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Quarryhill Botanical Garden

By Alexa Chipman Mar. 6, 2016

Nestled in the countryside of Sonoma County, this hidden gem of primarily Asian botanical collections is a treat for visitors. It ranges up and over an old quarry that has been turned into a paradise of trees, waterfalls, bridges, and flowers. The garden is not large, but it is extremely steep—be ready for sharp inclines to fully explore the area.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden Glen Ellen

Benches and picnic nooks are interspersed throughout, allowing for quiet meditation or a lively discussion with friends. The sheltered arbor is a lovely spot for drawing or photography if so inclined, and the garden offers events throughout the year that might appeal to you. Visit the website for a calendar.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden

When arriving, park at the bottom of the hill and visit the small gift shop to purchase tickets, then hike straight up for access to the garden, which offers sweeping vistas of the landscaped hills and a variety of exotic plants mingled in natural plantings. Spring and summer are the best times of the year to visit.

To fully experience the gardens, join as a member for annual access to watch the seasonal changes from rich autumnal colors to refreshing spring blossoms and a luxurious sweep of green during the summer.

Quarryhill Botanical Gardens Flowers

This is a beautiful hidden valley of horticultural collections that is often overlooked by locals and tourists alike–while out wine tasting in the area, take a few hours to explore it; you will not be disappointed.

Why hike at Quarryhill Botanical Gardens?

  • Horticultural education of plants from around the world
  • Splashing waterfalls and creeks for entertaining crossings of bridges and stepping stones
  • Steep hills give a good workout going up and down
  • Variety of trail types from narrow green tunnel paths to wide paved road
  • Well tended—no need to worry about logs or trail damage

Website: www.quarryhillbg.org
Hours:
Daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: 12841 Highway 12, Glen Ellen

Jack London Park Offers Easy, Picturesque Trails

By Alexa Chipman Jan. 6, 2017

Jack London State Historic Park is known for being home to the famous author, and is a beautiful hiking opportunity with a network of trails that range from an easy ten minute stroll to twenty miles of back country hills. For a full trail map, visit the website.

I have been going to the park for many years, and remember the wonder of first walking through the sheltering grove of trees opening up to looming ruins like Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The area has a quiet, haunted feel to it with sweeping hills, vineyards, and historical buildings peering out waiting to reveal their secrets.

The Wolf House Jack London State Historic Park
The Wolf House

Turn left after the entrance and take the main trail, which leads down a gentle slope of clustered berries, oak groves, and meadows. There is a turnoff to visit Jack London’s grave that is a quick detour, otherwise keep walking to find yourself in a dark gathering of redwoods with several picnic tables overlooking the ruins of the Wolf House. It is a peaceful, shaded area to have lunch, and there are signs explaining the significance of the site for those with an interest in California history.

It has a fairy tale atmosphere with a tinge of melancholy for its lonely history—the Wolf House was never lived in, catching fire and burning to ashes while putting the finishing touches on its construction. For fans of the Percy Jackson book series, it has significance as the starting place for Roman demigods on their adventures.

Jack London Cottage
London Cottage

Instead of turning left at the kiosk, go up the road to the right and park for the farm trail entrance. A brisk pace reveals old barns, a spread of vineyards, and the adorable London Cottage where he spent most of his life. It is not always open, and will cost an additional fee to enter.

There is a charming pond around the back with benches to rest on, or continue down the trail to visit the old swimming lake that has overgrown into more of a bog, and connect to longer trails for a full day’s hike.

Trail rides are available for additional fees, and there are many other locations to visit on the property. Several group picnic areas can be reserved if you plan on a celebration with plenty of friends, and where better than surrounded by such beauty and history.

During the summer, Transcendence Theatre Company has outdoor performances of lively Broadway music and dance near the cottage. Enjoy an entertaining evening watching the sunset with a beloved local tradition.

Why hike at Jack London State Park?

  • Short strolls or full day hikes
  • Fascinating historical buildings and ruins
  • Classic Sonoma County vistas
  • Plenty of picnic tables and benches to use

Website: www.jacklondonpark.com
Hours:
Open to hiking daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen

If you live near enough to visit multiple times in a year, I would recommend their annual pass to avoid paying the entrance fee every time.