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A family friendly bike tour through Petaluma

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Here’s a bike ride that loops through east and west Petaluma and offers something for the entire family. Along this amazingly diverse, mostly flat 14.7-mile course, you’ll pass through parks and suburban tracts with numerous restroom, water, food and coffee options. Riding surfaces include pavement, dirt and gravel so you’ll want a mountain bike or one with wide, sturdy tires.

You can start this jaunt anywhere along the course. We began on Water Street behind Brewsters, where there’s parking and a lunch option at the end of your ride. Heading north, Water Street quickly becomes a dirt path and then pavement. Traverse a small bridge which brings you up to Lakeville Street, just at the SMART tracks. Cross the road and descend through the entry of the Lynch Creek trail on the other side.

This shaded path initially skirts the Clover plant on the right and the Petaluma River. As the river bends left, turn left on the small bridge over Lynch Creek, and then immediately go right. At McDowell Boulevard, jog left to the stoplight, cross, turn right, and then left at the Lynch Creek sign into Lucchesi Park. Skirting the north end of the park you’ll pass the playground and ball diamond before you cross Maria Drive. On the other side of Maria, go left and then right at the Lynch Creek sign, on the sidewalk. The creek is now on your right.

Arriving at Ely Boulevard, go right, cross the street at the next corner (Monroe), turn left and be careful to take the route marked Foxhollow. After winding past a residential section, at the end of Sleepyhollow Drive go right up and across a small bridge, then take an immediate left into Prince Park. (2.4 miles)

Turn right onto the main park road, you’ll pass restrooms on the left, and as the road curves left continue on to the small, dirt path through the trees directly ahead. Take the bridge through this delightful leafy glen and emerge onto East Washington Street, crossing (carefully) onto Sky Ranch Road at the Petaluma airport. Turn right at the T intersection, and as the street curves left, you’ll be bordering the western edge of the airport hangers.

At the end of Sky Ranch, watch for the dirt path just on your right. This soon turns into a meandering paved sidewalk, passing Wiseman Park, various water fountains, navigating several cul-de-sacs and finally ending at Casa Grande Road. Take a right and follow the sidewalk along Casa Grande, through the traffic circle and past the high school (now you can ride safely on the shoulder). In a few blocks, slide over to the turn lane at the stop sign for a left onto South McDowell Boulevard. (5.4 miles)

Riding the bike lane on McDowell, cross Lakeville Highway at the light (with coffee to your left) and continue for four blocks. Turn right at Cader Lane and enter Shollenberger Park. Passing the restroom and taking the gravel path closest to the water, you’ll soon rejoin the paved trail circling the seasonal lake counter-clockwise. Stop along the way and enjoy the nesting ducks, geese and an occasional swan.

Approaching the line of office buildings, look for the right turn onto a dirt path, entering the Water Agency’s Ellis Creek wetlands. At the first intersection, take the trail to the right which merges into a larger, paved trail making a complete, counter clockwise loop through ponds and rushes. Watch carefully for a hard right which will take you back onto your original path. At the now-familiar intersection, turn left and proceed back to Shollenberger, where you’ll resume your circuit around the lake.

Passing the park’s entrance gate again, continue on the paved surface. Look for turtles sunning themselves on logs in the marsh to your right. Take the first right and cross the bridge. (11.1 miles)

As the dirt path bends right and you begin to approach the buildings, turn left (at a blue Yield sign). This narrow single-track winds through pools and marshes, briefly follows a fence line, and crosses a series of small bridges. Listen for the whistle of a passing SMART train in the distance. The path soon traces the riverbank along a clattering boardwalk.

After a final bridge, enter the Marina parking lot by turning right. At the end of the Sheraton shops, proceed left through the lot toward the Harbor Master’s building, where you’ll find restrooms and water. Near the rear of the building, spot a trail to the right following a channel just a short distance.

Exit at Lakeville Highway. Go left along the sidewalk and cross Lakeville at the light. Once on the other side, pass under Highway 101 and through the intersection at the freeway on-ramp. At the stoplight cross Lakeville once again, into the In-and-Out Burger parking lot.

Exiting the back of the lot turn right onto the short service street behind the carwash. At the intersection (Caulfield Lane), turn left, cross the tracks and immediately right onto Hopper Street. Passing the Mary Isaak Center, the Animal Shelter and the Shamrock yard, as Hopper curves to the right, enter the dirt path ahead into Steamer Landing Park.

Follow the path onto the cobblestones and at the benches turn right out onto Copeland Street. Cross D Street at the stop sign and continue on Copeland, cross Washington Street at the light. Riding left on the sidewalk along Washington Street, cross the river and turn right back on to Water Street and your starting point.