Jack London State Historic Park has some of the best trails in Sonoma County! Vineyards, history, redwoods, wildlife, and views for days will definitely inspire you to put on your hiking shoes and get out on the trails…and maybe even write a book! Or a blog post! 😉
It has been a while since we have been to the summit of Jack London and wanting a hike close to home we decided to take advantage of the cloudy morning and head on up! The 7.8 miles and 1,788 feet elevation gain were just what we needed to end our weekend!
Jack London State Historic Park
Jack London State Historic Park has over 29 miles of backcountry trails to explore on the beautiful Sonoma Mountain! It now links up with Sonoma County Regional Parks North Sonoma Mountain and you can do an 8.5 mile through hike and catch the SugarShuttle. Or you can explore more of the Bay Area Ridge Trail and enjoy some amazing views on the Sonoma Ridge Trail. There’s also the House of Happy Walls museum, the historic Wolf House, Jack’s grave, the old winery, and barns as well as a pig palace and acres of vineyards. This park really does have a lot to enjoy and it takes a few visits to see it all! The volunteers are amazing and so helpful! They also have shows during the summer and almost every weekend something lined up to hike or learn about. Jack London SHP is a must-visit while in Sonoma County!
Start off parking in the upper ranch parking lot. Head toward the smell of the eucalyptus trees and follow the path past the stone barns (check out the informational signs if it is your first time there!) and head toward the winery ruins. Take your time here and enjoy the old stone buildings with the vineyards and tree-lined mountains as the backdrop. There’s a koi pond behind the cottage and beautiful gardens!
For this hike, we passed all of this historical beauty and vineyards and followed the nice wide fire road toward the silos.
Mountain Trail starts off skirting the vineyards and becomes completely shaded by the many trees, including redwoods, that become dense as you follow the fire road up. The trail gently climbs and winds around small redwood groves. As you ascend, listen for the hawks soaring above and squirrels jumping from one tree branch to another. There had been a mountain lion sighting on the property not too long before we were there so every little sound caused us to look as we were on high alert.
Mountain Trail becomes slightly steeper as you reach London Lake. This lake used to be a swimming hole for Jack London and his guests. It is more of a drinking hole for deer (we saw 3 here!) and a spot for birds to hide in the dense reeds. London Lake has a rock dam that has been repaired, picnic tables, a pit toilet, and is lined with towering trees. Walk around the lake and stay to the right on Mountain Trail. The other trails lead to the ancient redwood and historic orchards.
After passing the lake, the trail remains wide and the trees thin out a little and let more light in. As you wind your way around you will soon come to May’s Clearing. There’s a bench and a picnic table here. Take a moment at the bench and look out toward San Pablo Bay and look for Mount Diablo in the distance. On a clear day, you can see all of it! At 1,100 feet it is a pretty spectacular view! Continue on Mountain Trail from here.
Mountain Trail stays nice and wide as you gently, but constantly, ascend in the shade of oaks and bays. The occasional madrone and redwoods appear as well! During the wet season, there are small stream crossings to cross.
At Deer Camp, there is a beautiful small grove of large redwoods! It is a favorite spot to enjoy one last forested part of the trail before you step out into the meadow and the real climbing begins. Say goodbye to the shade and hello to sunshine, grasses, and butterflies! Oh and don’t forget to hydrate and keep your breathing steady…your legs will thank you for it!
You know you are almost to the turn off for the summit when you reach the bench at the top of a steep portion of Mountain Trail. We like to pause here and catch our breath while enjoying the views of Sonoma Valley below and San Pablo Bay in the distance!
Once you are ready and have soaked in the views, head on up the trail to Hayfields Trail. It will be oh so tempting to take the trail that goes straight up to what looks like the summit but don’t do it! What you see is not the summit! Hang a left on Hayfields Trail and take the nice easy ascent that loops wide around and has a final steep push to the bench at the top of the summit. Trust us, you will want to go up this way!
While at the summit you can see the entire Sonoma Valley lined with houses and vineyards. With almost 360 degree views (park boundary doesn’t allow for the true summit) you can see Mt St Helena to your left, Sonoma Valley below, San Pablo Bay, and Mount Diablo in front of you and the rest of Sonoma Mountain to your right. It is SPECTACULAR up there! Congratulations you made it to the summit of Jack London State Historic Park!
We unloaded our backpacks, grabbed our snacks, and relaxed for a bit while enjoying the views. After a nice rest, we headed straight down the super steep and narrow trail back to Mountain Trail and retraced our steps back.
As usual, more people were on the trails when we were going back than when we started. We definitely like it this way. Getting out in nature without too many other people around is what helps us deal with daily life stress. So worth the alarm going off in the morning!
If you have time, head over to the museum and down to the Wolf House if you haven’t yet explored it then go grab a picnic lunch at the Glen Ellen Market and check out the wineries in town! Glen Ellen is a super cute town to spend the day!
The parking fee is $10, the museum is free with entry, lots of parking available! Portable potties in the upper ranch parking lot and pit toilets at London Lake. The hike is moderate with 7.8 miles and 1,788 feet elevation gain, mostly shaded but the last mile or so up is completely in the sun. No dogs past the vineyards. The nearest town is Glen Ellen, the nearest winery is Benziger.
Things We Love:
Hydration, hydration, hydration! This is the key to a successful hike! If your body is dehydrated it doesn’t perform as well. Even on cloudy cool days, your body will need good hydration. Replenishing the lost salt from sweating, adding in some natural sugar for energy and flavor along with some magnesium and potassium and you have yourself a great combo to keep hiking! The bosslady, as we have mentioned before, is allergic to so many things so finding a natural and gluten-free electrolyte was challenging. Skratch Labs has some really tasty and effective options! She uses the Lemon Lime Hydration Mix in her water bladder and we share a pack of the Skratch Labs Energy Chews as we hike up. We do this on more strenuous hikes or ones where we are dripping with sweat. It gives us the extra boost we need to keep our bodies hydrated while we push them to hike further.
Check out the Amazon links below and leave a comment on what you use to keep your hydration up and energy going!