Sonoma Creek Falls

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park / Kenwood / near Santa Rosa / Sonoma County, California, USA

Rating: 1     Difficulty: 2
Sonoma Creek Falls with pretty healthy flow

TABLE OF CONTENTS



[Back to top]

INTRODUCTION

Sonoma Creek Falls was kind of our waterfalling excuse to explore part of the famed Bay Area wine country of Sonoma and Napa Valley. In particular, this waterfall was in Sonoma County as part of the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, which in addition to this waterfall, was also known for commanding views of the wine-rich valleys as well as the Sugarloaf Ridge Mountains themselves that was the source of Sonoma Creek while also separating the two famous valleys of Napa and Sonoma. Prior to us visiting this waterfall, we always thought of the Bay Area wine country as lacking in waterfalls and genuine Nature, but our Sonoma Creek Falls experience definitely made us reconsider that assertion. Although we anticipated that this waterfall would have a short life, we didn't expect it to flow as well as it did during our mid-May 2016 visit as you can see in the photo at the top of this page. It appeared to tumble over giant rocks in a three-tiered manner with a cumulative height of 25ft. That said, we also recognized that a scattered storm that caused snow around Lake Tahoe during our long weekend trip to this part of California might have also given this falls some life so this waterfall would require timing, especially shortly after some significant rain had fallen or if enough rainfall had accumulated in the season to sustain the flow of Sonoma Creek in the Winter and Spring months.

It turned out that there were a couple of different ways to visit this waterfall - one from its upper trailhead and one from its lower trailhead (see directions below for both). We'll start with the upper trailhead first since that one was the most obvious way to do it in terms of finding trailhead parking. From its upper trailhead, right across Adobe Canyon Road was the start of the Canyon Trail, which then promptly descended into the shaded cover of the forest. The trail would continue to descend fairly moderately with Sonoma Creek being heard throughout. With all the elevation loss (said to be 300ft), we knew that the return hike would be all uphill. We noticed quite a few spur trails deviating from this main trail towards Sonoma Creek, but it turned out that the one turnoff we should care about was signposted "waterfall". We'd eventually arrive at Sonoma Creek Falls in about 20 minutes after we had gotten started. We were able to scramble right up to the base of the waterfall for a closer look as well as scramble around the boulders fringing Sonoma Creek for a more contextual look.

After having our fill of Sonoma Creek Falls, we had a choice to make. We could hike back up the way we came to get back that 300ft elevation loss and log about one-mile round trip (the difficulty rating reflects this since it's probably the most common way to do this hike). Or, we could continue walking further along Sonoma Creek towards its other trailhead. What we ended up doing was that my Mom wanted to hike back up to the car park then drive back down the road to pick me up while I'd finish the hike as a one-way shuttle. So as I continued walking further downstream on the trail, I noticed that the trail's elevation profile flattened out as I suddenly found myself amongst towering coastal redwood trees. After roughly a quarter-mile more of walking between these trees, the trail then briefly climbed back up towards Adobe Canyon Road.

Once I was back on the road (there was no parking immediately nearby here), I could have walked back up Adobe Canyon Road to the trailhead for a total round-trip loop hike of 3.5 miles, but I opted to continue walking down the road. Along the way, I saw an informal pullout saying the trailhead parking was further up the canyon while the waterfall itself was merely a quarter-mile away from here. As I continued walking even further down the road, I'd eventually get past a gate before finally arriving at a lower trailhead parking alongside Sonoma Creek (called the Goodspeed Trailhead). This was where my Mom picked me up, and I ended up walking about 0.6 miles from Sonoma Creek Falls to this point. In hindsight, going from the Goodspeed Trailhead to Sonoma Creek Falls was probably the less taxing way to go with the added bonus of being amongst those coastal redwoods. The only caveat would be walking along Adobe Canyon Road for the first 0.4 miles. Overall, the shuttle hike took me about 45 minutes.




[Back to top]

PHOTO JOURNAL

Sonoma Creek Falls was roughly a 25-minute drive from Downtown Sonoma, which featured an attractive park, several famous restaurants, and the state's northernmost mission called San Francisco SolanoSonoma Creek Falls was roughly a 25-minute drive from Downtown Sonoma, which featured an attractive park, several famous restaurants, and the state's northernmost mission called San Francisco Solano
Adjacent to Sonoma was the famed Napa Valley, where numerous vineyards offered wine tasting as well as some interesting architecture. Shown here was one of the more scenic vineyards we visitedAdjacent to Sonoma was the famed Napa Valley, where numerous vineyards offered wine tasting as well as some interesting architecture. Shown here was one of the more scenic vineyards we visited
Also in Napa Valley further up towards Calistoga was this interesting geyser, which affirmed to us that there were also geothermally-heated spas to further live it up in wine countryAlso in Napa Valley further up towards Calistoga was this interesting geyser, which affirmed to us that there were also geothermally-heated spas to further live it up in wine country
Sonoma was roughly a 1.5- to 2-hour drive from San Francisco, which itself was a city that had a lot going for it. Shown here was the Museum of Fine Arts, which was just one of many city attractionsSonoma was roughly a 1.5- to 2-hour drive from San Francisco, which itself was a city that had a lot going for it. Shown here was the Museum of Fine Arts, which was just one of many city attractions
The trailhead parking for the Canyon Trail, which began to the right across from Adobe Canyon RoadThe trailhead parking for the Canyon Trail, which began to the right across from Adobe Canyon Road

The Canyon Trail immediately started descending into the forest coverThe Canyon Trail immediately started descending into the forest cover

Mom on the downhill hike to the fallsMom on the downhill hike to the falls

The Canyon Trail continued going downhill while flanked by ferns and moss-covered tree trunks and rocksThe Canyon Trail continued going downhill while flanked by ferns and moss-covered tree trunks and rocks

This signposted junction was the only time we needed to deviate from the Canyon Trail (as there were numerous false trails en route)This signposted junction was the only time we needed to deviate from the Canyon Trail (as there were numerous false trails en route)

Finally making it to Sonoma Creek FallsFinally making it to Sonoma Creek Falls

Mom scrambled right up to the base of Sonoma Creek Falls for an even closer lookMom scrambled right up to the base of Sonoma Creek Falls for an even closer look

Looking back up at the trail heading up to the upper trailhead. This would be the way to hike to regain the carLooking back up at the trail heading up to the upper trailhead. This would be the way to hike to regain the car

Further downstream from Sonoma Creek Falls was this footbridge crossing over a side creekFurther downstream from the falls was this footbridge crossing over a side creek

A refreshing change to the scenery further up the Canyon Trail was the presence of these majestic coastal redwood trees near the lower end of the Canyon TrailA refreshing change to the scenery further up the Canyon Trail was the presence of these majestic coastal redwood trees near the lower end of the Canyon Trail

Back at the Adobe Canyon Road at the lower end of the Canyon TrailBack at the Adobe Canyon Road at the lower end of the Canyon Trail

Walking downhill along Adobe Canyon RoadWalking downhill along Adobe Canyon Road

Closer look at a sign by a pullout along Adobe Canyon Road.  I guess we could've parked here to make the hike shorter from the bottomCloser look at a sign by a pullout along Adobe Canyon Road. I guess we could've parked here to make the hike shorter from the bottom

Context of that pullout adjacent to Adobe Canyon RoadContext of that pullout adjacent to Adobe Canyon Road

Hiking past the gate and towards what I think is the Goodspeed LotHiking past the gate and towards what I think is the Goodspeed Lot

This was the lot where Mom waited for me to complete the one-way all-downhill shuttle hikeThis was the lot where Mom waited for me to complete the one-way all-downhill shuttle hike


[Back to top]

VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Right to left sweep of Sonoma Creek before checking out the falls then the surrounding area


[Back to top]

DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Since it's probably most common to drive to Sonoma from the Bay Area, we'll just focus on the directions from there. We'll first start with San Francisco as the starting point (via the quickest route), and then we'll focus on the East Bay starting from say Oakland before passing through the foot of Napa Valley then continuing on to Sonoma Creek Falls via Sonoma.

From San Francisco, we'd drive north on the US101 Freeway while leaving the city via the Golden Gate Bridge. While driving north on the US101, the GPS then had us We'd then continue on the US101 until turning off at the Hwy 37. We then followed Hwy 37 for about 7 miles before turning left onto Hwy 121. We then continued going north along Hwy 121 for about 6 miles before keeping left onto Hwy 116. After about 1.5 miles on Hwy 116, we kept right onto Arnold Drive, then we followed this road for the next 6.5 miles (passing between many wineries) before turning right onto Agua Caliente Rd. After another 3/4-mile, we then turned left onto the busy Hwy 12 and followed this road for about 8 miles to Adobe Canyon Road on our right.

Adobe Canyon Road would eventually narrow into a somewhat curvy road and we followed it for about 3.4 miles to the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park visitor center, where we paid the $8 day use vehicle fee. Then, we turned around and drive about a quarter-mile back down the hill on Adobe Canyon Road, where we parked the car for the upper trailhead. The lower car park at the Goodspeed Trailhead was a little over a mile down the hill beyond Adobe Canyon Road just beyond the gate. According to GoogleMaps, this drive would take around 90 minutes (it took us 1 hour and 10 minutes to drive from Larkspur to Sonoma Creek Falls).

In hindsight, we probably could have gotten to the falls quicker had we drove north on the US101 all the way to Santa Rosa, then head east on Hwy 12 for about 12.4 miles to Adobe Canyon Road on the left.

From Oakland, we'd continue north on the I-580 then keep right to go north on the I-80 towards Vallejo. Exiting the I-80 at the Hwy 37 in Vallejo, we'd then exit at Sonoma Blvd (Hwy 29) and follow it for about 9.5 miles to its junction with Hwy 12 and Hwy 121 at the foot of Napa Valley. Turning left to go onto Hwy 12, we'd then follow this road for about 9.3 miles before turning right onto Hwy 116. After about 1.6 miles keep right to leave Hwy 116 and get onto Arnold Drive, and then follow the directions as above to reach Sonoma Creek Falls. According to GoogleMaps, the route described here would take about 90 minutes to go the 68 miles.




[Back to top]

ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




[Back to top]

MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





[Back to top]

TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




[Back to top]

TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





[Back to top]

NEARBY WATERFALLS




[Back to top]

RELATED PAGES



Have You Been To This Waterfall?

Share your experience!

Click here to see visitor comments for this waterfall

Click here to see visitor comments for other waterfalls that we've visited in this region

Click here to go to the Comments Main Page

You can use the form below, but if you find our host's interface too troublesome to use (especially if you're trying to upload photos), then just send a text submission anyways using the form, but also let us know that you'd like to attach photos. If you've provided an email address via the form, then we can reply back acknowledging your request, and you can then reply to that email with your photo attachments. We're very sorry about this, but there's not much we can do about SBI's terrible interface.



[Back to top]

[Go to the Big Sur & Bay Area Waterfalls Page]

[Go to the California Page]

[Return from Sonoma Creek Falls to the World of Waterfalls Home Page]