The main, easy trail is a favorite with families and dog walkers.
Sonoma Valley Regional Park is located near the center of the Valley of the Moon on Highway 12. With the main parking area and trailhead so close to the highway the noise can be considerable. But walking a short distance into the park quickly nestles one into the embrace of a small canyon, greatly diminishing the annoying auto cacophony.
The park's main artery is the paved 1.2 mile long Valley of the Moon Trail. This ADA accessible trail follows the path of the diminutive Black Canyon Creek as it trickles its way towards the larger Sonoma Creek. The smooth and mostly level surface makes it ideal for walkers of all abilities.
Overlooking Sutton Lake and some of the Sonoma Developmental Center land adjacent to the park.
If the park only featured its paved trail it might not be worth a visit for more than neighborhood families or pet owners. Thankfully, the park provides much more in the form of natural surface trails which largely parallel the more heavily used paved path. Packed dirt and rocky paths require a bit more effort but is more than made up for by several spectacular views of Sonoma Valley's two surrounding mountain ranges.
A couple of side trails join the main Valley of the Moon Trail with the rougher Woodland Star Trail uphill. Of these, the Milkmaid Trail is by far the nicer. There is far less Poison Oak than that found on the Buttercup Trail. To top it off, the trail junction between Milkmaid and Woodland Star is one of the nicer, more isolated spots in the park. There's good cover for shade and pretty views onto pastureland in the adjacent Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC).
Looking back on the Woodland Star Trail towards Sonoma Mountain in the distance.
First opened in 1978, Sonoma Valley Regional Park has been on something of a growth spurt recently. In two separate transactions, 70 acres of land were acquired to bring the park's total size to just over 200 acres. One of those parcels along Highway 12 was purchased from SDC. Not included in any recent sale is the land around Suttenfield Lake, which many locals consider part of the park even if the official maps do not include it.
About half of the park's boundaries are shared with the Sonoma Developmental Center. Despite a few signs that seem to indicate access is restricted, there appears to be commonly accepted access between the two properties. A barbed wire fence marks the boundary but numerous openings exist throughout.
With the state of California announcing the closing of SDC it remains to be seen exactly how this will impact the regional park. Some of the better views from the park look over adjacent SDC land. There is great interest in maintaining much of the open space on the SDC property. What form that might take is still under discussion.