by Corby Hines
"I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned."
– Luther Burbank, 1875
Well, Luther, I agree with you — Sonoma County is a natural paradise. There are miles of unspoiled coastline, pastoral orchards and farms, old-growth redwood forests, scenic rivers and streams, and even a few rugged mountains. One thing I’d always felt that Sonoma County lacked, though, was the possibility for a backcountry experience. After living in Montana and working as a backcountry trail worker in Yosemite, the wilderness seemed far away when I moved to Sonoma County over a decade ago.
My attitude changed, however, when my colleagues and I attempted the long hike up Pole Mountain. At 2,204 feet, it is the highest point on the Sonoma Coast and the core of some of the most remote backcountry in the county. It’s a 15.2-mile roundtrip from the trailhead on Highway 1, with a 3,600-foot elevation gain. Acquired by Sonoma Land Trust in 2014, Pole Mountain connects our 500-acre Little Black Mountain Preserve with the 5,600-acre Jenner Headlands Preserve, creating a vast expanse of protected wild land — a place big enough to get a sense of wilderness, but still close to home.
The route takes you through a wonderful array of habitats. You start off climbing up the coastal prairie to impressive views of the coast and the Russian River below. You enter the shade of the redwoods as you make the descent to Russian Gulch, hearing only birdsong along the way. After cooling off in a perennial stream, you begin the long climb out of the gulch up a south-facing slope through beautiful oak woodlands. The views become ever more impressive as you push yourself up the last grade to the peak, where the whole of the county unfurls before your eyes.
On May 7, Sonoma Land Trust, The Wildlands Conservancy, and your Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District will be leading this epic journey through the wildest part of Sonoma County. Although our participant list is currently full, register for the waitlist and we will contact you the next time we plan this hike!
Corby Hines is Sonoma Land Trust's outings guide. Look for him out on the land!
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.