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
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.
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
Hours: Open to hiking daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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.