Walking at Tolay Lake

Finally! We’ve been here for the Pumpkin Festival in October, but we made a real walk last week at Tolay Lake Regional Park. Part of putting it off was the long trek south of Petaluma but most was not being able to attend a permit session. Of course, as time passed, they put the process online. Get your permit by reading some information and taking a few quizzes.

Today colors

We started off on the Historical Lakeville Road Trail. Some trails are old ranch roads. Tolay Lake Regional Parks is over 1750 acres of meadows, wetlands and rolling hills and 8 miles of trails.


Since the area is still grazed, we had to be careful with the gates. One cow ran along with us on the other side of a berm.

2 gate

All the other cows stood staring at us – we turned to Tolay Creek Trail.

3 bridge

And then made a turn on the far side of the creek.

4 trail bend

With the map on my phone we sort of found our way around. This post was already missing signs. Trail here more casual, but we were headed to those trees in the distance. Ponds!

5 trail post

Fish Pond is surrounded by trees and full of reeds. (A spur trail goes part of the way along the pond.) A calf was panicking from having got on the ‘wrong’ side of the fence.

6 Fish Pond

Our presence seemed to make it more scared. The other calf was making calls to “get on the right side of the fence.” Finally, it found the opening.

7 pond trail calves

This view is up the hill a little looking down a mini-gorge down to Fish Pond.

8 creek gorge

We climbed the small hill to get enough elevation to see back to the pond.9 vista

I loved the subtle colors of this park. Amazing to me. A little green peeking through. If we have the rain we’re supposed to this winter, there’ll be more green – but also a soggy trail. With all the grazing over the years, I don’t think it will be a great spring wildflower area, but I’m willing to give it a try.

10 meadow

The loop trail around the hill gives this view back to the next pond.
11 next pond

This pond is quite barren looking – Vista Pond.

11 pond sign

11 pond view

We headed back on Pond Trail, enjoying the vistas.

12 trail view

Because there’s a wide view, I could see the natural creeks and some that were straight-line for irrigation.

13 cross creek

Most of the trail was fine and level and I appreciated the new creek crossing.

14 creek cross

Not that I don’t like looking at the breaking away predecessor.

14 old cross creek

Many fence posts have bird houses, but I’m not sure it’s time yet for nesting – nor am I sure who they are for – coming in different sizes.

15 bird house

At the end of Pond Trail – we thought “maybe next time, we’d head uphill to see the Three Bridge View. In southern Sonoma County, it’s always nice to see the bay. Crossing the Causeway Trail we got to what after a winter of rain would be the Lake. Now, it just showed in beautiful colors.

17 possible lake

This is the way we came back – but is how starting on Causeway Trail from the Park Center would look. It’s how we’ll start next time to climb the bigger hill with a view.

18 causeway trailhead

We’d explored the farm buildings on our Pumpkin Festival visits, so just a quick shot of the farm yards before settling down for our picnic lunch.

19 barnyard

My hiking buddy, Dianne joined us for this walk. This is her picture looking north to the vineyards. More great color.

Vineyards Tolay D

See you on the trail!


Words and most pictures by Lynn Millar.

More park information. Hours and days are restricted depending on the time of year. Weekdays are reserved for school groups. I hope the improvements to this park, keep the kids in mind. It’s a great opportunity for kids interacting with nature, animals and history.

For specific history on the area, please visit History. This was an important area to Native Americans 8,000 years before the pioneers and immigrants arrived.

Trail Map.

Picnic areas and bathrooms are all at the park center. allowed on leash.



Published by Lynn Millar

Walker, reader, writer, traveller - see About Walking

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