Living in Sonoma County definitely has some amazing perks! We have an abundance of hiking trails all within a short drive of wherever you might be and are surrounded by lovely hills that are now starting turn green for the winter! Taylor Mountain Regional Park is one of those that you see from every direction in Santa Rosa. If you have driven highway 101 through Santa Rosa, you have seen this gem of a local park!
A lot of locals use this park to train for larger hikes or get in their daily exercise with their pups. All of the trails are well used and well marked which makes it easy to go for a short hike whenever you have some time. We started out at the Petaluma Hill Road entrance and climbed up the switchbacks through the oak woodlands. As we gained elevation, the sound of the cars passing by was quieter and the views of the farmlands below were better and better. We had a red-tailed hawk yakking at us as we climbed. Not sure if he was encouraging us or warning us of the other birds we would soon be seeing. 🙂
The oak woodlands open up as you reach the first plateau and first cattle gate. Head through the gate (hint: lift up on the metal flappy thing that keeps the gate closed) and start your gentle climb up the Western Route toward the summit. The trails were a bit muddy as we climbed along which gave us more grip than when it’s dry with loose dirt. Cresting the trail along the Western Route you get to start seeing the expansive views (on a clear day) of our rural Santa Rosa. Take your time and enjoy the views!
We were hiking along enjoying the views when an older couple stopped us, they saw our cameras, and told us of these white birds just hanging out in the trees up ahead. They were so excited to tell someone and of course we got excited to see something that we wouldn’t normally see at Taylor Mountain! They turned out to be a pair of white-tailed kite hawks! We have seen these at Tolay Regional Park but not at Taylor Mountain! Most people didn’t even notice them as they hiked by. Us stopping and taking photos does cause some people to pause and look in the direction of our cameras. More out of curiosity. So great to see these birds!
After enjoying our time with the white-tailed kites we headed up the Eastern Route and really got a booty busting workout in! It is pretty much straight up on a dirt/mud trail for a bit before it levels off a little at the next cattle gate. Taylor Mountain is mostly exposed so doing this route on a hot sunny day is not the best idea unless you bring lots of water and want to sweat. We were out on the trails on a chilly sunny day. It was perfect!
When you pause to take a deep breath, make sure to turn around and enjoy the views of Santa Rosa below and Sebastopol in the distance. While the views are mostly of the city it does look beautiful with the leaves of the many trees in town changing! Say hello to your fellow hikers and go through yet another cattle gate. The trail begins to level here and hugs the mountain and you dip in and out of shade.
Once you come across a historic rock wall, you know you are almost to the summit…at least the summit of the park. We love this rock wall! People have started to put locks on the barbed wire fence at the top that separates you from Taylor Mountain Regional Park and private property. Cute idea! From the summit you can see Bennett Valley and Sonoma Mountain, Annadel, Mt St Helena, Mount Tamalpais and all of Santa Rosa! It’s so great to be up there on a clear day! One fellow hiker found a pile of boulders to take a break and enjoy the view before she ran down the hill. Yes, people run up and down this mountain. Probably even for fun. Weird.
We took our time enjoying the views before we headed back down the switchbacks.
Coasting Down Taylor Mountain
We opted to do this as an out and back hike since the hubs was getting over a cold and the bosslady was trying to hike the cold out of her head. You can make it a balloon hike and take the wider way around on the Western Route which meets back at the first cattle gate. This was ok with us to shorten it by .5 miles since the cold meds were starting to wear off for the bosslady. We were able to see the white-tailed kites again. The bosslady spotted a red-tailed hawk perched in an oak tree watching the white-tailed kites so we stopped to see what was happening. All of a sudden the red-railed hawk flew toward the white-tailed kites who left their perches and all the birds were screeching at each other! Then another red-tailed hawk came from another direction and joined in on the chase! It was so crazy to watch! There were no fights (thankfully) and the red-tailed hawks ended up leaving the white-tailed kites alone. Other than the summit this might have been one of our favorite parts of the hike!
Excited we were able to witness nature, we kept heading back down to the Petaluma Hill Road parking lot. Taylor Mountain Regional Park is such a great spot to get out on a short hike and nature adventure! We even had horses on the hike!
Picnic tables line the parking lot and overlook the ranch lands. Had we felt better we would have stayed and picnicked! Instead we went home, the bosslady napped, and we enjoyed homemade nachos and a nice bottle of Cabernet for dinner.
Parking $7, there’s a pay station or you can use your Sonoma County Regional Parks pass. Pit toilet in the parking lot and picnic tables. 4.6 miles, 1,181 ft elevation gain/loss, easy to moderate, 90% sun. Dogs on leash ok. South Santa Rosa has a handful of yummy restaurants in the Costco shopping center just up the way from the park.
Things We Love:
Since we have both been sick, one of the best things you can do (besides rest) is to stay hydrated! We are big fans of staying hydrated, for many reasons, but especially while sick. The Osprey bladder featured below at Amazon makes it so easy to fill with your favorite hydrating liquid with the wide top and slide closure it leaves you with no excuses to take it with you! We both have these and love being able to just grab the hose, bite down, and drink up! Cleaning is pretty easy too with the cleaning kit. Not sure we could live without the cleaning kit.
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