Sonoma Overlook Trail

1.60 Miles
446 Feet
3stars (3.00)8
3stars (3.00)
2stars (2.38)
The display at the trailhead. The group pictured here were the docents who had just finished up their tours for neighborhood school groups.
The display at the trailhead. The group pictured here were the docents who had just finished up their tours for neighborhood school groups.

Sonoma Overlook Trail climbs Schocken Hill, once the site of a local quarry. The trail surface is rocky with a few smoother packed dirt segments mixed in. Though consistently ascending on the way up, the slope does not get too steep and requires only a moderate level of effort.

Wildlife is plentiful here on the edge of town. But plentiful does not do justice to the number of lizards found sunning themselves along the trail. Countless numbers of them scurry off into the grass or brush when approached.

The clearest view of Sonoma from the top of the trail. Off in the distance you can see Sonoma Mountain and even Mount Tamalpais.
The clearest view of Sonoma from the top of the trail. Off in the distance you can see Sonoma Mountain and even Mount Tamalpais.

Once the trail nears the peak of Schocken Hill it forms a circle. The entirety of town and then some can be seen from this vantage point. Towards the west one can also glimpse Sonoma Mountain and Mount Tamalpais.

The trail gets a bit hard to follow at this point, not because it's hard to see but rather because they are so many options. A number of unofficial trails have been worn down by visitors. A couple of spurs lead off to the fences that mark the boundary between the city's land and private holdings.

Chain link fences here are not the most pretty sight for the area, but they're thankfully in the opposite direction of the views of Sonoma below. The overlook's use as a teenage hangout after dark may have played a role in the desire for landowners to fence off their property.

Sonoma is a small town and the trail is in close proximity to several area schools. Actually, it's probably close to all of them. What this means is that the trail is an ideal site for a school field trip to view some of the flora and fauna of the area. On a school day don't be surprised to see groups of youngsters being led by docents up and down the trail snickering by the realization that they can say Blue Dick without getting in trouble.

City of Sonoma
Overlooking the City of Sonoma. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Trail View
Coppertone leads the way on the trail towards the point overlooking the city. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Halfway up
About halfway up Shocken Hill, looking towards Sonoma Mountain. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Looking over Sonoma from the trail. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Headed back
Heading back down the mountain towards the trailhead. Note the hillside vineyard in the distance. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Overcast, but relatively clear
Despite the cloud cover and gloomy conditions we could see clearly across the Bay. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Coppertone hikes the loop at the top of the trail with the town of Sonoma to the right. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Valley View
Looking west toward Sonoma Mountain. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
More Repair Work
Smaller sets of stairs to make the footing more secure and cut down on wear and tear. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
One of the many sets of stairs added during the recent repair work done by volunteers on the trail. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Hikers in the distance completing the upper loop with a winery in the background. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Coppertone on the trail
Coppertone walks around the upper loop overlooking Sonoma Valley. (Photo by Austin Explorer)

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Log Entries
Early, quick and easy
By Austin Explorer on 7/22/2023
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 2.84 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 2 minutes

Coppertone and I wanted to get some hiking in this weekend.  With temperatures expected to reach the upper 90's we decided to hike something nearby so we could get done quickly before the heat got too bad.  Sonoma Overlook fit the bill.

A few other folks had the same idea, though the trail was not overly crowded.  Visibility was pretty good, providing nice views over Sonoma and Sonoma Valley.  And we finished up right as things were starting to get a bit uncomfortable weatherwise.

Almost made it
By Austin Explorer on 6/18/2022
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 2.16 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Coppertone and I were helping a friend out who had not been hiking for decades.  As part of physical therapy this was a first attempt on uneven terrain.  We didn't make it to the top, but there were no injuries to report.  She's enthused to give it another attempt in a couple of months with more training.

Overcast day overlooking Sonoma
By Austin Explorer on 3/1/2020
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 2.72 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Coppertone and I revisited the Overlook Trail on an overcast day in March.  Despite the clouds, visibility was fairly good and from the highpoint we could clearly see across the bay into San Francisco.

We spotted the first Lupine of the year while on the trail.  Being from Texas they remind us of Bluebonnets, so we always keep an eye out for them.

Many walkers and hikers on the trail were wearing headphones.  Thankfully it means we did not need to be subjected to their music but it seems a shame that they are missing out on the wind, birdsong and other sounds while listening to the same noise they can subject themselves to at any time of day elsewhere.

First time back since the re-opening
By Austin Explorer on 5/12/2019
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 1star
Distance: 3.01 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Coppertone and I decided to revisit this trail after it had been re-opened a couple of weeks ago.  Some extensive work had been done to fix up the trail to help repair some wear and tear from the 50,000 hikers who use it yearly.  

We showed up a bit after 10:00 AM and the parking area was full, save for perhaps one space.  It would remain full when we left an hour and a half later.  Seems like the word has gotten out about the trail.

The most noticeable change to the trail are the stone stairs added here and there in those spots that had suffered the most of erosion due to steepness and so many feet pounding on the surface.  The most stairs in one spot is right there at the trailhead.

The trail surface remains rocky and careful footing is required at times, but overall is easy for most walkers to handle.  Ample signage and a large map at the trailhead makes orienting oneself on the trail quite easy.

Not too far into the hike we spotted two California Quail come out of the brush and walk along the trail ahead of us.  We slow walked and kept our distance until hikers coming from the other direction gave the pair no choice but the dive back into the high grass.  During our time on the trail we'd spot a lot of lizards and skinks crossing the trail or sunning themselves on exposed rocks.

One trail segment we don't remember seeing before was the Boots Spur leading to a stone bench dedicated to the early health food advocate and all around eccentric known as Gypsy Boots.  I had never heard of him before and had to look him up online when we got back home.  

On the way up and down we were never far from another hiker or group of hikers going in one direction or the other.  In all of our visits here this might be the most crowded we've ever seen the trail.

Rain and drizzle
By Austin Explorer on 10/2/2016
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 2.67 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 13 minutes

Coppertone and I had intended to go to Bartholomew Park today, but we failed to check out their hours first and found the gate closed.  This trail was our last second backup plan.

We knew rain was moving into the area, but we'd expected it to wait until later in the day.  As it turns out we got a little wet with drizzle and some light rain through a good part of the hike.  Not too bad though and we dried off pretty quickly afterwards.  Despite the rain, there were a surprising number of people on the trail.

The rain was light and the clouds high enough that there was still an impressive view of Sonoma beneath us at the top.  The sunlight peering through gaps in the clouds created some interesting patterns of lightness and darkness through the valley.

Return Trip
By Austin Explorer on 5/26/2016
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 4.13 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Coppertone and I revisited the trail, this time with some members of the Sonoma Activity Group after work.  This is actually the first time we've hiked a given trail more than once.  We started off near General Vallejo's home, went through Montini Open Space Preserve and then up to the Sonoma Overlook.

Busy day on the trail
By Austin Explorer on 5/2/2014
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 2.91 Miles Duration: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Lots of small school groups on the trail today, so the solitude rating really takes a hit.  Each group was generally small and not too rambunctious, but one was rarely out of sight or earshot of one.

The trail is known for its views of Sonoma below, but we might remember it more for the lizards.  Lots and lots of lizards out sunning themselves on rocks or branches, often scurring off upon our approach.  On this day at least the Valley of the Moon was more like the Valley of the Lizards!

Didn't hike all spurs because we were getting a bit hungry because we'd skipped breakfast. So we hightailed it down the hill and went for pizza to replenish our energy.

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