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.
Mix of sun and shade.
Dirt fire roads and trails.
Hot in summer, nice in spring.
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:
GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
(* 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.
$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.
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:
County's Shiloh page
Park info: 707-433-1625
Use AAA's Mendocino and Sonoma Coast map to get there.
park map (PDF)
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Shiloh
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
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. 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.
The 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. Autumn 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. Douglas 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. The 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. 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
Multi-use Pond Trail begins a descent, under
a canopy of bigleaf maples, Douglas fir, and coast live oak. This 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. Sweeping 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
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. At 3.49 miles, Creekside Trail
ascends a few steps and reaches another undersigned junction. Turn
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
Total distance: 3.71 miles
Last hiked: Friday, September 21, 2001