A rain-shrouded Russian River overlook.

I know that this isn’t going to sound like a compliment, but the Healdsburg Ridge is a cute hike.

I had been thinking that I would check it out for a short, local hike ever since a local writer touted it a couple of years ago as a cool, out-of-the-way winter stroll. So, it took me two years to get around to it, but the stars aligned this weekend and I found myself there on a rainy morning, ready to explore.

The 155-acre parcel has been in public ownership for about 15 years, but only officially opened about two and a half years ago so it’s still largely unknown. It’s a few miles northeast of downtown Healdsburg and right behind a nice residential neighborhood. Parking is on the street at the end of the homes, and there are no “facilities” at the trailhead other than a kiosk and some trail signs. But that’s OK. Whichever way you go, it’s a short walk that shouldn’t turn into an all-day, back-breaking affair by any measure (credit bendabout). We did all the trails and overlooks and circled around, going about three miles in the two hours we were there. Plenty of time to take in the view, and to take your time going uphill, or, especially in the mud, downhill.

Given that it had been raining most of the night and morning, the ground was extremely muddy, adding to some existing erosion issues that had closed off parts of the trails. But it was a warm day so other than needing shoes with good traction, it was nice to hike without carrying any supplies. Heading uphill quickly, there is one decent ascent and then several opportunities for scenic overlooks. This is, after all, the ridgeline around Healdsburg so on display are the Mayacamas, Fitch Mountain, Lake Sonoma and a sharp view of the Russian River.

On a clear day, this is a photography haven. And next month, LandPaths, that terrific organization that helps make spaces like this possible, is holding a nature photography outing on a spring evening that should provide some memorable sights. Click here for more on that event.

The trails – and you can’t get lost, the whole thing loops around and you’re in view of where you are at all times – wind their way through wetlands and woodlands alike, and there are several spots to stop and have a picnic. The water highlight is Fox Pond, something that is clearly known to local kids, many of who were hanging out there while we hiked, despite the wetness coming down from above.

[nggallery id=42]