Visit Petaluma, but stretch first. From family friendly paved paths through the wetlands to stand up paddle boarding on the gently moving Petaluma River, Petaluma offers visitors a diverse range of recreational activities. Many road bikers find Petaluma to be a great place to start their loop. A short ride through town takes you out to the backroads where often you’ll find you have the roads to yourselves all the way to the coast. Perhaps you’d rather take to the links then the streets? Or sweating it out in the local gym, yoga studio or Crossfit boxes- Petaluma has it all.
The rolling hills of Petaluma’s regional parks beckon hikers and cyclists to hit the trail. Whether you choose to take on a challenging climb to the vista point, stroll leisurely through the groves of heritage oaks or even just sit in the gazebo and take in the beauty of rural Sonoma County, you’ll leave refreshed and rejuvenated.
THE PETALUMA RIVER
Get a new perspective on Petaluma when you view it from a stand up paddle board on the Petaluma River. You’ll literally be standing in the middle of nature, traveling 14 miles of calm, flat water. Every stroke brings a view of Sonoma County that is like no other.
Petaluma has premiere SUP suppliers including Clavey Paddlesports and Petaluma SUP ready to outfit and train river adventurers with everything needed for a fun, safe experience. Spend the morning on the River and then kick back with a craft beer on the patio at Dempseys or Taps overlooking the river.
Every day of the year and on many special events, the Friends of the Petaluma River non-profit organization is working to connect the community with the watershed. Visit the Events Calendar to learn more about their weekly “Boating at the Barn,” and river celebrations as well as events sponsored by the Petaluma Small Craft Center and North Bay Rowing Club.
Have your captain’s license? Petaluma is the perfect destination; step off your boat and into downtown. The Marina and Petaluma Yacht Club are ready to help you make the most of your cruise-in.
DIRT OR PAVEMENT- PETALUMA WON’T DISAPOINT
It’s not surprising that the scenic beauty of Wine Country and the coastline combined with nearly perfect weather year-round have made Sonoma County one of the best cycling destinations in the world.
Petaluma shares in that reputation. Explore one of the regional parks, Helen Putnam or Tolay, and be rewarded with spectacular views of the Petaluma valley. Or venture out from Petaluma for the 48-kilometer Spring Hill-Chileno Valley ride and experience the beauty of the rural dairy land that borders Sonoma and Marin counties. Interested in something a little shorter? Stay in Petaluma and cycle out to Lagunitas Brewing Company; it’s only a three mile ride.
The SMART train delivers even more options for cyclists; bring your bikes on the train for scenic day trips. Soon, you’ll even be able to bike or walk the entire corridor because the SMART project includes a bike path system.
HIKING THE HILLSIDES OF PETALUMA
Whether your style of hiking is “let’s keep the pace up,” or more like a Sunday stroll, you’ll find a trail in Petaluma that suits you perfectly.
Helen Putnam Regional Park is located within the rolling hills just southwest of Petaluma and offers 6 miles of trails, with ridge-top trails offering panoramic views of the county. Helen Putnam is a favorite of local hikers because the looped trail system makes it possible to create hikes of varying length and difficulty. The trails are also open to cyclists and horseback riders.
The expansive Tolay Lake Regional Park has 8.6 miles of trails including a popular five mile trail that ends at a vista point with views of the entire San Pablo Bay. A day use permit is required; complete the online orientation and application to receive the free permit.
Located less than five minutes from downtown, Shollenberger Park is one of Petaluma’s natural treasures. The 165-acre wetlands park offers family-friendly 1.5 and 2 mile flat trails near a variety of habitats ranging from tidal salt marshes to freshwater marshes.
HEAD TO THE COAST
In Northern California, the “coast” can mean a dramatic shoreline, sandy beaches, rolling dunes, or quaint villages. And the beauty of staying in centrally-located Petaluma is that whatever type of coast experience you’re seeking, it’s all a short drive away.
One of the most popular Sonoma County coastal destinations is Bodega Bay and it couldn’t be easier to get there from Petaluma. Just head due east on Washington Street and within a half an hour you’ll be breathing in the ocean air or savoring a bowl of clam chowder. You’ll also want to visit the village of Bodega, four miles inland where Alfred Hitchcock filmed his 1963 thriller “The Birds.”
Head east on D Street, and in about a half hour, you’ll arrive at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. The 70,000 acre recreational haven encompasses a wide variety of environments including coastal grasslands, marshes, forests and marine. Hike some of the 150 miles of trails, trek the 308 stairs to the lighthouse, learn about the ecology and history at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, or take a ranger-guided tour. After all that activity, you deserve a reward. Since you’ll be going right past it on the drive back to town, stop at Marin French Cheese for some of their Rouge et Noir Triple Cream Brie.