I hadn’t been to Crane Creek Regional Park in a number of years. Then it seemed barren and hot with an impossible hill. Mike reminded me the Buckeye trees would be blooming. He had enjoyed walking here when he worked across the road at HP. It is also a great place for hawk watching.
The 128 acre park is on Pressley Rd. part way up the hills to the east of Rohnert Park. Part of the Sonoma County Regional Parks, it has been improved over the years and now has a large parking lot. It also has a lot of signs. There are many trails to choose for a good 2-mile walk.
Last Sunday morning was turning warm and the hills were showing brown, even with our tropical rainstorm a few days before.
Red-winged blackbirds sang nicely and purple multi-headed Itherial’s Spear and orange poppies showed amongst the grasses.
In a short distance Poppy Trail turns left along the foot of the hill. It is narrower and not open to bikes or horses.
It’s hard to get lost here, as you can easily see or hear people on other trails in the park and have a long view over grasslands spotted with Buckeyes and various oaks.
In less than a quarter mile, two trails go right across Crane Creek. Buckeye Trail runs along the other side of the creek. Sunset Trail deadends at the top of a hill. I was not interested in those choices. Mike walked down to the rocky bed where the creek waters still flow.
From Creek Trail, a short dead end takes off near the creek. A picnic table is sheltered by Buckeye, Bay and Live Oak. Well, if we’d carried food and it was closer to lunch time this would be the perfect cool picnic spot.
We continued along the flat wide trail enjoying the blonde grasses and the occasional flowers. Lichen-covered rocks line the trail. An arch of Buckeyes span the path. A bench awaited in the shade. There are no shortages of benches in the park, though we worried at the lost youth commemorated on some of the plaques.
Lupine Trail goes off left at about the ¾ mile mark. No horses or bikes, but I think a wheelchair on either path would be really difficult at this point. We could see hills to the north. Turkey Vultures circled. Where are the hawks? There were sounds of many bird tunes.
Creek Trail ends at Fiddleneck, which we followed to the left for a short distance and climbed a short rise to Northern Loop Trail.
If you want the flattest of routes, turn back on Creek Trail. This gives you less than a two mile walk.
The Northern Loop Trail goes along the edge of the park boundary. We saw cows grazing and then a pasture of sheep eating and baaing. The path is more dirt and grass and at the low point this could be a muddy mess in the winter. Then the trail starts to climb and other trails come in or go off to the left.
The path cuts through Steve Wermer Memorial Disc Golf course. Groups of people were launching Frisbees down the hill to the metal goals. Yes, a hill. The trail now becomes a serious climb up a wide rocky road. But we stopped to look at views of the Santa Rosa Plain. We were blinded by the whiteness of the Green Music Center. Thankfully, two Red-tail Hawks distracted us as we watched them glide in circles above us.
At the top of the hill, I could see the ridge of mountains on the other side of the plain and a higher coastal range beyond. There are well placed benches to the look northeast or northwest from Bowden Bluff.
Before we made it down to the parking lot, we passed one more trail, but it was getting warm. I didn’t want to push my luck on remembering this as a much improved park with a fine walk in the grasslands with some gorgeous blooming Buckeyes and lush oaks.
See you on the trail!
Photos by Mike Millar
Directions: From Petaluma Hill Rd, south of E. Cotati take Roberts Rd up the hill. It turns into Pressley Rd. and the park is off to your left.
Part of Sonoma County Regional Parks the parking is
$6. Oops, in 2013, it’s $7. The time to buy a pass is now. Or until June 30th, because you get extra goodies.
Best time to go: Late May or June when the Buckeyes are blooming. Go early in the day.
Bathroom: Cinder block with real doors. No water.
Wheelchair: Access to first picnic table is easy. I’m not so sure about the rest, but most of Creek Trail is supposed to be okay. Let me know.
Bikes: Too small a park for the ‘serious’ biker, but when we left a few regular people were pedaling up the hill.
Dogs: On 6′ leashes. Make sure to bring water for them.
Horses: Some trails are open to horses. The park volunteer was making the rounds on her horse.
Food & Coffee: It seemed so close to home it wasn’t an issue. And Rohnert Park is right there or go up and over the hill to Bennett Valley.
meanwhile back to walking…