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Great Escape: Tolay Lake Regional Park

Tolay Lake is about a 45-to-50-minute drive from Healdsburg.

Sometimes you just need to get away. Forget the cell phones, PTA responsibilities, forget your homework and get out in nature. For this week’s Great Escape, we’re featuring a sprawling open space preserve nestled in between the Petaluma River and Sonoma Valley.

Tolay Lake Regional Park is a nearly 1,800-acre valley grassland, bordered by rolling ridgelines. It’s a space rich with natural watersheds, a seasonal lake and ponds — making it the perfect local spot to enjoy one of Sonoma County’s natural treasures.

We suggest packing a picnic, leaving your phone at home and slapping on some comfortable shoes and heading out for the day. At Tolay Lake, park-goers must take a one-hour orientation so people are aware of sensitive habitats and species. Tours are only offered monthly, and this Saturday is the orientation for March. Think of it as an education, and as a way to get out of the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.

The park features several protected species, such as the endangered California red-legged frog, the northwestern pond turtle, the golden eagle and the burrowing owl. A small hike to the mountainous boarder of the park offers breathtaking views of the Bay, the Petaluma River and the hills of Sonoma County. The spot is also great for horseback riding, cycling or just a picnic.

This weekend’s tour is from 1:30-2:30 p.m. For more information call 707-565-2041 or visit the website.

Directions from Healdsburg: Take 101 South, and get off on Exit 472B for CA-116 toward Sonoma/Napa. Drive 0.1 miles, and take a left at CA-116 East/Lakeville Highway. Continue to follow Lakeville Highway 5.7 miles, and turn left at Cannon Lane.

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