Hiking during the holiday season is a great way to gain a little perspective … or a big perspective, if you decide to hike at Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve, where the views are huge. This locals’ favorite near Santa Rosa is worth a visit for anyone in the Bay Area, especially in the cooler months.
With over 1,000 acres and hiking trails leading to a panoramic 1,400-foot summit, Taylor Mountain is gloriously exposed—meaning you get fantastic vistas en route. There are two entry points to the park. We recommend starting from the Petaluma Hill Road entrance. Take the Red Tail Trail either direction from the parking lot, winding up through oak woodlands for about a mile before breaking into an open meadow. The last section is short and steep, and the summit is a sweeping reward of grand views, including the Santa Rosa Plain, Bennett Valley, Hood Mountain, and Mount Saint Helena.
From this vantage you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the devastation from the wine country wildfires, but you’ll also be heartened to see that there is still so much beauty in the vast landscape of rolling hills that were spared from the fires. Perspective indeed.
BONUS: From the summit of Taylor Mountain you’ll see a vineyard to the south. That’s nearby Matanzas Creek Winery, where the outdoor setting is one of the best in wine country, and that’s not just the wine talking!
This hike starts at Taylor Mountain’s Petaluma Hill Road entrance (3820 Petaluma Hill Rd., Santa Rosa, map). Start by going left on the Redtail Trail, then take the Connector Trail, followed by a right onto the Western Route, and then a right onto the Eastern Route to the summit. Return the way you came. Dog-friendly!