Happy Trails: What it Takes to Make a Good Hiking Trail

By Stephen Nett

A good trail is like a comfortable pair of shoes: It feels welcoming and pleasing under foot and takes you confidently to a favorite destination and back.

Sonoma County’s Regional Parks have a wide selection of trails to choose from. But making a good trail takes a lot more than meets the eye.

Trails Through History

Modern park trails are carefully crafted, though it’s worth noting that the walking trail is ancient technology. Thousands of years before Sonoma County had roads, such paths were essential to people to move efficiently around the landscape.

The first trails walked by humans in Sonoma County were likely created by wildlife, worn into the landscape by repeated trips to water and grazing meadows. Native peoples later established their own routes to resources and to trading and ceremonial centers. Tolay Lake in Tolay Regional Park, for example, was likely connected by trails to the greater Bay Area and beyond

Portals into Nature

Today’s trails provide more than simple transportation. One of the roles of modern park trails is to provide portals for the public into nature and protected wildlands. The only way most of us will ever experience a mountain pond or glimpse a bobcat is because a park trail brought us there.

Good trails also remove obstacles that keep people from the outdoors.  Many, like the Valley of the Moon Trail at Sonoma Valley Regional Park, pictured below, and the Cloverdale River Park trail, are specifically crafted so people with a range of physical abilities can experience wild environments and scenic beauty.

Family walking at Sonoma Valley Regional Park 485

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