A walk through history – Jack London State Historic Park

Jack London SHP | Smiling in Sonoma

Take a walk back in history to a simpler time when you had acres to tend, grew your own food and were inspired by the land surrounding you. Jack London State Historic Park is just such a place. The hubs and I have hiked all around this park and love that it is not only a beautiful park super close to us but also the fact that the history of Jack London is preserved well by the volunteers.

After a rainy Saturday, the hubs and I set off on what we believed would be about a 12 mile hike through the park…it ended up being a 14.66 mile adventure! Since it had just rained the day before the smell of the eucalyptus trees was a wonderfully strong greeting us as we started our hike. The fog was still sitting low on the vineyard and we practically had the entire park to ourselves. The incline on the service road is gentle with gobs of mosquitos buzzing around waiting for the poor souls to feed on. We were prepared with our bug spray and thankfully only had them buzzing around us.

Once we reached May’s Clearing we hopped on the narrow Old Fallen Bridge Trail. We had been here a few weeks ago pulling out non-native grasses for the Earth Day celebration and it was nice to see our impact. The trail was lined with wildflowers and grasses and all to ourselves. We enjoyed the quiet until my Map My Walk app spoke really loud to tell us our miles and split pace scaring me half to death! We keep her on so we know where we are at on the hike and also if we need to pick up the pace.

We then headed right on the New Fallen Bridge trail to the Apple Tree trail. From here you can choose to walk the old historic apple orchard or continue on to the Apricot Tree trail and see the hill full of apricot trees still. Just before the Camp Via, hang a right on Coon Trap trail. Try to get some stretching in here…you’ll need it for the strenuous incline you are about to experience. Coon Trap trail winds back and forth at a pretty good angle with pockets of sunshine and pockets of good shade. The variety of plants seen on this hike was amazing to me. Trust that the 1,000 feet elevation gain is all worth it. I kept watching the tree line hoping we were closer and closer to the East Slope trail.

Take a breath when you reach the East Slope trail and go left through tall grasses full of thistles and poison oak (sounds fun right?) you will walk around and down then back up to an open meadow full of poppies, lupine, vetch, grasses and beautiful views of Sonoma Valley (on a clear day). Careful as you go as there is poison oak and some mountain bikers on the trails…definitely enjoy the view!

Once you reach the end you are technically on private property. Enjoy the quiet. At this point in our hike we were at approximately 8 miles. I couldn’t imagine living back in the day of Jack London’s time and walking my property that is this large and growing all the food I would need. I can totally understand how he was so inspired to be an amazing writer, entrepreneur and person…this land is so diverse and beautiful. What a wonderful life he led!

Ok, now gather your strength for the hike back down! We backtracked on the East Slope trail to catch the Sonoma Ridge trail back down. This is a nice and gentle grade down on long switchbacks in and out of shade. Take a right on the Mountain trail back down to the service road and to civilization. The hubs and I felt good until just about 14 miles when we hit the gravel road between the vineyard and silos. My back started to tighten up and I walked more like I was 100 years old. The park was packed with people picnicking, photographing and hiking around the old cottage…I just wanted my heated seats and to sit at this point. I was glad we had explored all the fun stuff while no one was in the park!

If you go to Jack London SHP, don’t forget to explore the House of Happy Walls museum and Wolf House ruins. It truly is amazing how much history is in one spot. There are times on our hikes when we explore historic places and I wish there was a time travel device to really see how things were back in the day. I know there were struggles but there was so much beauty.

Trail details:

Parking $10 (we have an annual pass), dogs on leash in part of the park, 14.66 miles, 2,246 elevation gain, portable potties in parking lot, half shade, lots of mosquitos, ticks and poison oak (take precautions), strenuous hike based on miles and elevation gain but oh so worth it!

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