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The Joe Rodota Trail is built along the corridor of the old Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway, which carried passengers between Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Sebastopol until it was abandoned in 1984. Seamlessly linked with the West County Regional Trail in Sebastopol, the rail-trail system was designated as a Community Millennium Trail by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton and the White House Millennium Council, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
Both trails take in some of Sonoma County's most scenic and sweeping rural vistas. Consider beginning your trail journey at the parking area and trailhead near the intersection of Wright and Sebastopol roads in Santa Rosa. From here, you can travel east toward the heart of Santa Rosa, passing through an industrial area to the endpoint at the Prince Memorial Greenway near W. 3rd Street.
The recommended—and more scenic—alternative, however, is to head west from the Wright Road parking area toward Sebastopol along State Route 12. This westward section of the Joe Rodota Trail parallels SR 12 and soon emerges into scenic farmland that evokes Sonoma County's pastoral heritage. The trail runs along a creek in places, and you should be able to spot a variety of birds and wildlife. In fact, the trail meanders through the Laguna de Santa Rosa, which is the largest freshwater wetland complex in Sonoma County. If you're lucky, you may encounter a bald eagle, white pelican or osprey.
This straightaway section of the trail flows into Sebastopol and ends. You will have to proceed on-road through the charming downtown area to pick up the link to the West County Regional Trail north of town. As you enter Sebastopol, take a right on Petaluma Avenue. After 0.25 mile, take a left on McKinley Street and then take an immediate right on Main Street. Continue north for another 0.25 mile. Just before you reach the local high school, you will find the trailhead on your left. The trail is wooded here, and is a heavily used commuter route connecting the adjacent neighborhoods to the high school and downtown Sebastopol.
After about a mile, the trail feeds into Gravenstein Highway (SR 116), where you'll see official signage marking the transition to the West County Regional Trail. Continue northwest on that trail for more than 5 miles to reach its end in Forestville.
To access the Wright Road trailhead from US 101 in Santa Rosa, take the State Route 12 exit toward Sebastopol and head west on the highway. After a short distance, turn left on N. Wright Road, and immediately turn right on Sebastopol Road. The trailhead parking area will be on your left. Parking is also available in Sebastopol at the trailhead on Petaluma Avenue.
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