Jack London State Historic Park

20.00 Miles
3stars (3.00)7
2point5stars (2.86)
2point5stars (2.86)
2400 London Ranch Rd.
Glen Ellen
More Info

While you might have read some of London's books, you might not have known that he devoted much of life to experimenting with new techniques in farming and ranching to increase yields and sustainability. The many buildings and ruins in the park are testament to this. Signage and displays provide a good deal of detail about the lengths he went to push the agricultural envelope.

The trails running around and to the farm buildings provide some of the more flat and easier to navigate paths for those wanting a shorter walk or something not too taxing.

The uphill portion of the park is marked by a tree line that partially shields the viewer from the severity of the incline that awaits.

SDC Cemetery
The entry gate to the Sonoma Developmental Center's cemetery. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Heading back
Coppertone descends down Orchard Road back to our trailhead. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Orchard and Camp Via
Jack London's orchard and Camp Via as seen from the Camp Via Trail. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
View off of Orchard Trail
Looking across Sonoma Valley from the Orchard Trail overlook. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Camp Via Trail
Camp Via Trail heading northwest. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Fern Lake
Fern Lake and its many ducks as seen from the trail. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Looking over Eldridge and the SDC. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Suttonfield Lake
A view of Suttonfield Lake in nearby Sonoma Valley Regional Park. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Eldridge Cemetery Gate
What appear to be unmarked graves here were not always so. The headstones were removed in 1964. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
One of the many exhibits inside the House of Happy Walls. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Clever flower pots built into the external stonework at the House of Happy Walls. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
House of Happy Walls
The park's main museum is located in the house built after the Wolf House fire and Jack London's death. (Photo by Austin Explorer)

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Log Entries
Last hike of the year
By Austin Explorer on 12/30/2021
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 3.77 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Coppertone and I wanted to get some more miles in before the end of the year.  But we also did not want to walk a muddy mess.  So we opted to hike into Jack London State Historic Park from the back Sonoma Developmental Center.  We'd done this hike a couple of times before.  It was not until I'm logging this hike now that I realized it was almost exactly one year ago today (off by one day) that we made the same trek!

Today we stayed on Orchard Road alone.  This ensured a paved, non-muddy surface for the entirety of our walk.  The pavement was often wet, but not slick.  We're planning on hitting a non-paved trail in a couple of days.  Hopefully a few days of sunshine will give the ample moisture some time to soak into the earth.

The hike from SDC to Camp Via is all uphill, though the overall elevation gain was not that bad.  In all we gained about 700 feet heading out.  On the flipside, the path back was gravity assisted all the way to our trailhead.

Last hike of the year, mapping more trail segments
By Austin Explorer on 12/31/2020
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 5.93 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 7 minutes

Coppertone and I chose to revisit Jack London State Park to map out some more trail segments we had not yet visited.  We parked at the back of the Sonoma Developmental Center once again and hiked in through Orchard Road.  We were retracing some of the path we walked not too long ago but things went a bit more quickly since we didn't stop to find caches along the way.

Orchard Road ends at Camp Via, a summer camp previously used by SDC.  The buildings are dilapidated now, with the campers' shelters in particular falling apart.  The main building seems intact enough but all of this seems to be completely abandoned.  We're not sure what the state's plans are for it.

Once we got to Camp Via we walked some of the crisscrossed paths that go through Jack London's orchards.  Many of the trees here seem neglected and are barely holding on.  A few others seemed to have tapped into the fountain of youth.  The disparity is a bit strange.  Camp Via Trail and Orchard Trail mark an "X" through the orchard and each consists of gently sloping jeep trails and a bit of single track trails.  There is a nice little spot off of Orchard Trail that provides a nice view over the orchard and Camp Via.

We did find a couple of geocaches while we were in the area and made our way back to the car just doubling back along Orchard Road.

Mapping segments and finding caches
By Austin Explorer on 12/24/2020
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 4.59 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 31 minutes

Coppertone and I parked at the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) and hiked in the back way along Orchard Road.  This allowed us quicker access to several trail segments around Fern Lake that we had not yet hiked and mapped.  There was plenty of parking at the state facility, which is in the process of being decommissioned.

Orchard Road is a paved road and hardly constitutes a true hiking experience.  However, it is closed to all traffic with the exception of some employees.  So it provides an easy path into Jack London State Park.  The road actually ends at Camp Via which technically remains part of SDC and is completely enclosed by the park.

Along Orchard Road is Eldridge Cemetery.  SDC patients (previously SDC was known as The California Home for the Care and Training of Feebleminded Children) and 2 employees were buried between 1892 and 1939.  Headstones were removed in 1964 to protect the privacy of the families so all of the graves appear unmarked now.

We took a right onto Bay Trail to start a counterclockwise circumnavigation of Fern Lake.  Fern Lake Trail and Inner Fern Lake Trail were used to complete the loop.  Fern Lake seemed bigger than I was expecting.  I was also a bit surprised by the number of ducks and other waterfowl in the lake.   While hiking near the lake there was a near constant cacophony of duck squabbling or flights initiated or terminated in the water.  Lots of reeds and plants along the lake shore provides ample cover for the birds.

The trail segments around the lake were single track packed dirt trails.  "Real" hiking, if you like.  One section, which corresponded with the lowest elevation above the lake were a bit overgrown and the surface moist, despite the dry winter thus far.  During times of heavy rain this route may not be pleasant, if at all possible.  We also say a bit of poison oak, so be careful out there.

Part of the decision on where to hike also hinged on how many geocaches we would be able to find while we hiked.  In the end we snagged 8 new caches.  I also had the leasure of picking up a tick in the process, but hopefully got it removed before it could do any damage.

Knowing about the back entrance to the park means mapping out additional segments around the historic orchard area should be in our plans in 2021.

A short stroll and a lot of history
By Austin Explorer on 4/14/2019
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 1.91 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 15 minutes

During all of our previous visits to Jack London State Park Coppertone and I had not visited many of the historic exhibits here.  We always intended to do so, but we were more focused on hitting the trails than looking at exhibits.  Today we wanted a nice leisurely walk and decided to log some of the trails that focus more on the life and legacy of Jack London and his "mate" Charmian.

The Wold House Service Road is a one lane paved service road that heads towards Jack's dream home, the Wolf House.  The path is pleasant enough for a paved trail and might be ADA compliant.  It parallels a small stream that was flowing nicely with a couple of tiny waterfalls here and there.  In a mile or less you'll come up to Jack's dream abode.  Sadly, he and Charmian never got to enjoy the house as it burned in a fire just weeks before construction was to be finished.  All that remains are bare stone walls, some held up by steel support beams the state has put in place to keep the remaining structure from deteriorating further.  A small loop of trail provides views of the mansion from different angles.  An elevated platform "enters" the perimeter of the building and provides views of the reflecting pond and other features.

On the way back we took the short spur trail leading to the site of Jack and Charmian's graves.  A simple rock lies over their cremated remains.  If there were no fence and wooden sign indicating this was their resting place you would hardly give it a second thought.  The graves of the two pioneer children who lie nearby have resting places that are more significant.

The single track trail leading to the House of Happy Walls Museum was the way we headed back to the parking lot.  The museum had just undergone an extensive renovation and we found the exhibits very interesting.  Be sure to place your finger on the letters of the large metal topographic map near the entrance.  It's a multimedia spectacle.  If you're a Jack London fan then you'll definitely want to visit the museum and visit its well stocked gift shop that has special editions of most of his works.

In all we got in just short of 2 miles, not counting the distance we covered in the museum itself.  Not a serious hike today, but a pleasant morning.

Muddy Day
By Austin Explorer on 3/25/2018
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 7.38 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 47 minutes

Coppertone and I had decided to revisit Jack London State Park earlier Saturday when the forecast was for no rain for the next week.  Saturday night it rained, but we didn't change our plans.  So we encountered some fairly muddy trails in certain parts of the park.  Coppertone indicated that it's "always" muddy when we visit.  It wasn't until later I logged onto hikingtrailhead.com and saw that our two previous hiking visits here were in January of different years.  Not exactly the best time to avoid rain and mud!

We ventured into the park's SE corner to hike some of the trails near Fern Lake and the historic orchards.  Our preferred path there, Vineyard Trail, was closed for the "season".  We're not sure what the season is, but I would guess it has something to do with winter and it's rains.  We doubled back and went down Quarry, which bypassed the closed segment.

We did a loop around Fern Lake, leaving the park property for a brief period of time.  When we looped back into the park we had intended to circumnavigate the lake on Inner Fern Lake Trail.  However, the trail from Orchard Road seemed to be a bit overgrown and had some brush piled up on it, something that's often done when park managers don't want people walking down trails.

We had another option in Red Hill Road (it's a jeep trail maybe, not a real road) that we took to SDC's Camp Via.  A large tree had recently fallen across the trail that we had to skirt under, but it didn't provide too much of an obstacle.

From Camp Via we we stopped by to visit the nearby Ancient Redwood.  A kiosk as we approached seemed to highlight a nice, but scarcely impression grove of Redwoods that gave Coppertone a bit of a letdown.  But we continued down the path and were rewarded with a suitably impressive giant that clearly lorded over the young upstarts we had spotted a bit earlier.  This old giant has apparently seen 2,000 years of history.  Very impressive.

We completed a loop around the edges of the orchards, crossed over South Asbury Creek and used the Fallen Bridge trails to get back to Mountain Trail for the main (and somewhat less muddy) path back to the trailhead.

Klondike Challenge Graduation Hike
By Austin Explorer on 1/28/2017
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 2.50 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 3 minutes

Coppertone and I had both taken part in the Klondike Challenge to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Jack London's life.  A select group of folks were invited to attend a ceremony at the park where some prizes were given out and stories shared about our hiking adventures.

After getting to know everyone the group set out on a 2.5 mile loop around London Lake.  The originally planned trek to the ancient Redwood tree was shelved given the recent heavy rains which had caused creek levels to rise.

Muddy outing
By Austin Explorer on 1/10/2016
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 10.30 Miles Duration: 5 hours, 22 minutes

Coppertone and I decided to make our first trip to the park that started the 500 mile Klondike Challenge this year in which we are both participating.  The recent rains let up on Sunday and we decided to take a chance with the mud.  We brought extra shoes to wear on the way home, just in case.  Our boots got plenty muddy and footing was a bit slippery on some of the steeper downslopes, particularly on Coon Trap Trail.

After discussing our options we opted for the circuitous Sonoma Ridge Trail loop that ultimately resulted in over 10 miles of hiking for us.  By the end of the hike we were plenty tired.  Despite the heavy tree cover over much of the path we still managed to find several impressive overlooks peering into Sonoma Valley below.

We were surprised by the number of buildings and structures remaining from Jack's agricultural experiments.  The information signs that discuss the poor farmers of the Sonoma Valley in the early 1900's seem a stark contrast to the wine culture that predominates today.

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