Park elevation ranges from about 275 to 715 feet. Although none of the trails are flat, the park is small.

Exposure
:
Mix of sun and shade.

Trail traffic
:
Light.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt fire roads and trails.

Hiking time
:
2 hours.

Season
:
Hot in summer, nice in spring.

Getting there:
From US 101 in Windsor (Sonoma County), exit Shiloh Road. Drive east on Shiloh about 1.3 miles, then turn right onto Faught. Drive about 0.1 mile, and turn left into the parking lot.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/82

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 3831'31.63"N
Longitude
12245'44.90"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurant back off of Shiloh near 101; more choices a few miles south around Santa Rosa. No camping.

Trailhead details:
$7 entrance fee (self-register near the entrance gate). Plenty of parking in one paved and one gravel lot, and a few spots on the the side of the road across from the park entrance. There's a map under glass at the trailhead, but none to take with you. There are two designated handicapped parking spots, and wheelchair accessible toilets on site. Trails are not well-suited to wheelchairs, but the picnic area is. Pay phone and drinking water at trailhead. There is no direct public transportation to the park, although Sonoma County Transit bus #66 stops at Old Redwood Highway and Shiloh, about 1 mile from the park.

Rules:
Park is open from sunrise to sunset. All trails are multi-use. Dogs are not permitted on the trails, but they are allowed in the picnic area.

The Official Story:
Sonoma County's Shiloh page
Park info: 707-433-1625

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's Mendocino and Sonoma Coast map to get there.
Official park map (PDF)
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Shiloh Ranch hike.
North Bay Trails, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a decent map and trail descriptions.

View photos from this hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page


When I visited Shiloh Ranch Regional Park on the last day of summer, autumn was impatiently waiting for its cue, like a kid behind the curtain at a school play. Trailhead Black oaks and big leaf maples, their leaves tinged with vibrant red and orange, were conspicuous throughout the park, both in dry grassland and along the creeks. Conditions were perfect for a stroll; trails were cool and breezy, yet bathed in autumn's warm glow. Indian summer is a great time of year to explore Sonoma's little-known county parks. Although they are overshadowed by the large, sprawling wine country wilderness destinations (Sugarloaf, Mount St. Helena, and Annadel), a handful of small parks scattered on both sides of US 101 provide alternate recreation opportunities. Many of the parks boast picnic areas, restrooms, and easy access, making them ideal for families with small children, equestrians, local runners, and folks employed along the Santa Rosa US 101 corridor. Shiloh Ranch, although one of these larger parks, offers only a few trails throughout 845 acres of grassland, oak savannah, and mixed creekside woodland. Bigleaf Trail skirts a vineyard near the park boundaryThe sparse yet effective trail network allows for three loop possibilities (two short and one medium length) through the different regions of the park. For a thorough tour of Shiloh, make the full 3.7 mile circuit on Bigleaf, Ridge, Pond, and Creekside Trails. Two shorter loops use Ridge Trail and either Creekside and Pond or Bigleaf Trails. You can also hike out and back on Creekside Trail to a picnic area near a small pond, a 2.4 mile roundtrip walk that makes a nice lunchtime stroll. Since the seasons are so dramatically different at Shiloh, you may want to design a hike based on the weather. Summer sun bakes the exposed stretches of Ridge Trail, but Creekside is well-shaded. Winter rains swell streams and (helped by horse traffic) create muddy conditions on narrow Creekside, while wider Ridge Trail stays more dry. A maple on Bigleaf TrailAutumn and spring are mild, encouraging hikers to take the longest loop.
     Start at the information board on the edge of the equestrian (gravel) parking lot. Begin walking south on a broad nearly level path, parallel to Faught Road (the trail is unsigned, but obvious). Coast live oak are dominant on the left side of the trail, but on the right you might notice poison oak, coyote brush, fennel, yellow star thistle, and even a few madrone and manzanita. At 0.13 mile, the trail veers left and reaches an unsigned junction. Bear right onto Bigleaf Trail.
     Multi-use Bigleaf Trail maintains an easy pace as it sweeps through grassland lined with coast live oaks, but soon the grade picks up near the park boundary and a vineyard. Ridge TrailDouglas fir, madrone, California bay, manzanita, black oak, and coast live oak shade the trail. A few bigleaf maples are incorporated into the mixed woodland, with hazelnut and creambush thriving in the understory. As Bigleaf Trail continues to climb at an easy pace, there are a few really large maples that will probably stop you in your tracks when their leaves reach full orange glory in autumn. The trail turns sharply right, ascends, then straightens out. The maples fade away, replaced with a pretty woodland of blue, black, Oregon, and coast live oaks. At 0.68 mile, you'll reach the end of Bigleaf Trail at a signed junction and bench. The trail to the right heads out of the park, so stay to the left on Ridge Trail.
     There are Sonoma Valley views to the south and west as Ridge Trail climbs through oak woodland. ViewpointThe broad trail, open to hikers, equestrians, and cyclists, may be well marked with deer prints; there are lots of deer at Shiloh, and they seem to prefer this part of the park. Just past a closed trail at 0.74 mile, chamise and monkeyflower suggest a transition to chaparral, but instead Ridge Trail settles on an eclectic blend of Douglas fir, madrone, hazelnut, California bay, oaks (Oregon, coast live, and black), manzanita, toyon, coyote brush, buckeye, and ceanothus. A power line, also headed uphill, follows a discrete distance from the trail. Muted traffic noise from the highway and nearby ranches is omnipresent. The trail veers left, skirting a hill, and the grade stiffens. Sparse tree cover on the left permits views back down to Bigleaf Trail, and further west toward Windsor. At 1.17 miles, you'll reach a (barely) signed junction.Turn left and walk on an arm of the ridge to the end of the path and a bench at 1.23 miles. A rocky stretch on Ridge Trail If it's not too hot, this is a nice spot for a lunch break. There are long unobstructed views west, north, and even east to Mount St. Helena. When you're ready, retrace your steps back to the previous junction, at 1.29 miles, and turn left, continuing on Ridge Trail.
     Manzanita, madrone, coast live oak, buckeye, Douglas fir, bigleaf maple, and poison oak comprise the trailside vegetation as the broad path descends a bit. Ridge Trail curves left and heads back uphill, at a moderate pace. Rocky stretches may remind seasoned Sonoma County hikers of similar sections of Annadel Park. It's easy to see why rockcutters chose to quarry near here. At 1.62 miles, Ridge Trail crests and reaches a signed junction. Turn right on Pond Trail (if you want to shorten your hike, continue downhill to the trailhead on Ridge Trail).
     Multi-use Pond Trail begins a descent, under a canopy of bigleaf maples, Douglas fir, and coast live oak. Approaching the pondThis cool shade fosters creambush, hazelnut, snowberry, and monkeyflower. Look to the left for a glimpse of Mount St. Helena where there are breaks in the tree cover. Broad Pond Trail steps out of the woods into one of park's prettiest sections, a rolling oak savannah This area must be stunning in spring, but it's hard to top the autumn black oak foliage displays. Traffic noise fades, replaced by the twitter of scrubjays and shrieks from airborne hawks. A well-worn path breaks off to the right at 1.95 miles; continue straight on Pond Trail. After a short somewhat steep downhill, a grassy valley comes into view to the left. At 2.11 miles, you'll reach an undersigned and easy-to-miss junction (the only sign is a generic "trail" marker down the path to the left). Turn left.
     The narrow multi-use trail leaves the trees behind as it descends through grassland. Creekside TrailSweeping left, the trail draws near a damp area lined with willows, which screen from view a small pond. At 2.32, a path departs to the right at an undersigned junction. Turn right if you want to spend some time near the pond (there are a few picnic tables), otherwise continue straight.
     Tiny Creekside Trail, open to hikers, equestrians, and cyclists, follows along a seasonal stream, and soon seeks shelter under cover of black oak, madrone, Douglas fir, bigleaf maple, and coast live oak. As the trail easily descends, you might notice more moisture-loving plants, such as creambush and hazelnut. California bays perfume the air with a spicy scent, and gnarled buckeyes grace the hillsides. Look for a one-seat bench carved out of a tree stump on the left. The trail dips down to cross the creekbed, then climbs a few feet, but for the most part the trail profile remains one of a steady descent. Returning to the trailheadAt 3.49 miles, Creekside Trail ascends a few steps and reaches another undersigned junction. Turn right.
     The wide multi-use trail (hard to tell if it's a continuation of Creekside or Ridge Trail on the park map) descends steadily under heavy tree canopy. Ignore a trail curving right at 3.54 miles, and continue to the left. The trail keeps a mostly level course along the park boundary, drops down to a creek crossing, then reaches an unsigned junction at 3.66 miles. Bear right, walk through the edge of a picnic area, and you'll reach the end of the trail and the parking lot.

Total distance: 3.71 miles
Last hiked: Friday, September 21, 2001