A member of Annadel's volunteer park patrol.

I’ve hiked and biked in Annadel several times but most trips have revolved around the same few trails, all leading to or around Lake Ilsanjo. And why not? It’s a beautiful body of water, whether for fishing or swimming and it provides a nice resting post.

Last weekend’s hike was a bit more ambitious. The northernmost link of the 300-plus-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail includes about eight miles within Annadel State Park and our hike was to include a portion of that. The hike set off from Spring Lake Park ($7 entrance fee, or regional parks pass for admission), and then south on the Canyon Trail, over to the Marsh and Ridge trails and then back toward the lake and the familiar South Burma Trail.

The Ridge Trail is not quite a connected loop, but it’s getting there. I’ve hiked about a third of the entire trail over the past year and it provides a broad cross-section of what the terrain is like across the Bay Area. Not all of it is as scenic as the grassy hillsides and oak forests within Annadel, so if you want to check out the Ridge Trail, you could do a lot worse than to

try the Sonoma County portions, which also include portions in Jack London, Sugarloaf Ridge and Hood Mountain state parks.

The route was close to 15 miles, done in a speedy clip by our group. About six hours from start to finish, including breaks. The elevation gain is at most not much more than 1,000 feet and there’s no terribly steep parks. The real challenges in Annadel come from the rocks underfoot, the bikers nearby and the frequent trail junctions.

All were navigated seamlessly. One highlight, and if you are looking for a scenic spot in Annadel for your next trip, check this out, was Buick Meadow, a wide patch of grassland tucked between the trails. I’d love to know why it’s named that so if you can shed light on it, feel free to post in the comments section below. The meadow is a great place to observe wild turkeys hanging out and to see the park in a less mountainous perspective.

Speaking of Annadel, I wrote a piece in the newspaper last week on a more common park visit that I meant to post here on the blog too, so it’s reprinted below:

Only minutes from downtown Santa Rosa, Annadel State Park is hardly a secret. On any given day, the jewel of a park is bustling with hikers, equestrians and bicyclists.

But don’t be scared away by the prospect of crowds. If you haven’t been there recently, you might be surprised to hear that it is entirely possible to hike through the park and still experience moments of solitude.

That’s partly because of the vast network of trails that cross the 5,000 acres of park land, and because many of the park’s regular users have found their own preferred routes. And the close proximity of the park to so many neighborhoods means it’s used from sunrise to sunset, further spacing out traffic.

Here’s a solid day hike that will let you experience each aspect of Annadel, from the wildflowers to the ascents, from the oaks to the deer and wild turkeys. As they say, it’s an oldie but a goodie.

Enter the park at the Channel Drive entrance off Montgomery Drive and drive or walk to the Warren Richardson trailhead. The park has an $8 per vehicle entrance fee. Start your hike there and head to Steve’s S Trail, named for the grandson of one of the park’s founders. It’s also one of the few trails that is reserved for hikers, so it will give you space from mountain bikers.

Your lunch destination is Lake Ilsanjo, which is the park’s largest water body and may also be your swimming spot. Or you can watch the ducks and fishermen and then do a loop around the lake. The lake is man-made and was formed in the 1950s.

From the lake, head to the Meadow Trail and then onto the Quarry Trail. Circle back to the Richardson trail that you started on, which ends at the parking area.

Over the course of the hike, which should take a few hours and cover 8 miles, the elevation is steep in parts, up to about 1,500 feet.

Annadel is having its 40th birthday party all year, so spending time on some of its 44 trails is a way to toast the grand spectacle of nature that also happens to be our backyard.

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